Recently, I had to complete an argumentative/debate unit created by my district. Thankfully, I do have some leeway in adding to the units. We covered Julius Caesar and analyzed 5 additional speeches over the course of a few weeks. On top of this, our school was shut down by the health department TWICE due to COVID numbers.
I wanted to give my students one last chance to have a cold argumentative analysis and debate before their unit test that would also serve as their midterm exam. Enter in the social debate on this classic holiday song. What I love about this debate is that you can truly argue different sides and have rich conversations about it. You can look at it strictly from the lyrics, you can look at it through a historical lens, you can also look at it through a societal or gender lens.
My students really got into this debate and had amazing discussions. Some of the observations made that I loved seeing where little nuances that I was not expecting. For example, one student said she questioned the age of the woman in the song due to her living at home with her family still. This lead to us discussing the original date of the song (1949) and the fact that women largely did not leave home unless it was to marry.
They also talked about her questioning “what’s in this drink?” Again, this was a popular saying/joke in the 30’s and 40’s when people were making an excuses for doing things they knew they shouldn’t be. So, then we discussed, “Was this something that she actually wanted to be doing and was concerned about what everyone else would say over her own desires?”
After giving them about 15 minutes or so to debate the lyrics, I showed them the clip from the movie that this song came from (Neptune’s Daughter). The beauty of seeing this song in the original form is that there are two different couples and both couples are singing the exact same lyrics. The difference here is that in one couple the man trying to persuade the woman to stay and in the other it is the woman trying to persuade the blushing man to stay. Showing this scene lead to further discussions on how you could interpret the lyrics and the body language that went with it as well. One boy said, “See! She just looks uncomfortable and wants to leave!” No matter which way they went though, someone was able to counter with some other piece of evidence and I LOVED every second of it.
All in all, this was a fantastic way to end our unit on persuasion and argumentation. My students had deep and thoughtful discussions based on evidence and reasoning. I highly recommend this activity as a highly engaging debate any time of the year! If you want to save the leg work, you can find my handout with the lyrics and the prompts here .
Are you interested in 3 other ideas for a little holiday fun in your classroom this year? Check out this post!
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