2. Organising a debate

Learning how to participate in a debate helps pupils (and adults) to express their points of view, listen to the views of others and think critically. When you choose topics for debate in your classroom, make sure you choose topics that are important to your pupils so they will really want to express their points of view.

In Activity 2 you will introduce your pupils to the rules and procedures for debating and support them as they prepare for a formal debate. In Case Study 2, the debate is on inclusion in the classroom. With younger children, you could hold very simple discussions or debates about issues such as not hitting each other.

Resource 3: Structure of debating speeches and Resource 4: Rules and procedures for debating will give you guidance. You may also find these rules and procedures useful if you belong to organisations that need to conduct debates.

Case Study 2: Preparing for and conducting a debate

After Vivian and her pupils had written about being ‘left out’, they discussed specific children who were not in school for some reason. Some of these children were disabled, some had no parents and were heading households and some did not come to school because they were too poor to buy uniform.

Vivian introduced the idea of debating to the class, and presented the motion: ‘This class moves that all “out-of-school” youngsters, isolated because of barriers to learning, should be brought to school.’

She grouped the 36 pupils into groups of six, and asked half the groups to discuss points in favour of the motion and half to discuss points against.

Then she gave them a framework for preparing their speeches (see Resource 3). Each group drafted a speech, either in favour or against the motion, and chose a speaker from among their number. Vivian looked at the speeches at lunchtime, and gave speakers advice on how to improve them. They did more work on their speeches at home.

The debate was held the next day. Vivian was very pleased with the high level of participation from all class members. The motion was carried, and pupils started making contact with out-of-school children, and working with their teacher and head teacher to bring them back to school. Vivian realised that the debate had provided an excellent opportunity for pupils to develop and express their points of view and for addressing an important community issue.

Activity 2: Debating a motion; expressing points of view

Explain to pupils about participating in a debate.

Brainstorm debating topics that interest them and help them to express these in the form of a motion. Decide on the motion for debate (see Resource 3).

Explain the rules and procedures for debating, using the information in Resource 4.

Write the key rules and procedures on your chalkboard so that pupils can make a copy to refer to in future.

Ask pupils to prepare the debate speech in groups and choose one speaker to present their arguments.

You may have to help by providing background information for them to use in their speeches. You could also ask them to look for information from home for their speeches.

Check if the groups are ready to start the debate (perhaps later in the week) and then follow the rules and procedures.

Ask pupils to tell you what they have learned from the experience and use this information to plan future lessons and opportunities to discuss ideas.

With younger pupils, you could debate topics that relate to school, such as whether they should have class rules. You may have to help them learn to take turns to speak and listen to others’ ideas.

1. Using writing to elicit children's feelings

3. Writing letters