“You are in a hot air balloon that is losing height rapidly. It will soon crash into the side of a mountain because it is overweight. To prevent the certain death of everybody on board, only one person will be allowed to stay in the balloon!”
Balloon debates are a great way of promoting research and presentational skills, and invariably make for a very lively lesson!
Lesson 1: Students research a character and prepare their presentations
- In the first lesson, each student needs to choose (or will be allocated) a character relating to the topic of study (for example, eminent Victorians).
- Names can be allocated randomly to the students using the ClassTools Random Name Picker.
- Each student should then be given a copy of the PowerPoint Template which they can use to frame their research:
Note: Defining “Importance”
To be historically important, a person must do some or all of the following:
|Had an impact both in the short- and the long-term
|Had an impact on a lot of people’s lives
|Had an impact over many countries
|Had an impact on many areas of life – for example: politics, economics, society, religion…it is a good idea to define these in discussion with students.
Lesson 2: Conducting the Balloon Debate
A. Getting Ready for the First Round – focusing on ‘positives’
▪ Give the students 10 minutes to refresh their memories and to revise the material.
▪If they had homework time before the lesson, they will hopefully have made a mask ready for the debate.
▪ Get the PowerPoints saved into a public area so they can be shown on the whiteboard.
B. The first round of the debate – focusing on ‘positives’
▪ Four or five students stand at the front. Choose these randomly using the Classtools name picker.
▪ The first student’s Powerpoint is put onto the screen. The student is not allowed to read the slide – it’s there for the benefit of the audience – and they can only speak for 60 seconds, explaining what they did and why they deserve to stay in the balloon (note: they should speak in the first person, i.e. as if they ARE the character).
▪At the end of their speech, invite questions from the audience. These can be answered directly, OR the student concerned can nominate a ‘researcher’ to make a note of these questions and start finding the answers to them.
▪ Repeat this format for the other four students.
▪Go back to each of the nominated ‘researchers’, one after the other, to get answers to the questions raised during the debate.
▪ Each member of the audience then has to vote for just one character to be thrown OUT of the balloon.
▪ The two characters who get the least votes are then ‘thrown out’ (or even bottom three, depending on the size of the class / time available).
▪ This process is repeated with the remaining people in the class.
C. Getting ready for the final round of the debate – focusing on ‘negatives’
▪ Each finalist now works with a team consisting of the people they defeated in Round 1.
▪ Their task is to gather evidence AGAINST the other finalists, for example suggesting that they were insignificant, unheroic, and so on.
▪ In this way, the focus of the whole debate is changed, everybody remains engaged, and the final will not merely consist of rehearsing the same old points a second time.
D. The final round of the debate – focusing on ‘negatives’
▪ The finalists should line up at the front of the class.
▪ The first finalist should explain why the person to their left does NOT deserve to stay in the balloon. The person criticised in this way should be given a chance to respond before they in turn criticise the person to their left. The person at the end of the line should criticise the person who started the discussion.
▪ The audience then has to vote who should be thrown out. It is important that they don’t vote for who should stay in – because there is too much of a tendency for students to vote in favour of the finalist whose team they belong to.
▪ The ‘Two hands / One hand” voting system works well here: in this format, students raise two hands (=two votes against) their least favourite character, and one hand against the second least-favoured. This makes for a slightly more sophisticated voting outcome.
Step 4: Written outcomes
As a written “outcome” you could get students to answer the questions:
- Who were the last three people to survive in the balloon, and why were they considered so important?
- How could you argue that your character was more important than any one of the three finalists?
Taking it further
- Get students to make a mask to wear during the debate. See this post on the ClassTools blog for some ideas.
- Students could produce a Diamond9 Diagram ranking the importance of different characters.
- Students could produce a ‘Paper People’ project to connect the various characters discussed during the debate.