Now and then I present a topic for my students to debate. It's usually quite an emotive one, about morality, ethics or some other fairly intractable issue. I divide them into two debating teams and ask them to elect speakers who can best present the group's arguments. Next I ask them to spend some time discussing and writing down their arguments on a sheet of paper so they can structure their rhetoric. With a few minutes to go I ask the two leaders to approach me with their crib sheets.
I inspect the two sheets, and then I switch them. I give group A's sheet to group B's leader, and vice versa. Suddenly they are confused. I have done something they didn't expect and now both teams are wrong-footed. They now have 5 minutes to go away and rehearse the opposing team's arguments before they debate. Ultimately, both teams get to see all of the arguments, and the ensuing role play is often powerful, because they have focused keenly on the content.
- on how an unexpected switch in the classroom narrative excite an uncommon focus on content.