When I started a great debate in our classroom for students to earn something back, I did not realize the depth of the life long lessons that would occur for all of us. When I did a modified version of this while teaching third graders it took no time at all for all students to come to a compromise and get something they lost back.
Lesson 1: 5th graders have a harder time letting go of what they believe is right.
Students participated in several debates, asking questions and rebutting (yet they had no idea of the debate process so it evolved organically). They successfully narrowed four choices down to two to argue for. Then we hit a wall, and no one was willing to budge. My father suggested teaching students about filibustering and the US Senate 60 vote rule. Initially I was not sure this would be helpful, but I decided to try it and see what happens.
Lesson 2: Always listen to your father no matter how old you are.
Over the weekend I created a whole class hyperdoc for the Great Debate. We discovered what happens when the Senate tried to block a bill from passing. We learned about a filibuster, democracy, and debating. Our work was connected to current news stories with the choice for a new judge on the Supreme Court. I was able to bring in first hand resources for students to begin to understand how the Senate works. We explored the Senate’s history of voting and listened to a Senator discuss why the 60 vote rule should apply to everything. Students had time to think and reflect on how best to solve a problem. Should it be 60 votes? What about the simple majority of 51?
Lesson 3: A hyperdoc is a wonderful way to package information in the content areas.
Students shared their thinking about the Great Debate, reflecting on things they learned, found interesting, and questions they still had. We were faced with the choice to debate again, and I made the executive decision to invoke the 3/5 rule (or 60 votes). We figured out what 60% of 23 students was (13.8) and rounded it to 14. Since 19 students were for the desks moving back into groups that was what we did.
Lesson 4: You do not always get what you want.
The Great Debate taught students more than how to state your claim and provide evidence. They felt the struggle of making a choice. They had to learn to listen well to other’s comments. Students had to understand what consensus and compromise were. Sometimes the teachable moments turn into life long lessons. I hope the students carry this experience with them.
Lesson 5: Expect the Unexpected
§ What a filibuster is
§ The Debate steps
§ The Romans had a Democracy
§ A filibuster is a prolonged speech
§ To win you must have 51 votes
§ During a filibuster you do not get a lot of breaks
§ I know what nuclear option is
§ I know what a rebuttal is
§ I know types of debates
§ I discovered that democracy is a Greek word tat means ruled by the people
§ Democracy means ruled by the people
§ Nuclear option is 51 votes
§ Sometimes a filibuster can last 24 hours
§ You don’t even have to talk about the subject to filibuster
§ It is hard to get what you want
§ People argue for a lot of things
§ Rule 22 has changed multiple times
Student’s Interesting Facts
§ The nuclear option
§ 60 votes vs. 51 votes
§ One can go on for 24 hours
§ Senate decides and make the filibusters.
§ The nuclear option was interesting
§ It’s interesting that there are different kinds of debates
§ Senators adopted a rule number 22
§ Prolonged means very long
§ Henry Clay thought the majority should end the debate
§ 60 senators have to say yes to a bill to make it work
§ A unanimous consent is when both parties avoid a filibuster because they agree to bring a bill to the floor
§ There are 2 Senators from each state
§ I found it cool that our had a filibuster in the classroom
§ You do not have to be famous to have a filibuster
§ There are 4 different types of debates
§ Filibuster means pirate
§ This all started in 1851
§ We have the right to do what we want
Questions Students Have
Who else has a democracy?
What are some types of bills?
Why is it called a nuclear option?
When do they take breaks during a filibuster?
Why do filibusters take so long?
Why is there 100 Senators?
What is a day like for a Senator?
What is a Democrat? A Republican?
Why has filibustering more popular now?
Is there a certain amount of filibusters that can talk?
Why do filibusters take so long?
Who gets to decide what the limit is?
Do you have to go when there is a filibuster?
Why doesn’t the President choose?
Has the Senate ever compromised?