Ed Tech · Flipped Classroom · Gamification · Google · Speaking & Listening · Tuning In · Writing

Using Pokémon Go to spark debate

This is now my third blog post about Pokémon Go. Like I have said before, I believe that it has a place in the classroom due to its immense popularity. In my previous posts, you can find more ideas on how to integrate it meaningfully. This post offers a new idea that was similarly successful: use Pokémon Go as a debate topic!

My students are studying the language purpose to persuade. There are authentic transdisciplinary connections to our Sharing the Planet environmental unit. However, at this early stage, my students are not knowledgeable or passionate enough about environmental issues to persuade effectively. This raised the question: what are they passionate about? With many, many of my students, the answer is still Pokémon Go. This proved to be a perfect hook: Pokémon Go should be banned!

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The task was simple, but incredibly effective. I made a quick table on Google Docs with three columns. Each student had their own row to contribute their opinions. The third column was a space for others to respond to those contributions (this part was optional). Parents and other family members were also encouraged to contribute their ideas. This Google Doc was shared on Google Classroom so that all students could edit the same document as a home learning task. This encouraged collaboration, respectful disagreements and meaningful responses.

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Each evening after school, I was a silent observer watching the Google Doc explode with activity! The discussions were absolutely fantastic! I was so proud of my students for being able to responsibly and respectfully disagree with each other on a shared document. It was a brilliant example of their developing digital citizenship. I can’t remember who (apologies), but somebody posted this question on Twitter a while back, and it has stayed with me ever since:

“If homework was optional, how many of your students would do it?”

Like I said, the third column (responding to others) was optional. After giving their own opinion(s), they had finished their homework and met my expectation. However, it was that third column that was alive with dynamic debates and discussions. Many of my students returned to the document every evening after school to continue the debate.

Let’s return to the purpose of this homework. My aim was to ‘tune in’ to persuasive writing. This task was set before they even knew about our upcoming persuasive focus. From this task, I was able to share some excellent examples of persuasive features. In particular, many students supported their opinions with evidence and examples. I was also able to identify examples of counter-arguments. None of these were prompted by me. They were great leads into upcoming lessons and made it very easy for me to gauge prior understanding.

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A sample of students’ responses. Without being prompted, students inserted links and screenshots.

I was surprised to see that the debate had split my class almost evenly. Around half agreed with the notion, and around half disagreed. For this reason, I thought that it would make a fantastic live debate! In class, the students formed two groups and were given a little preparation time to share their ideas and develop them further. We then followed the guidelines and structure of the Middle School Public Debate Program (MSPDP) and held a very formal debate in class. Again, I was unbelievably proud of my students for being able to do this so maturely and effectively! Their passion was obvious!

So, what next? We will continue to explore the features of written and oral persuasion as we consider our essential question: how can we make other people agree with us? As they develop their understanding of environmental issues, I hope that they are able to persuade effectively about an environmental issue that they feel strongly about.

How have you used Pokémon Go in class? How do you teach persuasive strategies? Please share your experience, ideas and suggestions in the comments below. As always, your contributions are hugely appreciated!

While I have your attention, please take note of two important updates:

  1. I now have a Facebook page as an extension of my blog. Please hit ‘like’ to get it up and running.
  2. My colleagues and I are raising money for men’s health charities by supporting the Movember Foundation. As well as sporting a ridiculous moustache, I will walk 20,000 steps every day in November as part of the MOVE challenge. If you enjoyed this post, or if you find any value in my blog, please consider a small donation to my Movember page. Donating online is quick and easy. Remember, it’s for a very important cause: http://mobro.co/adamhill88. Many, many thanks!

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