Updated: Jun 16, 2019
I have run debating teams for a few years now and I love it. Of course, there is a lot of stress that goes into it though. Students drop out, get sick, forget their speeches, and misinterpret what the other team has said. Our debating competition holds debates every two weeks and my teams meet on Tuesdays after school and Thursdays at lunch so we essentially have just over three hours together to brainstorm, plan, write, edit, and practise our speeches. It is TIGHT! They have to do work at home and I often have one-on-one sessions with students at recess and lunch to help them improve even further if they are really stuck. To mitigate as many problems as possible, I have developed a pretty great system that really helps to streamline this process. Okay, are you ready?
Session one: Thursday lunch (40 mins)
Before our first session, I print out 5-10 different articles that have information about the topic (a few copies of each). I ask students to pick an article and read it with a highlighter. I don't tell them yet which side they will be arguing. When they have finished, they come to the board and write up the best ideas they found. They write affirmative arguments in green and negative arguments in red. Sometimes a student arguing affirmative will pick an article with points that support the opposite team but it doesn't matter because this still helps with their rebuttal.
Once we have finished brainstorming, I tell them which side they will be arguing. They then select the best four arguments for their team and put them in order from most to least strongest.
Session two: Tuesday after school (1 hour)
When they arrive on Tuesday, I get them to start by writing the arguments each speaker will present in a Google Doc that the entire team has access to. This means that they can all prepare their speeches at home without stepping on each other's toes or forgetting what they should talk about.
I have two teams and four students on each team (three speakers and a sub), as well as another lovely teacher who comes to help on our Tuesday sessions. I break the students into pairs to write the speeches for speaker one and speaker two of each team. I don't get them to start writing the speech for speaker three until a bit later. They spend the rest of the hour writing the speeches for speaker one and two onto slides that I've created on Google Drive. When the slides are printed as six to a page, they are perfect palm card size.
I also give them a timing sheet which some kids prefer to use in the session and then type it up at home. You can download here!
Session three: Thursday lunch (40 mins)
Thursday lunch is peer editing and I have adapted slides from The Townie Teacher that I use to prep my students. They highlight their work, then they read certain sections aloud and receive feedback on their work. At the end of the session, they are expected to have edited and made final adjustments to their work. This includes adding bold font for words that they want to annunciate and emphasise carefully, as well as notes for when they should make deliberate eye contact with the audience.
Session four: Tuesday after school (1 hour)
Tuesday is debate day. We meet after school from 3:30-4:30 and then the debate is at 6:30 so it's go time! I print their palm cards out prior to the session and they spend the entire time practising their delivery.
If the two teams are on the same side of the debate (ie: both are affirmative but will be debating against different teams), they read their speeches aloud to the rest of their team and either myself or the other teacher who take notes on how to improve their delivery. We also through some rebuttal curve balls at them so that they can craft their rebutting skills.
If the two teams are on different sides of the debate (ie: one team is affirmative and one team is negative), then we do a mock debate so that they can practise their rebuttals more effectively. We almost always run out of time so we sometimes go over time because this practice is invaluable.
So that's it! How do you get your kids ready? Let me know in the comments!