My students are beginning preparations for debates, and are busy bouncing around ideas and doing some initial research. In the meantime, I’m planning mini-lessons to help them build the skills they need to be successful.
One area that tends to be the weakest for them is the rebuttal process. They anticipate arguments and prepare to refute them, but the skill of thinking on the fly is one that takes some time to build. How many of us, for example, have thought of the best response to someone’s argument, well after the fact?
In order to prep them a little for the process, I come up with light topics and spend five-ten minutes at the first of each class working on building arguments and rebuttals.
Next, I ask for a volunteer who agreed with the statement to explain two reasons why they support it. Before they do so, I tell students to listen to the volunteer’s reasoning, and to try to write at least one rebuttal for the argument.
My hope is that after doing this a few times, they will feel more confident with thinking up rebuttals during our debates, when the topics are much more in-depth. I’ll just have to wait and see.