How do you conduct in-class debating?
A debate can be a powerful tool. It can help students learn to speak naturally and to listen carefully. By introducing structured, formal debate to my ESL classroom, my students benefit with listening, speaking and critical thinking skills.
I divide students to sides of an argument, one in favor, and one against. They take it in turns to present arguments, and respond the other side, trying to persuade the rest of their class one way or the other.
Stage 1: Introduce the topic.
I choose a topic to which my students can relate and with practical application. In general, controversial issues are always a great resource for ESL students’ speaking practice.
Stage 2: Assign the affirmative and the negative.
There are two sides to any debate. One will argue for and another against the resolution. I group my students into teams to research and argue the issue.
Stage 3: Give time for research.
My students will need time to research the issue. They will also need to learn the specific vocabulary that may be involved. We must make sure that all students understand specialized vocabulary.
Stage 4: Prepare basic debate structure or outline.
First, the affirmative group receives two minutes to present their case to the audience. The negative group then receives two minutes to present their case.
After both sides have a chance to speak, both teams receive two minutes to prepare a rebuttal and summary. The order of speech is reversed now and the negative side presents their rebuttal and summary for the first two minutes. More...
Stage 5: Make a judgment.
Usually, the winner is the one who has presented the strongest case. For ESL classes, the overall purpose of speaking is more important than the specific outcome of the debate. Still, the students will probably want to know who won. To determine the winner, it is important to have the audience vote on which team they thought made the most convincing argument.
In-class debates teach public speaking skills, develop critical thinking skills, research skills, and prioritization of information.
Successful Debate for Large Classes
Professor Charles Lebeau teaches English and debate in Japan. He wrote “Discover Debate” with Michael Lubetsky. The book helps English teachers and learners understand how to carry on a simple debate. The “Discover Debate” approach has three stages: creating a visual aid to communicate an argument, presenting the argument and answering the other team’s argument. Each stage puts increasing demands on language ability. It begins with a pre-debate experience. More...
How to Choose a Debate Topic
Find some of the most controversial debate topics covering a wide variety of issues ranging from politics and religion to education and society. The controversial debate topics are arranged in a pro-con format that allows keeping our debates organized and ensuring that both sides of a particular issue get equal exposure. The topics are always presented in a non-biased, equal-coverage approach.
Different Styles of Debate: Online Debate, Team Debate, Parliamentary Debate, Middle School Debate, Public Forum Debate, etc.
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