The 28th May hosted a day full of delight for the little ones: The Debate Mate Primary Cup. Not necessarily an entirely delightful day for me, yet I feel the urge to impart the knowledge that has dawned upon me that day.
Theres a few things that I think are essential when working with children of a younger age and from a less prestigious background.
Confidence and simple, basic knowledge about the world.
Sure, every debating and public speaker training will talk about confidence and how important it is. But what I am specifically talking about is the need for them to feel comfortable. What I noticed in one of the rounds as well was this fear of speaking. Needles to say, the round was nearing to disastrous. So what I did after, because there was more time, is just talk to them about the motion.
They knew much more than what they had said in their speeches. They had better explanations and everything. The reason for this is obviously that they are not trained to handle stress. As long as they know it’s a competition and everything seems rather formal, they will not be able to convey things in an appropriate manner. So either they shouldn’t be exposed to competitions but to some sort of more comfortable environment, or they should be thought how to cope with the stress of speaking in public.
Certainly, there are kids that can cope with stress and that can thrive in a competitive environment.
I was very proud of both my teams from Elmhurst Elementary, as they were both in top 3 and one of the, had gotten to the finals. And here, I think, the second element showed itself clear. The basic knowledge point. Children need to be drip-fed certain information. Even certain words. Like “deter”, which was abusively used by Elmhurst A in the finals after having a ‘vocabulary’ session with me. A simple yet effective strategy for learning basic thinking is the “why game”, where you set a sentence, ask someone to prove it and keep asking why. This way, you can get to the core reasoning, the core explanation.
And the core always wins it for you.
Ultimately I was very proud of the team that had gotten in the finals. They were very eloquent. With a lot of examples and arguments. I personally thought they trashed the opposing team but to my surprise and disappointment, Ravenscroft had won instead. A shame.