Lesson: How Do We Debate?

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Lesson Objective

Why is debating an important skill? How do people act when they are debating? What do you need to prepare for a debate?

Lesson Plan


Lesson Name:             How Do We Debate?                        Course: High School Language Arts by Anke al-Bataineh

Objective:   Students understand purpose and format of debate

Students are aware of stylistic norms of debate

Essential Questions:            (write on board)
Why is debating an important skill?

How do people act when they are debating?

What do you need to prepare for a debate?

projector, screen

Internet connection

White board

Team Debate Format

Anticipatory Set:         (5 min)
Ask student what a debate is. (Look for a distinction from an argument.) Do they know anyone who is good at debating? What makes someone good at it? What makes someone bad at it? How does one "win" an argument? How does one "win" a debate?

Input:         (15 min)
Tell students: We will watch a debate between two masters. You will notice that the topic of the debate is incredibly difficult, and it can not possibly be "proven" or concretely "won." Watch how the men behave, try to understand the rules for when they talk, and notice what they choose to say and not. Take notes as we watch and we will discuss.


Show video and pause to discuss examples of format, decorum, and evidence. (or any related links that show snippets of debates, you might select a few and skip through)

Guided Practice:         (10 min)
Lead students in making a list of their observations and discussing what will be most difficult for them.  Lead them in forming a list of what they will need to prepare (resolution, contention, evidence for and against, opening and closing statements, questions for opponents, etc.)


Display in room or in student notebooks Team Debate Format, to be left up throughout unit.

Independent Work:         (15 min)
Assign students their partner, who should remain their partner throughout the unit. This first assignment is both an opportunity to get to know one's partner, but also an exercise in the density of vocabulary in this unit. Tell students that they will be using a dictionary to help them with vocabulary in this unit, so they will practice now. They should work with their partner to define these terms:





Constructive  (as in AC or NC)

Rebuttal (as in AR or NR)






Burden of Proof


(stress the occurance of more than one relevant meaning of many of these terms, encourage students to graphically separate so as to recognize these alternate meanings)


Guided Practice:         (10- 20 min)

Engage students in writing up rules for debating. Consider the following questions:

            What strength of evidence is allowed?

            Are debaters allowed to insult each other personally?

            Are debaters allowed to interrupt each other? What happens if they do?

            Are debaters allowed to pass on time if they are not prepared?

            Are debaters allowed to talk longer than the assigned time? What happens if they do?

            Are debaters allowed to yell or to cuss? What happens if they do?

            Are debaters allowed to lie? What happens if they do?

Conclusion/Assessment:         (5 min)
Establish for students that these rules will have to be followed, and that having a debate needs a lot of preparation. Explain that a debate requires huge preparation, which we will do together, and that students have to get ready to "play" both sides. Review the vocabulary as a class so that they will understand the terms going forward.



Vocab to Watch Out For:

See list above

Lesson Reflection:


What went well?

What would you change?

What needs explanation?

Students like the independence of using dictionaries. They learned the words and set rules with enthusiasm.

It's important to stop the clips often and explain. It might help to get non-British people speaking so that students can understand better.

You can change or simplify the debate format. I just used this one because it's what my debate team used in high school. I had such a great experience in that club that I want to share it with my students.





Lesson Resources

Team Debate Format.docx  


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