Ms. Heidenburg has brought her passion for speech and debate to our students this year in a freshmen and sophomore level elective. Currently, students have been listening to a podcast on the 1999 murder of Baltimore teenager, Hae Min Lee. Their task is to listen, take notes, analyze the evidence, and eventually, debate the guilt or innocence of the man currently convicted of murder, Adnan Syed.
During this unit, students debate after each podcast episode. These debates are informal and are often used to help students become more comfortable with their public speaking and allow them to work through their own thoughts and beliefs about the evidence and the trial. Students are now in the process of building their cases and will debate in teams of six, in a trial style of debate. Ms. Heidenburg explained that students are really enjoying the podcast itself. This is a new medium for learning and they enjoy listening to the narrative and trying to sort through the evidence provided. many students have gone above and beyond and found independently filmed video footage or Google earth map images of the alleged crime scenes.
Another fun aspect of debate class is Ms. Heidenburg’s “Impromptu Fridays,” where each student pulls a slip of paper which has a phrase or topic written on it. They then have to speak for three minutes on the subject without preparation. Sometime these are debates, other times they are simply speeches, but the students really enjoy them and it helps tremendously with their public speaking abilities.