Constructing a Debate: Outline and Graphic Organizer for Sophisticated Argument

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The Rhetor's Toolbox
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9 pages
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The Rhetor's Toolbox


If your students are anything like mine, they think whoever is the loudest wins the argument! This resource will help you guide students into crafting sophisticated arguments that consider audience and purpose. Designed to be used in the planning phase of a debate, students will have access to thought-provoking questions based around the traditional stock issues of policy debate: topicality, inherency, harms, solvency, and significance. Constructing a Debate is ideal as a handout/graphic organizer for advanced and upper-level high school students; it is also flexible enough for you to teach into it to challenge younger students. Use it with any topic!


• Assignment Overview

• Alignment to Standards (AP Language and Composition and 11th/12th grade Common Core ELA)

• Constructing a Debate: Considerations (Handout)

• Constructing a Debate: Student Organizer

• Policy Debate Format: An Outline for Affirmative and Negative

This Constructing a Debate system has been a highly successful part of my AP Language and Composition classroom. It would also be appropriate for upper-level high school students, advanced or gifted and talented students, and competitive debate teams or clubs. This product is designed to be used to help students prepare for a policy (problem-solution) debate.


• Students are exposed to a wide variety of perspectives.

– Students must consider all sides of a divisive issue to thoroughly prepare a problem-solution argument.

– Students’ research must allow them to both concede and refute key points related to their arguments.

• Students must synthesize close reading skills and argumentation skills.

• Differentiation may come at many points: students’ access to the considerations handout, debate topics, the research students are expected to complete, etc. This resource is designed to be a flexible support for teachers and students.

• AP Language and Composition students will find that the student organizer functions as a highly effective synthesis essay outline. I use this in my classroom as a tool to help students break out of arguments that are driven by sources and into arguments shaped by each student’s individual stance on the issue.

A friendly note: This work is protected by copyright. You may use my products in your classroom, but you may not distribute them (this includes posting them online for public access). The copyright information on each page must remain intact. If you are interested in sharing with your colleagues, please send them the link to my store! Multiple license discounts are available.

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Total Pages
9 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.
Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.


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