☰ Read all about Ms Habgood’s Great Balloon Debate with Form 6

Read all about Ms Habgood’s Great Balloon Debate with Form 6

Posted on: October 17th 2014

My favourite day of the week is Friday at work – not because it’s the end of the week, but it’s when I get to spend two hours back in the classroom working with Form 6. It’s such a delight teaching poetry to them (although today, they were full on into timed poetry comprehensions in preparation for their exams) and then we do General Studies. Our current topic is Philosophical Thinking and we are engaging in all sorts of philosophical questions and debate and reading Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, which they are absolutely loving.

However, today’s lesson was the culmination of a few weeks’ worth of work on the great ‘Balloon Debate’: Fifteen key people who have made a significant impact on society throughout history and the idea is that they are all in this one balloon. The balloon is losing height and will crash unless 8 people are thrown out of it. The philosophical part is in deciding who to save and why.
The fifteen people are chosen to spark controversy in some cases, but coming back to my feelings about general knowledge, they are figures that are not necessarily in the first instance well known to the children, so they had to find out about them to form their arguments and opinions. They spent two weeks researching the occupants of the balloon – people such as Mikhail Gorbachev (and of course with his involvement in helping to end the Cold War, this then sparked another interesting discussion) and Mao Tse Tung, as well as people like Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Jane Austen, Florence Nightingale and Diego Maradona - all designed to get the most out of the debate that will ensue.
Seeing the children push back the desks today and armed with their reasons for saving or throwing out each key figure was almost magical; they were so excited about voting and the democratic process of deciding who stayed, not to mention they were looking forward to the opportunity to persuade others! They could see how important having a strong and reasoned argument was – and let me tell you, each and everyone of them put across their informed opinions and was able to counter argue and hold their own in the arena! After much reasoning and discussion, we were down to one last debate – we had got all 7 stayers, but there was someone else (Abraham Lincoln) who the children wanted to keep in ‘because he worked hard to help abolish slavery’ so we had to go back to the key figures and reason some more and vote some more. Albert Einstein almost didn’t make it as the children were much divided on his splitting of the atom and its consequences, and in the end, sadly, Mother Teresa was on the losing side. The children felt again very divided about the amount of charitable life saving she had done, but for some, during their research they felt that she had ignored the faiths of other people and that was unfair. This was some deep discussion as you can imagine!
What I am incredibly proud of was how well the children researched their arguments and how they listened to each other’s opinion, but also how well they justified their own opinions and made links with their lives today. They absolutely loved the task and it was so valuable in so many ways. The funniest quote was about Jane Austen at the start of the task: ‘she is only famous for writing romantic novels about the middle classes and they’re only in the middle, so not that important.’(!)

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