Writing doesn't come easily to everyone. Some students are great thinkers, but really struggle to get their ideas down on paper.
We have noticed over the years that people sometimes think of debating as being only for the kids with strong literacy skills, however, we at Rise & Shine believe that debating is for everyone. We've learnt that students whose reading skills are weaker, for example, are sometimes more able to use dot points and speak with authority on a subject than children who rely on reading their entire speech word for word from a palm card.
We've found that children with less ability to sit still and not call out or who make frequent wisecracks in class are sometimes brilliant public speakers, bringing their personality, humour and charisma to their performance and being very persuasive. We've found that sometimes children who have less focus on academics bring a new level of creativity to a debate, think outside the box and have some really original ideas. Here are some tips for including and encouraging students who are reluctant writers. 1. Don't assume writing fluently equals intelligence Our education system tends to associate students who write well or perform better academically with having a higher intelligence but this is not necessarily the case. Many students have amazing minds but for one reason or another, struggle to get their thoughts into written form. Assuring these students that they are smart and capable and have valuable ideas to contribute is an important part of making them feel included and more motivated to participate. 2. Use mind-maps or drawings Students who are reluctant to write may find that using a mind-map or drawings to take notes and remember their speech works best for them. Strong literacy isn't a requirement for debating! There are different methods to help students remember a speech besides reading from palm cards. 3. Find a topic they're interested in When students have a topic they're passionate about, they are much more motivated to write their thoughts and push through their struggles, rather than being stopped by them. When a student desperately wants to have their say on why football is better than soccer, or why children shouldn't be given homework, they find more energy to tackle the challenge of writing.
4. Scribe for them If students are really struggling to write, it may be appropriate for them to dictate their thoughts to you, to another students who writes easily and fluently and wants to help or to an assistant. Voice-assisted technology can also help these days, or allow students to type if that is something they do effectively. Sometimes helping a student get their thoughts onto paper so that they can experience success in debating is much more important than insisting they do the handwriting themselves, as they are likely to have plenty of other opportunities to practice their handwriting. If they're truly struggling, why not remove the obstacle and let their bright ideas shine in their debate? Debating presents a wonderful opportunity to 'level the playing field' - where sometimes those with weaker literacy skills actually excel in public speaking when encouraged to express themselves. Look for what each child is great at and help them use their natural strengths. When children have trouble with the literacy aspect of debating, help them find other ways to create and remember their speech and remind them that debating isn't about being a good reader or writer, but about convincing an audience and speaking powerfully!