Debate Topics

Teacher Debate guide


SETTING UP A DEBATE - ESU
CHECKLIST
For many activities, students work in pairs to generate reasons using:
Why?  Because…  Practice using  Why?  Because… with simple statements,
e.g. “My cat is a great pet. Why? Because…”
A QUICK 30 MINUTE PLAN
What to do - Classroom set up: a clear space for students to move around
Time: 45 minutes
Two speakers on each team.
Give students an opportunity to discuss debate / events from their own experience – perhaps they have seen some political debates on TV, seen a show debate at school, or been to a local school or university to watch some debates. Link this experience to the goals of the club.
Warm-up activity (5 minutes)
Stranded on a desert island
Students form pairs.
Set the scene: we are all going on holiday. Students should select one thing that they would pack, and tell their partner. We are going to travel by boat. We are on a ship in the middle of a big ocean when suddenly there is a huge storm and the boat sinks.
Disaster!
Luckily, we can see a desert island nearby. We must swim to safety. In pairs, students should choose one of their two items to save and bring to the island, where we will have to survive until we are rescued.
Ask a few pairs to feed back to the group. Remark on “because…” statements: we are making arguments here!
For many activities, students can work in pairs to generate reasons using: Why? Because…
Practise using Why? Because… with simple statements, e.g. “My cat is a great pet. Why?
Because…”
Warm-up activity
Stranded on a desert island
Students form pairs.
Set the scene: we are all going on holiday. Students should select one thing that they would pack, and tell their partner. We are going to travel by boat. We are on a ship in the middle of a big ocean when suddenly there is a huge storm and the boat sinks. Disaster! Luckily, we
can see a desert island nearby. We must swim to safety. In pairs, students should choose one of their two items to save and bring to the island, where we will have to survive until we are rescued.
Ask a few pairs to feed back to the group. Remark on “because…” statements: we are making arguments here! Pairs should now combine to form groups of four. Again, they should select only one item and prepare a short statement to the whole group explaining why they chose this item.
Learning objectives:
To be able to structure an argument using a point & explanation. Understand that debates have a for/against structure.
Use the ‘Why? Because…’ prompt to reinforce this. Introduce the vocabulary of
‘Point + Explanation’, linking them to ‘Why? Because…’
The students should form two lines of equal length, facing each other (an easy way to ensure the lines are equal is to ask everyone to high-five the person opposite them, and adjust as needed). Explain that one line is “for” the statement they will be given; the other is “against”. You aren’t allowed to change lines!
The Alley Debate
Give the students a topic for the debate. Explain they now have 1 minute to think about a short statement in defense of their side of the debate. It should have a point and an explanation.
Demonstrate with an example if needed.
Starting with the “for” team, ask each student in turn to give their argument, alternating between “for” and “against” until you reach the end of the alley. If you have time for another topic, this time, ask students to reply to the person who spoke before them, before giving their argument.
“They said… but I disagree because… My own argument is…”
KEY VOCABULARY:
Point – A short sentence that explains why you support/oppose a topic Explanation – How and why your point is true.
DIFFERENTIATION:
For less able students you can provide some suggested points that they can provide explanations for.
Students can work in pairs to generate arguments before the debate.
Suggested topics:
1.      Should everyone have a pet in their home?
2.      Should we have to wear school uniforms?
3.      Should people take part in violent sports like boxing?
4.      Do celebrities make good role models?
5.      Should your parents be able to secretly check what you are doing on the internet?
Recap the need for justifying opinions. Use the ‘Why? Because…’ prompt to reinforce this. Introduce the vocabulary of ‘Point + Explanation’, linking them to ‘Why? Because…’
Balloon debate
4-6 volunteers should come to the front of the class/find a clear space.
Each one should choose a person that they will play during this game. You may want to restrict them using a theme, e.g. “famous people from history“ or “characters from Harry Potter”.
Now set the scene: all these people are in a balloon, but unfortunately it is leaking. To save ourselves, we will have to throw someone overboard!
Each student will now give a 30 second explanation of why their character should be allowed to stay in the balloon, using a point and an explanation.
After these arguments, the rest of the group should vote on one person to throw from the balloon.
This should be repeated until only one person remains in the balloon.
KEY VOCABULARY:
Point – A short sentence that explains why you support/oppose a topic
Explanation – How and why your point is true.
HINTS & TIPS:
Mix things up with some different rounds. Instead of defending their own character, students could respond to another character’s defense.
“You argued that… but I disagree because…”
Keep large groups involved by including rounds where people outside the balloon offer  defenses of the characters, or ask questions to everyone in the balloon.
Themes
Characters from a book the class is reading
Famous scientists
People from a historical period the class is studying
Learning objective:
To be able to structure an argument using a point & explanation.
WHERE DO YOU STAND?
Need for justifying opinions. Use the ‘Why?
Because…’ prompt to reinforce this. Introduce the vocabulary of
‘Point + Explanation’, linking them to ‘Why? Because…’
Students should form a line in the middle of the room.
Assign one end of the room as “For” and the other as “Against”.
Students are currently standing “on the fence”, where you are neither for nor against.

