Debating the Debates

Teacher Ken Lewis challenged his Grade 8 'U.S. and the World' History class to form opinions and become active, engaged citizens during the 2016 Presidential and Vice Presidential campaigns. Last fall, Mr. Lewis conducted "backchannel chats" during each debate, which provided an educational and fun forum for the students. A backchannel chat is a digital conversation that provides students with an outlet to engage in conversation during an activity, in this case, while they were home watching a televised debate.Students were asked to provide comments on their observations and perspectives during the debate, in real time. This created a steady stream of responses that everyone could read, "like" (the app has a "like" feature just like Facebook which denotes that the reader agrees), and respond."The beauty of this exercise is that it provides a safe group forum for students who do not process information at the same pace as their classmates; it gives a "voice" to my quietest students who are hesitant to speak in class; and it also represents an outlet for all students to share their thoughts as they formulate them," said Mr. Lewis.

According to '', whose mission is to educate, inform, and advocate for young people, literacy, literature, and libraries, "If we want young people to be as excited about their right to vote as they are about obtaining their driver's licenses, we need to enthusiastically share our own interest in the election process with them. Watching the presidential debates together as a family is a great place to start."

Following the debates, Mr. Lewis recorded the most serious, informative, and "revealing" comments on paper and discussed them in class the next day. This helped students understand different perspectives and how we acquire our "political bias" during the election process.Mr. Lewiseven shared a list of humorous responses, which students called the "outtakes," to enjoy in class.