Slice of Life Challenge day 11 #sol17

Listening to a few students debate reminded me of how important it is…

Title: “Debate”

“Yeah, but don’t you think all the money these companies make might be an incentive for them to do it?” Quite a shot across the bow, I thought.  Ensuing was a pretty impressive debate between two sixth graders about the appropriateness of animal testing for product safety.  Lorelei had just fired off a powerful and provocative question here.  Her partner, Samantha, smirked and looked down at her laptop.  “It says right here…” continued Lorelei, citing evidence of millions of dollars the pharmaceutical industry shells out for animal testing.

Redirecting the conversation, Samantha asserted, “Okay, but remember, they’re animals.   They’re mice.  And there are millions of mice in the world!  We are people, and this testing helps keep us safe.”  Whoa, good point, I thought.

This was just the beginning of a more independent bend of argument writing work, but already these writers were beginning to form some solid ideas around which they might organize some powerful writing.  How were they doing that?  Debate.

Debate is just so fun, so engaging.  Middle school kids probably do it all the time at home– why wouldn’t they love to do it school?  I was witnessing real engagement here, and it was awesome.

After a few minutes, the girls’ conversation quieted.  I jumped in.  “So,” I began, “who are you thinking you’ll send this writing to?”  Both girls looked at me like I had just sprouted two heads.  “You know,” I continued, “who will be your audience?”

“Well,” stammered Lorelei, “I guess the pharmaceutical companies.  But I wasn’t planning on writing for them.”

“What if you did?” I quizzed.  “How would that affect your writing, do you think?”

“Oh, well, that would kind of make it harder, I would think,” she mused.  “Probably better, though.”

Yes, probably better.


Author: Lanny Ball

For more than 29 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy specialist, working and living in the great state of Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on this blog, as well as on Twitter @LannyBall. Lanny is also a former co-author of a blog dedicated to supporting writing teachers and coaches that maintain classroom writing workshops,

11 thoughts on “Slice of Life Challenge day 11 #sol17”

  1. Haveing just finished an opinion unit with my third graders we are about to debate book characters next week and I think they will see all kinds of connections. Several parents have already mentioned their improved persuasive skills- oops:)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. They can’t write it until they can talk it. I love weaving debating opportunities into the classrooms. Your question to them was super smart! I may have to reincarnate that one with my debating fourth and fifth graders! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Having just finished an opinion unit with my third graders we are about to debate book characters next week and I think they will see all kinds of connections. Several parents have already mentioned their improved persuasive skills- oops:)


  4. What a great learning moment for them! My students recently wrote letters of recommendation for our student teacher, whom we just loved. The fact that they were writing to potential principal-interviewers really affected not only their words, but their tone. Wonderful lessons learned.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The style of this piece – mostly all dialogue, really helped me to be a fly on the wall during this debate. Thanks for that gift! I am also reminded that a writing workshop needs at times to be noisy. It is only by orally rehearsing, that we can practice and then know what to write. And your move to see their audience right off the bat will save them from revising to do that later. So great to have the audience in mind right from the start! Thanks for teaching me through your piece today.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I had to laugh when you asked WHO the girls were going to write, rather than IF they were going to write. Sneaky, sneaky! A well worded question may just spark an I-can-actually-DO-that response. And how great is that?!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As I always say to my writers, “Think it. Say it. Write it.” Only makes sense when thinking about argumentative writing that students debate it! Also, great idea to shift their thinking a bit more by thinking about a new audience. I’m so impressed with the conversations you share in your writing — I always feel like I’m right in the mix of it! Do you have a super power memory or good at taking notes?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! The conversations, if you notice, are never terribly long. I just try to capture the essence of each one. Thank you so much for reading these past days 🙂


  8. Bravo! That’s awesome to put that thought into their heads. Authentic writing is always the best kind of writing. Always more rewarding and worth the extra work.



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