Archive for August, 2008

Organising School Debating

Once again it is that time of year when school debating teams start to pass the zone level and compete for Regional and State titles.  This also makes it the time of year when debating coaches like myself need all the support from staff they can get, but unfortunately seem to have used up all their favours just getting the zone rounds done.

I think that debating is such a worthwhile activity for students to be involved in – both competitively, and in the more relaxed environment of in-class debating.  However, I think that schools that are entering teams into debating competitions need to understand the full range an amount of resources that are needed to support the teams.  Here are my first thoughts on what a school needs to plan for – can you add more?

  • Each team will participate in at least three zone-level ’round robin’ debates.  This means cover of some kind for at least three half days for each teacher taking a team.
  • If a team wins their zone, they go on to play schools that are progressively further away.  This usually means close to a full day of cover is needed for each debate beyond inter-zone finals.
  • If my Year 11 team make it to the State Final they will have been in around nine debates.  This means up to nine days away from most classes!
  • Debaters need lots of coaching to do well.  Weak debaters need coaching so they feel comfortable in the competition; strong debaters need coaching if you want them to go as far as possible in the comp.  This could mean losing around one lunchtime per fortnight, or missing more classes –  you will probably try to use your ‘free’ periods, meaning the kids will always be out of the same classes.
  • Do they have clean shirts, ties, blazers etc.?  Or will “someone” i.e. the coach have to organise this?  The school may need to develop a system for borrowing formal uniform items.
  • Debates have associated equipment – bell, stopwatch, palm cards, chairperson forms, glasses for water on the tables…  You will need a designated storage space so these things are easy to find, especially in schools with more than one teacher coaching the teams.

I’m hoping to work out a real ‘budget’ – both for funding and staff support – for debating in my school.  We’re always going to want more than we can have, but schools need to at least be realistic about what they are signing on for, I think.


Using Renzulli and Gagne together

In an earlier post I discussed the way in which our school uses the trait’s of giftedness as identified by Renzulli – we focus heavily on ensuring that students who possess above average ability also develop high levels of task commitment and creativity.

The NSW DET, however, does not feature Renzulli’s traits of giftedness in their Gifted and Talented Policy.  Instead it uses Gagné’s (2003) Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT), which states that:

Gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability: intellectual, creative, social and physical.

Talented students are those whose skills are distinctly above average in one or more areas of human performance.

What I like about Gagne’s model is that it explicitly recognises that students may be gifted in a range of domains; it is not limited to intellectual giftedness, but also recognises creative, social and physical giftedness.

I also think it is very useful to conceptualise ‘giftedness’ as being potential for excellence, while ‘talentedness’ is actual performance at an above average level.

But I still am unclear about how our school uses these two theories together.  Certainly they both bring something to the table, but are they supposed to work together in some way?  Anyone have any ideas?

I wonder if Renzulli would tell Gagne that combining task commitment and creativity with high ability is the key to moving gifted students beyond potential to performance!

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Six Reasons People Aren’t Commenting on Your Blog

Just browsing through the ‘Best of Bamboo’ on Michele Martin’s blog The Bamboo Project and learned a lot from her post titled Six Reasons People Aren’t Commenting on Your Blog.  You can read more about this at Michele’s blog, but the six reasons in short are:

  1. You sound like a press release
  2. You sound like an informercial
  3. You sound like a know-it-all
  4. You haven’t shown them how
  5. You haven’t created the right atmosphere
  6. You just don’t seem that into it.

A great list, and one that really got me thinking.  My last few posts have included some lengthy accounts of what I’m doing with my classes at school.  I’ve specifically been blogging about the videogaming unit that I’m using with my Year 9 G&T class, in part because I know others who are interested in how the unit is working, but also because I am using this blog to store information about this unit as part of an G&T Action Research project I am part of at school.  I’ve also started adding detailed info about how I am running an AOS on The Journey with Year 10.  This is in part to reflect on my own teaching, but also I have lofty imaginations of teachers scouring the web for units of work and getting really happy when they find my blog with all of this great information!

I find that the problem with such posts is that they don’t explicitly invite discussion or reflection from readers.  I think this is a result of reasons 3 and 4 – while I don’t exactly sound like a ‘know-it-all’, I haven’t problematised any of my work, merely recounted what I did; and while readers might technically know how to comment, they can’t see a clear invitation or need to add their thoughts.

What do other people do here?  What makes a truly engaging blog post?



recycling ‘The Journey’

This term our English faculty have decided to teach Area of Study-style units with our Year 10 classes, in preparation for the concepts and style of learning that they will encounter in Stage 6.  While most teachers are using the old HSC units on Change, a couple of us have elected to study The Journey instead…another recycled HSC topic 🙂

In the spirit of preparing the students for Year 11, I’m reflecting the new, broad AOS topic of Belonging by simply teaching the overall concept of The Journey i.e. not breaking this down into a smaller topic of either Physical, Inner or Imaginative Journeys. Read the rest of this entry »

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