Teaching how to win a classroom debate


Activities for the last day of class

The last day of English we will be working on our debate skills by following these steps. First 3 I found here: 7 tasks for Classroom Debates

Quick Fire

Each student chooses a slip of paper with one topic, such as “schools should not have more than 2 test a week” or “mobile phones should be allowed in class”.  Now, everyone stands; they have 2 minutes to give their opinion on that topic to a classmate, using the target language such as ‘I somewhat agree with you‘, ‘I completely disagree’, ‘I think very differently‘, depending on level and lesson objective.

When the 2 minutes are up, students move on to a different classmate. Listen for mistakes, correct on the spot and monitor if they have taken your correction on board.

The Panel

Choose two students, i.e those interested in a particular topic or who have strong views in a certain area and ask them to take a seat at the top of the room. They each give their opinion on the topic but the key here is that the rest of the students in the class ask questions, challenge them on their views and present alternative viewpoints to them.

This can create a very healthy discussion. Ensure students are using the lesson’s lexical items, such as ‘Can you expand on your point of view in relation to….’ or ‘Can you help us understand why you would state that…’ depending on level.

Devil’s Advocates

Divide your class into three groups:
1) Agree 2) Disagree 3) Devil’s Advocates

Write a debate topic on the board and assign a point of view to groups 1 and 2. (They should put their own views to one side for this task). Group 3 are the Devil’s Advocates and so it’s their job to provoke discussion, encourage various points of views and ensure the debate continues. Give a speaker from each group 2 minutes to speak before rotating so that all students in each group are participating.

Before the debate in class, we need to decide on topics and rubrics to score the debate winner of the class. Let’s use the rubric found here.

Debate topics:

Look here for good topics to use in your debate. 100 ESL debate topics. I particularly liked these;

Sentences to be extremely useful during debates:

  1. I’d like to argue/raise a question.
  2. In my opinion…
  3. I feel very strongly that…
  4. I’d like to present my views…
  5. I’m amazed by the views expressed by…
  6. I’d like to draw attention to…
  7. I fail to understand…
  8. I submit that…
  9. My first/next/final argument against/in favour of…
  10. My worthy opponent has submitted that…
  11. Do you realise that…
  12. Believe it or not…
  13. You may not believe it but…
  14. It may sound strange but…
  15. The surprising thing is…
  16. Surprisingly…
  17. Funnily enough.
  18. Oddly enough.
  19. Don’t forget that…
  20. The point is…
  21. The problem is…
  22. May I ask…
  23. I strongly support/oppose the view that…
  24. On the contrary…
  25. How can my worthy opponent be so ignorant to say that…
  26. I totally disagree with the view…
  27. I condemn…
  28. I firmly reject…
  29. I wholeheartedly support/oppose…
  30. I support the motion that…
  31. How to behave in a debate, don’t look to the UK

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