Sunday, December 14, 2008

IDEA Trains in Ulsan, South Korea

IDEA and the U.S. Embassy in Seoul partnered to hold a debate training in the southern coastal town of Ulsan, South Korea, on December 8. Two training sessions were held at Ulsan's Teacher Training Institute: one for high school English teachers on integrating debate curriculum into their classes, and another for elementary and middle school students on the basics of debate.

In the first session, 55 teachers and I discussed the concept of debate, the benefits of using it to teach English and ideas for debate-centered lesson plans. After viewing part of a recorded debate on using corporal punishment in schools, we talked about how to adopt a similar format to the classroom setting. We then held a sample debate “class” where each participant chose an argument, had their argument refuted by others, and crafted a speech summarizing and addressing the refutations. All teachers also received copies of Idebate Press' "Speaking Across the Curriculum" and talked about ideas for using the lesson plans in the book in Korean high school English classes.

Around 60 middle and late elementary school students participated in the second session. Together, we talked about what makes a good debate, watched part of a debate and did several activities to give everyone an opportunity to try debating. The group was an active one: after the first activity on defending arguments, nearly half of the students volunteered to give their speeches. The second activity got lots of kids excited, as each small group chose a job that they considered to be the “best” and wrote arguments in defense of their job. At the end, we had several of the groups debate each other on what occupation had the greatest benefits. The end of the session saw some lively discussions on whether being a singer or being a diplomat would be a more fulfilling career— definitely a difficult choice.

I would like to thank Ms. An Sun-Nam and Ms. Yim Soo-Bin from the U.S. Embassy for their help, as well as the Ms. Ryu Wee-Ja and Ms. Lee Kyung-Suk from the Uslan Teacher Training Institute for their support and hospitality. IDEA looks forward to collaborating with Teacher Training programs in the future and hopes to see debate become a regular part of the curriculum in schools throughout Korea.

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