Balloon Debate

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Name of Teacher: Samantha Schipper

Class/Grade/Language Level: High academic 1st years, Commercial school 3rd years

Goal: To have a discussion. An introduction to debating skills.

Preparation: Worksheets

Class time: Preferably 2 classes

This activity is well known, I didn't invent it.

In the first class, teach the students some discussion phrases. Have them write some sentences to practice them.

  • I don't agree.
  • That's not important.
  • That doesn't make sense.
  • I admit that ____, but ____.

Next have them create a character using the passport worksheet. They need to write about a famous character or person, or they can invent one. They must write at least one strong point and one weak point of the character. Tell them they can write about anyone but not their classmates. Tell the students that they will use the passport in the next class, but don't tell them what they will use it for. Here is the example I give:

Name: Momotaro
Gender: M
Age: young
Nationality: Japan
Occupation: Oni-slayer / popular fairy tale hero
  • Was born from a giant peach
  • Friends include a talking dog, a monkey and a pheasant
  • Very strong
  • Very lazy, sleeps all day
  • Carries kibidango

In the second class, shuffle the passports and give one to each of the students. Make sure they don't get the one they wrote themselves. I read all the passports before class and sorted them into groups beforehand because sometimes a class has 10 Anpanmans and it's not so fun when everyone in the group is the same. Tell everyone that for today's class they have now become the character in the passport that they picked, and that their group is their row (this makes groups of 6 or 7 easily).

Now, tell them the story. Make it exciting by drawing colourful bad pictures on the board as you tell it:

Your group is in a hot air balloon. Suddenly, something goes wrong. The balloon starts losing height. Hungry sharks are swimming below. In order to make it to the nearest island, you will need to drop one person from the balloon. If you don’t, everyone will surely die! The island is a desert island and nobody knows how long you will be there until rescue comes.

After you tell the story, give everyone 2 minutes to write one reason why their character should survive. You can give an example of how to make a good reason. If you want, you can explain why

I should survive because I am strong.

is not as good as

I should survive because I am strong, so I can build shelter for us on the island.

Then move the tables together into groups. 5-7 people works best.

The groups must:

1. Introduce themselves: each person reads their passport to the group, and read the reason they wrote why they should survive.

2. Have a discussion about who to drop from the balloon. To drop someone, there needs to be a very good reason. Don't allow suicides.

To have an organised discussion, get the group to choose a chairperson to direct the conversation, asking who everyone thinks should be dropped and having that person defend themselves and choose someone else. Encourage the students to use the discussion phrases you taught in the previous class.

3. Vote on who to drop

Last, have each group present their decision to the class.