Icebreaker Arguments Reprised

All, Fun, Teaching Tips

When was the last time you laughed while teaching argumentation? It is true. You can have fun teaching argument. Serendipity is a wonderful thing. Last year I adapted Dave Stuart’s idea for an icebreaker that also introduces argumentation for use in my face-to-face First Year Seminar. After sharing facts about ourselves, we crafted claims and took turns matching claims to individuals. It was an extension to our community building as well as a handy introduction to argumentation to help differentiate between facts and claims (something we all need help with – have you checked your social media feed lately?). But this year I am teaching my First Year Seminar online and I couldn’t come up with an easy way to transfer that experience into the digital realm.

So I tweaked the idea yet again and proposed that each student post a few facts about themselves (following Dave Stuart’s framework sharing what was important to us, what we like to do, and a personal belief) followed by three claims. Students were then instructed to make three counterclaims on at least three of other posts. We then wrapped up the whole exercise with a reflection.

I really didn’t expect much from the exercise. I thought it would do the job (of introducing argumentation) and further our community, but to my surprise I found myself smiling and laughing out loud as I read students’ claims and counterclaims. They clearly had some fun while crafting them. So much fun and silliness. There were no real surprises, because we had already gone through a round of introductions prior to the exercise, but I could easily encourage that in the future. However, it did spark connections and reinforced the difference between facts and claims. And it was fun. There can never be enough fun when it comes to learning.

This adaptation of the icebreaker argument exercise could be a fun game for face-to-face classes in addition to the original version (properly spaced) to review or refresh community after a break. What fun do you have with arguments, facts, claims, and counterclaims in your classes?

Artwork by Lurens on Pixabay

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