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Debate and Discussion - Big Debates - Teacher Notes

Debate and Discussion - Big Debates - Teacher Notes

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Published by Alan Forster
Teaching and Learning Resources
Teaching and Learning Resources

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Published by: Alan Forster on Aug 10, 2008
Copyright:Public Domain


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Planet Science Debating Kit

The Basics

Debate Introduction

Taking part in a debate is a good way to discuss and understand
the impact that science and technology have on our society. During
a debate, one team will present their argument for a particular
statement (called a Motion), and the other team will make their
argument against the Motion. There must be two sides to the motion or else you cannot debate
it. At the end of the debate the audience (called the Floor) will vote for the team they think
presented the better argument. This team wins the debate.

Debating terms

Over the years traditions have built up about debates and of course with every tradition, there is a special set way
of doing things, so here's a few special debating terms you should know for your debate to be very proper!

The House Everyone attending the debate is collectively known as the House.
Motion This is the statement under debate. A Motion usually begins with, ‘This House believes...’
Proposition This is the name for the team that proposes the Motion and argues ‘for’ it.
Opposition This is the name for the team that opposes the Motion and argues ‘against’ it.
Captain Each team nominates a Captain.
Floor The audience is known as the Floor.
Chair The Chair keeps order during the debate.


There are rules to follow during the debate to keep everything in order:

• Speak only when it is your turn.
• Do not make personal criticisms.
• Be courteous to your opponents.
• Do not raise your voice.


Maintain team discipline, promote teamwork, and make sure all team members are doing their fair share of work.
It’s also important to make sure all your team members have something different and interesting to say, and aren’t
boring the floor by repeating points and arguments and wasting valuable time!

Team Member
Support the Captain, participate in planning and discussions, and collect information.

Listen carefully without interrupting during the debate and vote for the team that put forward the better argument.

Keep order when the speakers are talking and make sure the debate runs smoothly.

Debate Worksheet

Debate Outline

You can find ideas for the motion you use in the Planet Science
debating kit on the site, or make up your own. Write it in the
space below:

This House believes

If you are a member of the proposing team then cross out ‘Opposition’ and vice versa, and write the names of
your team members here:

Proposition/Opposition Team Members
Team members

NOTE: You will need to fill in the remaining sections with the names of the team members who are responsible for
that section of the debate.


Who’s doing what?
Just fill in the names on this page.

The Chair welcomes the Floor and introduces the teams
and the Motion.

Name of Chair

Round 1 - Openi ng Statement – proposi ti on then opposi ti on
The Captain defines the Motion and briefly summarises why their team is arguing for or against the Motion.

Round 2 - Mai n Arguments – proposi ti on then opposi ti on
Team members present their main arguments either for or against the Motion.
2 to 4 team members:

Round 3 - Cross-Exami nati on – opposi ti on asks proposi ti on questi ons fi rst
The teams now have a chance to question each other. The purpose of the cross-examination is to expose the
weaknesses in your opponents’ arguments.
3 to 8 team members:

Round 4 - Cl osi ng Statement – opposi ti on then proposi ti on
The teams sum up their arguments, what they have achieved in the debate and they appeal to the Floor,
explaining why the Floor should vote for their team.
2 to 3 team members:

The Vote

The Chair invites the Floor to vote on the Motion. Members of the Floor may either vote for the Motion, against
the Motion, or abstain (which means deciding not to vote) from voting. The votes are collected and the Chair
announces the winning team.

Debate Worksheet

Please note you'll need prompt cards and other written research
that won't fit onto this sheet! This is only for your main points.

Research Section

To win the debate, you will need in-depth knowledge of the topic so you need
to carry out research. This will help your team put forward their argument and
answer questions during the cross-examination.

Your teacher will give you a Research Handout and you need to use the resources on that sheet to collect
information, OR, if you are debating your own motion, you'll have to find your own research resources online or in
other media.

Once your team has carried out research, you will need to use that research to build an argument. Your team
should work through the following sections together, making sure all members write down the same information for
each section.

Opening Statement

This needs to be written before the debate. Write the main points on note-cards and refer to them during
the debate.

Main Argument

As a team, use your knowledge of the topic to brainstorm the key points of your argument, write them in these boxes:

Use these key points to build a case for your side of the motion. You will also need plenty of solid evidence to
back up your claims, don’t just voice your opinions! You may need to draw on expert opinion; public opinion and
you might even like to conduct surveys as homework to add to your argument.

Debate Worksheet

Each team member responsible for the Main Argument will need to
write the point or points they wish to make on note-cards, so they
can refer to the cards during the debate.


To stay one step ahead, it is worth researching your opponents’ side of the
argument. If you do this you will be able to discredit any points they raise
during the cross-examination. If you know their side of the argument before the debate then you won’t have any
nasty surprises and you won’t be left tongue-tied!

As a team, use your knowledge of the topic to brainstorm the key points of your opponents’ argument:

Use these points and your research to make a list of questions to ask the other team. You will need between
3 and 8 questions. Write the questions on note-cards and refer to them during the debate.



Debate Worksheet

Be one step ahead and make a list of the questions your
opponents might ask your team. If you prepare before the debate
then you will have the answers to any questions in your head
already. Make points on note-cards to refer to during the debate.


Closing Statement

In your Closing Statement, you need to appeal to the Floor to vote for your team. Write part of the statement
before the debate, but make it flexible enough so you can add any further points raised during the debate.
Write the main points on note-cards and refer to them during the debate.

Now all you have to do is wait for the vote. It might also be a good idea to plan a winning
speech...or a losing one!

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