Debate About Complicated Characters!
Inspired by lessons from teachers Carla Rosene, Stacey Riedmiller, and Kelsey Parrasch
Try this engaging debate activity in your classroom, inspired by Kate DiCamillo’s The Tiger Rising, to help students practice understanding complicated characters.
Most of our favorite characters are complicated and have many layers. This makes them compelling and relatable—but sometimes, it also can make them difficult to understand.
Encourage your students to practice inference skills and understand the motivations behind characters’ actions with this debate activity. It’s a great mentor text because of the many multifaceted characters, such as:
• Rob, who hides his emotions in a “suitcase” but feels very deeply
• Rob’s father, who refuses to mourn his wife’s passing, despite it affecting him deeply
• Sistine, who avoids the fact that her dad abandoned her and her mother
Here is how you can try the debate activity in your classroom:
1. Download the list of debate prompts on this free worksheet. Arguments for (“pro”) and against (“con”) each statement are both included.
2. Cut out the prompts and put them into a hat.
3. Divide your students into groups of two to four, depending on your class size.
4. Have one student from each group draw a topic from the hat—this is their group’s debate subject!
5. Have students fill out this debate organizer to help them gather textual evidence for their debate topics, organize their thoughts, and anticipate opposing arguments.
6. Match each “pro” group with the corresponding “con” group for each respective topic. Set a timer so each group has the same amount of time to argue their point. Let the debate begin!
Students can use their organizers as a reference sheet during the debate.
There doesn’t have to be a winner—as long as everybody comes up with strong arguments for their side!
How did the debates go in your classroom? Did your students enjoy the activity? Please share with us on social media using the hashtag #ScholasticBookClubs.
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