Give the students a topic. If they agree, they should move towards “for”; if they disagree they should move towards “against”. The more strongly they feel, the more they should move.
Give students 30 seconds to ask someone standing near them why they chose to stand there.
Ask a few students to explain to the group why they are for or against, using a point and an explanation.
After each student has spoken, ask the whole class to take one step towards for or against to show whether they were convinced. Make this accountable by following up, asking students why they moved one way or the other.
Keep the discussion fresh by introducing new topics when needed.
KEY VOCABULARY:
Point – A short sentence that explains why you support/oppose a topic
Explanation – How and why your point is true.
HINTS & TIPS:
Encourage listening by asking students to comment directly on arguments other people have made.
“Do you agree with X? Why?” “X said… why did/didn’t that affect where you are standing?”
Encourage development of more complex ideas by asking students to build on each other’s contributions.
“X said… can someone who agrees add an example of that?” “X said… would anyone like to add to their explanation?”
Add challenge by swapping “for” and “against”, and asking students to defend the opposite of what they believe.
Students can also play the role of journalists reporting on the debate, and follow up on debates with written work exploring the topic.
Encouraging research:
• Ask a student or group of students to research a topic of interest and present it to the club. For example, a student may research the political situation in another part of the world; the workings of the Israel justice system; an international organisation like the UN or WTO, etc.
• Use a mixture of ‘short preparation’ and ‘long preparation’ - ‘short preparation’ debates, where students hear the topic/motion as little as fifteen minutes before debating it. This
encourages quick, creative thinking - ‘long preparation’ debates, where students can have days or weeks to research the topic using the library or internet, and prepare their speeches in advance.
TOPICS
1.      This team would ban junk food from schools
2.      Should we have any junk food, like chips or chocolate, in our schools?
3.      This team would punish parents for crimes committed by their children
4.      If a child gets into trouble, should their parent be punished as well?
5.      This team believes that celebrities should receive harsher punishments than ordinary people
6.      Should celebrities get harsher punishments than ordinary people?
7.      This team would require the media to display, promote and report women’s sport equally to men’s sport Is it right that men’s sport has more time on TV than women’s sport?
8.      This team believes that children should have to do chores to earn pocket money
9.      Should you have to do chores to earn your pocket money?
10.   This team would make it illegal for anyone in a company to earn more than 20 times that of their lowest paid worker.
11.   Should some people in a company earn more than 20 times what other people earn?
12.   This team would ban non-essential cosmetic surgery
13.   Should we allow people to get cosmetic surgery when they don’t need it?
14.   This team would ban zoos
15.   Should we close all the zoos?

100 Most Popular Student Questions for Debate and Argumentative Writing

“I Forgot My Phone” | Does technology make us more alone?
  1. Are the Web Filters at Your School Too Restrictive?
  2. Does Technology Make Us More Alone?
  3. How Should Parents Handle a Bad Report Card?
  4. Should Middle School Students Be Drug Tested?
  5. Is Cheating Getting Worse?
  6. Do Violent Video Games Make People More Violent in Real Life?
  7. Do We Give Children Too Many Trophies?
  8. Should Students Be Able to Grade Their Teachers?
  9. Should Schools Put Tracking Devices in Students’ ID Cards?
  10. If Football Is So Dangerous to Players, Should We Be Watching It?

  11. Should Video Games Be Considered a Sport?
  12. Do Teachers Assign Too Much Homework?
  13. Does Technology Get in the Way of Learning?
  14. What Is More Important: Our Privacy or National Security?
  15. Should Stores Sell Violent Video Games to Minors?
  16. Is a Healthier School Lunch Program a Lost Cause?
  17. How Young Is Too Young for an iPhone?
  18. Is Cheerleading a Sport?
  19. Should the School Day Start Later?
  20. Should Racial Epithets Be Removed From ‘Huck Finn’?


