Debate Homework: Are Bionicles the Coolest Toy Ever?

Today's Lesson: How to use something your kid loves to help him understand his homework.

Today, my 6th grader (who has autism) came home from school and his homework was about debate, the terms and how it all works. He was having a difficult time understanding it all. So I decided to create a mock debate between the two of us. Here's how it all played out:

"So Isaac, let's have a debate. First, we have to pick a topic. How about Are Bionicles the coolest toy ever? What do you think?"

"Yes!" Isaac, of course, was totally excited and laughing.

"So the topic is the Resolution. What's our topic?"

"Are Bionicles the coolest toy ever?"

"Right! The topic is the Resolution. Say that again." Mom believes in the power of repetition!

"The topic is the Resolution," Isaac repeated, like the good son he is.  =)

"Okay, so there are two teams. One team that says Yes! Bionicles are the way coolest toys ever to be made! They are called the Affirmative team because they say YES."

"Awesome!" Isaac replied.

"The other team says, No, Bionicles are not the coolest toy out there. They are the Negative team because they say NO. Got it?"

"Got it. Affirmative team - Yes, Bionicles are coolest. Negative team - No, Bionicles are not the coolest."

So far, so good. Isaac's still hanging out with me & beginning to understand a bit.

"Great! So now, we're going to each be a team. I'm the YES team and you're the NO team."

"Noooo!" Isaac yelled.

Oh yes, the wailing and the howling continued. How could mother dear possibly put HIM on the Negative team? It just wasn't fair. Blah, blah, blah. It all got settled and we moved on.

 "So, we're going to start out the debate. Pretend this ice cream scoop is a microphone. The YES team goes first."

I take the ice cream scoop and stand. "Bionicles are the most awesome, coolest toys ever made. They have swords, shields, and represent the elements of the Earth. They even have movies made about them. They are definitely, hands down, the coolest toys ever."

Then I handed the ice cream scoop to Isaac. At this point, he stood there looking at me like, What? You want me to disagree with that? It's all TRUE!

"Okay, bud, now you need to tell me why Bionicles are not the ONLY coolest toy out there. You can tell me that you think Bionicles are awesome, but also tell me three other toys you love that you think are just as cool."


Now Isaac totally got into it. He realized that it was okay to not be on the YES team and that there actually was a way to still say he loves Bionicles, but that he loves other stuff too.

"Bionicles are cool. But other toys are cool too. Like Mario on the Wii. I love to play other games on the Wii, too. And I like to build with other Legos. There are lots of cool toys." He then bowed. Yes, my son is a performer.

"Awesome, dude! Now we need to pause. Did you see how we took turns using the microphone?" Son nods. "That's called Rebuttal. Rebuttal is when each team takes turns using the microphone to tell why they think their side is right. Got it?"

"Got it."

"What's Rebuttal?"

"When the teams take turn using the microphone."

Works for me!  =)

"Now there's someone else in the room with the teams. He's called the Judge. What does the Judge do?"

"He tells us who the winner is." Man, he's got that one down. Woot!

"Perfecto! High five!" Yes, the smacking of hands occur. Then we move on.

"So, we both got to talk once on the microphone. Now we start our Rebuttals again. This time, we're going to talk about some things we can say and what those things are called during a debate, okay?"

"Okay," Isaac says, nodding his head up and down several times.

"I'm going to come back and say Bionicles are the coolest because they are sold all over the world. Now let's pause. Isaac, do you know Bionicles are sold all over the world?"


"Do your friends know they are sold all over the world?"


"When you say something that everyone knows, it's called Common Sense. Let's say that together."

Together, we said, "When you say something that everyone knows, it's called Common Sense."

"Awesome! Now, what if you wanted to say You've played with Bionicles and Mario and the other Legos, and you know they are all cool. Do you know what that's called?"

"What?" Isaac asked.

"It's called an Example because it's your own experience. It's something you did. What's an Example?"

"Something I did like playing with all the toys."

"What's Common Sense?" I asked again. Got to throw in those terms for review.

"Something everyone knows like Bionicles sold all over the world."

"Awesomeness!" See, lots of praise. I'm big on praise. We all love to know how awesome we are. "Now there's two more things to know. And these two are tricky. Ready?"

Isaac nods his head, ready to show me just how not tricky they are. Cause mom may be fun, but he's totally smarter than me. (Or at least he thinks so!)

"Okay, so one is called an Expert Opinion. An Expert is someone who wrote an article and it was published in a newspaper or book. Then if someone on the debate team reads something the Expert wrote, that is called an Expert Opinion."

Isaac still struggled with this concept. But I tonight I had another idea to help him understand it. On with the story.

"The last debate word we need to learn is Statistics. A statistic is a number that shows how many people like something. For example, I could go to the elementary school and have an election. We know there are 400 kids at the school. In the election, each of the kids could vote for which toy they think is the coolest: Bionicles, Mario, or Barbie. After the election, we would tally the votes. If 150 kids voted for Bionicles, the YES team could use a Statistic saying that in an elementary school, 150 kids liked Bionicles the best. But the NO team could also use the election and make a statistic that said almost two-thirds of the kids liked other toys better than Bionicles."

Isaac actually thought it was pretty cool how we could take the same election results and make them work for both teams. It's all about how you tweak the information.

"So, what's a statistic?" I asked Isaac.

"It's numbers to show what people like."

Once again, works for me. We reviewed the terms a few more times. It was fun to see how he referred back to them using examples from our mock debate.

Then I wrapped up. "So Isaac, we just had a mock debate. What is a Debate?"

"It's when two teams argue about who's right."

And the winner of the mock debate gold cup is Isaac!

Would you like to comment?

Matthew Tandy said...

Danyelle, awesome post. What a great way to teach your son in a meaningful way!

Donna K. Weaver said...

That's awesome!

Paul Greci said...

From a teacher's point of view I loved reading this post. You did so many things!! And most importantly, it sounded like you were totally present and engaged. And putting Isaac on the "no" team was key. Thank you!!

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Thank you, Matthew & Donna. =)

Paul - I appreciate getting a teacher's feedback. I know Isaac and I both enjoyed the mock debate. It's nice to have a teacher's approval, too.

Amy said...

Smart mommy! That was an awesome way to explain it all and Issac totally got it.