Preparation is needed for all debates, but the preparation time differs. In an impromptu debate you get a topic and limited preparation time in class - 45 min. or less. This may be a standalone activity, for instance in the last lesson before Christmas where groups could debate the motion ‘Believing in Santa Claus does more harm than good.’ It can also be an introductory activity for a new subject in English. For instance, teams may want to debate the motion ‘Social media sites do more harm than good’, as a way to start a new topic on social media.
A prepared debate is an excellent way of wrapping up a subject that has been dealt with in class for an extended period of time. This gives students the chance to put their new knowledge to use, revisit texts they have dealt with in class, or discover additional material in order to find relevant quotes etc. as evidence for their speeches. It can be homework for that class to prepare one argument for and one against the motion. That way they will already have considered some of the arguments before coming to class, irrespective of which side they will end up on. Once in class, students will be put into groups with a proposition and opposition team. Prior to this, the class has usually worked with exercises, structure for speeches, watched debate videos etc. Then they are given their preparation time and told what time and where to begin their debates.
They should also be given this list of how to spend their preparation time most efficiently:
- Individual brainstorm (3 min) Note down what you think are the best reasons/points for your side of the topic.
- Shared brainstorm. Listen to each other’s ideas.
- Choose your team’s reasons/points.
- Who will be first and second speaker?
- Divide the points between you. 2 points each usually works well, or 2 for the first speaker and 1 for the second speaker.
- Each speaker works on his/her own speech. Remember to use the structure you have worked with previously – snappy intro, overview of arguments, PEES and snappy outro.
- If you have time, you can also consider possible POIS you may want to ask the other side, or help the other speaker on your team with their PEES or snappy intro/outro.
The content on this page is written by Charlotte Ib, who is the project manager of World Schools Debating Championships in Denmark, owns the company Do Debate! and is a teacher of English at Sankt Annæ Gymnasium.