Conducting a Debate (+ Rubric)

A debate is a discussion or structured contest about an issue or a resolution. A formal debate involves two sides: one supporting a resolution and one opposing it. Such a debate is bound by rules previously agreed upon. Debates may be judged in order to declare a winning side. Debates, in one form or another, are commonly used in democratic societies to explore and resolve issues and problems. Decisions at a board meeting, public hearing, legislative assembly, or local organization are often reached through discussion and debate. Indeed, any discussion of a resolution is a form of debate, which may or may not follow formal rules (such as Robert’s Rules of Order). In the context of a classroom, the topic for debate will be guided by the knowledge, skill, and value outcomes in the curriculum.

Structure for Debate

A formal debate usually involves three groups: one supporting a resolution (affirmative team), one opposing the resolution (opposing team), and those who are judging the quality of the evidence and arguments and the performance in the debate. The affirmative and opposing teams usually consist of three members each, while the judging may be done by the teacher, a small group of students, or the class as a whole. In addition to the three specific groups, there may an audience made up of class members not involved in the formal debate. A specific resolution is developed and rules for the debate are established.

Debate Preparation:

• Develop the resolution to be debated.
• Organize the teams.
• Establish the rules of the debate, including timelines.
• Research the topic and prepare logical arguments.
• Gather supporting evidence and examples for position taken.
• Anticipate counter arguments and prepare rebuttals.
• Team members plan order and content of speaking in debate.
• Prepare room for debate.
• Establish expectations, if any, for assessment of debate.

Conducting Debate:

Debate opens with the affirmative team (the team that supports the resolution) presenting their arguments, followed by a member of the opposing team. This pattern is repeated for the second speaker in each team. Finally, each team gets an opportunity for rebutting the arguments of the opponent. Speakers should speak slowly and clearly. The judges and members of the audience should be taking notes as the debate proceeds. A typical sequence for debate, with suggested timelines, is as follows:

  • the first speaker on the affirmative team presents arguments in support of the resolution. (5 – 10 minutes)
  • The first speaker on the opposing team presents arguments opposing the resolution.
    (5 – 10 minutes)
  • The second speaker on the affirmative team presents further arguments in support of the resolution, identifies areas of conflict, and answers questions that may have been raised by the opposition speaker. (5 – 10 minutes)
  • The second speaker on the opposing team presents further arguments against the
    resolution, identifies further areas of conflict, and answers questions that may have been raised by the previous affirmative speaker. (5 – 10 minutes)
  • The rules may include a short recess for teams to prepare their rebuttals. (5 minutes)
  • The opposing team begins with the rebuttal, attempting to defend the opposing arguments and to defeat the supporting arguments without adding any new information. (3 – 5 minutes)
  • First rebuttal of the affirmative team (3 – 5 minutes)
  • Each team gets a second rebuttal for closing statements with the affirmative team having the last opportunity to speak. (3 – 5 minutes each)
  • There cannot be any interruptions. Speakers must wait their turns. The teacher may need to enforce the rules.

CLASSROOM DEBATE RUBRIC

Criteria 1 2 3 4
  1. Organization and Clarity:

viewpoints and responses are outlined both clearly and orderly.

Unclear in most parts Clear in some parts but not over all Most clear and orderly in all parts Completely clear and orderly presentation
  1. Use of Arguments:

reasons are given to support viewpoint.

Few or no relevant reasons given Some relevant reasons given Most reasons given: most relevant Most relevant reasons given in support
  1. Use of Examples and Facts:

examples and facts are given to support reasons.

Few or no relevant supporting examples/facts Some relevant examples/facts given Many examples/facts given: most relevant Many relevant supporting examples and facts given
  1. Use of Rebuttal:

arguments made by the other teams are responded to and dealt with effectively.

No effective counter-arguments made Few effective counter-arguments made Some effective counter-arguments made Many effective counter-arguments made
  1. Presentation Style:

tone of voice, use of gestures, and level of enthusiasm are convincing to audience.

Few style features were used; not convincingly Few style features were used convincingly All style features were used, most convincingly All style features were used convincingly

 

Source: http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/cur/socstud/frame_found_sr2/tns/tn-13.pdf

Additional Resource:  http://csdf-fcde.ca/UserFiles/File/resources/teacher_debate_guide.pdf

Peer Evaluation checklist: http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/cur/socstud/frame_found_sr2/g_blms/g-15.pdf

Students:

Post your “Be it resolved that …” statement below.

Four Corners Debate (Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree)

4-corners-debate
Four Corners Debate*

Grade Level: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Subject(s):

  • Language Arts/Debate

Duration: 45 minutes

Description: This activity introduces students to persuasion. By the end of the lesson, students are able to express their positions, as well as opposing arguments, on a particular issue. Objectives:

  1. Students will work in groups to clearly verbalize their positions on a specific issue/topic.
  2. Students will practice listening skills while other groups present their positions.
  3. Students will be able to use convincing arguments to sway others’ opinions.
  4. Students will write a 5-paragraph persuasive essay that presents point of view clearly and

addresses opposing positions. Materials:

  • 4 large pieces of paper with these words written on them:
    • Strongly Agree,
    • Somewhat Agree,
    • Strongly Disagree,
    • Somewhat Disagree

Procedure:

  1. Post the four pieces of paper in the four corners of the classroom.
  2. Write a controversial topic on the board (for example: Schools should eliminate report cards).
  3. Have students move to the corner that best matches their position (Strongly Agree, Somewhat Agree, Strongly Disagree, Somewhat Disagree). If social cliques are a problem, have students write their choice on a card first in order to ensure honest reactions.
  4. Each corner will have 2 minutes to discuss and solidify their reasoning/logic. Each group selects a spokesperson to express the group’s position. He/she has 30 seconds to express thoughts concisely and persuade their classmates. Other groups must listen intently.
  5. After the first corner presents, invite those who have been persuaded to move to the appropriate corner. Direct each group to present their group’s position in turn.
  6. Allow students to move to the appropriate corners if they have changed their minds.

Assessment:

Each student will write a 5-paragraph persuasive essay. In order to receive a maximum score, the student must express his position clearly, use appropriate logic, and address opposing viewpoints.

Special Comments: My students love this debate exercise! In fact, they bring up new issues almost daily and want to have a go. This is an excellent opportunity for the teacher to instruct on debate etiquette (ie. no put-downs, one speaker at a time, respect other viewpoints, etc.).

* Submitted by: Lisa M. Shearer Email: bshpgirl@earthlink.net School/University/Affiliation: Home Street Middle School, Bishop, CA

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