Debate rules 1 Before the debate

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1) Before the debate
A debate is a discussion in which participants articulate, justify, and clarify their positions on an issue. In this informal debate plan, rebuttals attempt to refute statements made by the opposing side.
2) Take a stand
Who’s pro and who’s con? Every debate has two sides, the affirmative side and the negative side. The affirmative side, “pro”, supports a proposition. The opposing or negative side, “con”, opposes the proposition. The teacher can divide the class into pros and cons, or students may choose their own stance.
3) Let the research begin
Allow one to three class periods for research. Fact gathering should support the student’s point of view. Three to five resources are recommended. Students need a structured framework to guide their research. A template for taking notes is shown below.

Opinion ex.: I believe Columbus Day should be eliminated/replaced by another holiday.

Source #1:


Source #2:


Source #3:


The debate
4) Select a moderator
The moderator directs the debate and may be the teacher or a student. A student moderator should be able to speak clearly and keep everyone on task in a respectful manner. The moderator formally introduces the debate topic and recognizes students to speak alternating between pro and con.

Ensuring equitable participation

Distribute 4″ x 6″index cards. On the front side, students will write their names and either PRO or CON in large, bold letters. Raising the card will indicate the student’s request to speak. Students will track their participation by making a fold in the card every time they speak. To ensure equitable participation, after three folds, students should not speak until all students have had an opportunity to voice their opinion. (The back of the index card will be used in a post-debate activity.)
5) Opening and closing statements
Students may volunteer to make opening and closing statements, or the teacher may appoint students. Setting the tone for the debate, the students should have a prepared speech (one to three minutes). The debate begins with an opening statement from the pro side, followed by a statement from the con side. Opening statements should include each side’s opinion with a brief overview of the supporting evidence.
The debate ends with closing statements from both sides. Again the pro side speaks first followed by the con side. The planned closing statements (one to three minutes) should restate the opinions with strong supporting evidence.
6) Debate do’s
* Be polite and courteous.

* Listen attentively

* Be respectful and supportive of peers.

* Avoid inappropriate noises.

* Speak only when recognized by the moderator.

* Allow others to express their opinions; do not monopolize the debate.

* Use grammatically correct language.

* Speak clearly, slowly, and loud enough to be heard by the audience.

* Speak with passion and excitement.
After the debate
The debate is over, and it’s time to review and evaluate.
7) Reflections
The index card used to designate pro or con will now be used for debate reflections. Using the back of the card, students will express their reactions to the debate in a media of their choice. Suggestions include summarizing the debate in a paragraph or a poem, designing a cartoon, billboard, or a bumper sticker, or creating a graphic that represents their opinion.

This rubric, designed for student success, guides teachers and students in the evaluation process. Extra credit can be awarded to the opening and closing speakers and to students who use more resources. We like to staple the rubric to the completed assignments. There again, work smarter and not harder.


Number of Points

Points Earned

Research Guide

  • Facts listed

  • 3-5 sources documented


Index Cards

-Name and position on front

- Reflection on back


Debate Do’s

- Teacher observation


All work is neat, legible, and prepared on time.


Extra Credit





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