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Debate Topics


- The government should not spend money on the Olympics because it takes money away from more
important social causes.
- The Canadian Monarchy should be abolished.


- Insanity should be abolished as a legal defense.

- Beauty pageants for children should be outlawed.


- Quebec's Charter of the French Language discriminates against anglophones.

- Creationism should be taught in schools alongside evolution.

2. As a general rule, I don't think that I would ever engage the entire class in a formal debate. I think
that it would be impossible to ensure that each member participated in a meaningful way, that the
structure of a formal debate could be followed in the 50 or so minutes allotted to a class period, or that
arguments and rebuttals could be thorough and well-prepared. I would much prefer to use the U-
shaped discussion for a whole class, where students situate themselves in the U shape according to their
initial position. One arm of the U is pro, the other is con and the middle section is undecided. Students
are encouraged to move around the U as their opinions change throughout the discussion. I think this
fosters thoughtful group dialogue where people's opinions are valued, the students aren't pitted against
each other but rather are able to try to persuade one another using reasoned arguments.

3. Debate Rules

– Each debate team will consist of 3 people

– Each team member will be expected to participate in the debate
– Team members will collaborate on research and preparation of each section of the debate
– Audience members will assess the debate using a rubric
– Interruptions will not be tolerated and will result in a deduction of marks
– All debate participants (including the audience) will conduct themselves in a professional,
respectful manner. Personal insults will not be tolerated
– Teams will elect a team captain who will be permitted to assist teammates during the debate
– All preparatory research and resources will be handed in for assessment after the debate

4. Structure and time limits

Debate Structure Time Limit

Opening Argument – Pro Side (Speaker 1) 3-5 minutes
Opening Argument – Con Side (Speaker 1) 3-5 minutes
Further Opening Arguments – Pro Side (Speaker 2) – may address 3-5 minutes
questions raised by the opposite team but this is not the rebuttal
Further Opening Arguments – Con Side (Speaker 2) – may address 3-5 minutes
questions raised by the opposite team but this is not the rebuttal
Recess - Teams confer to prepare for rebuttal 5-7 minutes
Rebuttal – Con Side to defend opposing arguments and defeat the 3-5 minutes
supporting arguments of the Pro Side.
Rebuttal – Pro Side to defend supporting arguments and defeat the 3-5 minutes
opposing arguments of the Con Side.
Second Rebuttal/Closing Statement – Con Side 3-5 minutes
Second Rebuttal/Closing Statement – Pro Side 3-5 minutes
Debrief – Audience to have opportunity to make comments and ask Time remaining
questions. Feedback may be given to the teams.

5. In order to assess the debates I would use a rubric, given to the students well in advance of the
actual debate. The audience members would each be assigned a team to assess during the debate. I
would ask that each team prepare four strong arguments to support their position, and to research the
opposing position in order to prepare rebuttals to likely arguments. I would also collect all of the
research done by the teams, including a list of sources, in order to assess how much each team member
contributed to the overall preparation for the debate. Obviously some students will be more
comfortable talking in front of the class than others and so it would be important to assess the
preparation work done. I would leave it up to the teams to decide how to divide the work as long as
they agree and it is an equitable division of labour. Students will be accountable for their learning in
that they will be required to hand in their research and to complete a rubric assessing their own
performance during the debate.

Category Excellent Good Satisfactory Needs

Arguments – clear All information Most of the Most information Some information
reasons are given was accurate and information was was accurate and was accurate but
clear accurate and clear clear but not not presented
thorough clearly
Examples and Facts and examples Facts and examples Some facts and Few or no relevant
Facts – given to given to support all given to support examples given, facts given
support reasons arguments most arguments, most relevant
usually relevant
Organization Always clear and Mostly clear and Somewhat clear Unclear in many
arguments and concise in each concise in each but not usually parts
examples are part part
outlined clearly
and concisely
Rebuttal – All opposing Most opposing Some opposing Few or no
opposing arguments rebutted arguments rebutted arguments rebutted opposing
arguments are using relevant facts using relevant facts usually using arguments rebutted
responded to and arguments and arguments relevant facts and
Respect for other Always silent and Usually silent and Somewhat silent Interrupted other
team – opposing respectful during respectful during and respectful team's presentation
team given opposing team's opposing team's during opposing and personal
opportunity to presentation. No presentation. No team's attacks were often
present arguments personal attacks personal attacks presentation. Some used instead of
were used during were used during personal attacks reasoned
rebuttals rebuttals may have been arguments
Teamwork – each Each member Each member One member One member of the
member continues contributed to the contributed contributed team dominated
to the debate debate equally, the somewhat equally, noticeably less the presentation
team captain the team captain then the rest of the
assisted a team assisted a team team, the team
member when member when captain assisted a
necessary. necessary. team member
when necessary.