Are you reluctant to hold a debate in your class because you are not sure how to organize one? Are you afraid a debate could turn into a “free-for-all”? Or perhaps you don’t know how to ensure an intelligent discussion. Maybe you are already pressed for time and fear that a debate would take up too much time for preparation and follow-through. For years I wanted to conduct debates in my classrooms, and for years I avoided them. When I finally decided to take the plunge, I “winged” it. After much trial and error, I am finally satisfied with my classroom debates.
Debates are exciting and rewarding - both for the teacher and for the students. They are my students’ favorite activity. I can conduct a quick and engaging whole class debate through one homework assignment and one class period, or a more thorough debate over the course of several class periods. The approach you choose will depend upon your objectives. If all you are after is a whetting of appetites for a new unit, or a break in the routine, or an alternative assessment at the end of a unit, a speedy debate can work. If you are aiming to teach research skills, analysis of bias, persuasive writing, and more in-depth coverage of content, a lengthier whole class debate is in order. If teamwork, cooperation, and more individual accountability are your goals, a team debate can be effective.