  21. Photo
    Capt. Emily Naslund on patrol in Marja, Afghanistan, in 2010. The Pentagon has since opened all combat jobs to women in the military. Related Student Opinion QuestionCreditLynsey Addario for The New York Times
  22. Should Schools Offer Cash Bonuses for Good Test Scores?
  23. Can Money Buy You Happiness?
  24. Should Women Be Allowed to Fight on the Front Lines Alongside Men? And, Should They Be Required to Register for the Draft?
  25. Is There Too Much Pressure on Girls to Have ‘Perfect’ Bodies?
  26. Should the Private Lives of Famous People Be Off Limits?
  27. Is School Teaching You the Skills You’ll Need to Succeed in Life?
  28. What Current Musicians Will Stand the Test of Time?
  29. What Words or Phrases Are Overused and Should Go Away?
  30. Can Cellphones Be Educational Tools?
  31. Is School Designed More for Girls Than Boys?

  32. Do Kids Need Recess?
  33. What Time Should Black Friday Sales Start?
  34. Do Photoshopped Images Promote Unrealistic Expectations of Beauty and Body Image?
  35. What Should Be Done to Stop Cyberbullying?
  36. When Should You Feel Guilty for Killing Zombies?
  37. How Should We Prevent Future Mass Shootings?
  38. Is It Unethical for Zoos to Kill Healthy Animals Under Their Care?
  39. Is a Longer School Calendar a Good Idea?
  40. Which Is More Important: Talent or Hard Work?
  41. Should Couples Live Together Before Marriage?


  42. Photo
    Prom-goers in Michigan in 2012. Related Student Opinion QuestionCredit Associated Press
  43. Is Home-Schooling Better Than a Traditional Education?
  44. Is Prom Worth It?
  45. Do Students Learn Best When They Direct Their Own Education?
  46. Should Reading and Math Be Taught in Gym Class Too?
  47. Should Schools Be Allowed to Use Corporal Punishment?
  48. How Young Is Too Young to Date? (Or, Is Dating a Thing of the Past?)
  49. Do You Trust Your Government?
  50. Are Children of Illegal Immigrants Entitled to a Public Education?
  51. Should the Government Limit the Size of Sugary Drinks?
  52. Has Facebook Lost Its Edge?

  53. Should Tablet Computers Become the Primary Way Students Learn in Class?
  54. How Necessary Is a College Education?
  55. How Well Do You Think Standardized Tests Measure Your Abilities?
  56. Are Some Youth Sports Too Intense?
  57. Should Texting While Driving Be Illegal in Every State?
  58. Can Graffiti Ever Be Considered Art?
  59. Whose Fault Is It if a Child Is Failing in School?
  60. Should the Dropout Age Be Raised?
  61. Should a College Education Be Free?
  62. Should People Be Allowed to Obscure Their Identities Online?


  63. Photo
    Related Student Opinion QuestionCredit Patrick Chappatte
  64. Does Class Size Matter?
  65. Should Marijuana Be Legal?
  66. Should You Feel Guilty About Killing Spiders, Ants or Other Bugs?
  67. Does Classroom Technology Enhance What and How Students Learn? Or, Does It Get in the Way of Learning?
  68. Should Parents Let Their Children Play Football?
  69. When Is the Use of Military Force Justified?
  70. Do Parents Have Different Hopes and Standards for Their Sons Than for Their Daughters?
  71. Do Leaders Have Moral Obligations?
  72. Should All Police Officers Wear Body Cameras?
  73. Does Separating Boys and Girls Help Students Perform Better in School?

  74. Is It Ethical to Eat Meat?
  75. Is Smoking Still a Problem Among Teenagers?
  76. Do Laws That Ban Offensive Words Make the World a Better Place?
  77. Is TV Too White? And, What About Movies?
  78. Is It O.K. to Refuse to Serve Same-Sex Couples Based on Religious Beliefs?
  79. Should Parents Limit How Much Time Children Spend on Tech Devices?
  80. Would You Feel Safer With Armed Guards Patrolling Your School?
  81. Should You Go to Jail for Kicking a Cat?
  82. Should Home-Schoolers Be Allowed to Play Public School Sports?
  83. Is It Offensive for Sports Teams to Use Native American Names and Mascots?


  84. Photo
    Posters on a wall on Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, try to make the point that some comments to women aren’t welcome. Related Student Opinion QuestionCreditRobert Stolarik for The New York Times
  85. Should Students Be Barred From Taking Cellphones to School?
  86. How Important Is Arts Education?
  87. Should the United States Stop Using the Death Penalty?
  88. Is It O.K. for Men and Boys to Comment on Women and Girls on the Street?
  89. Should Students Be Allowed to Skip Senior Year of High School?
  90. Would You Trade Your Paper Books for Digital Versions?
  91. Have Curse Words Become So Common They Have Lost Their Shock Value?
  92. Should College Football Players Get Paid?
  93. Are High School Students Being Worked Too Hard?
  94. When Do You Become an Adult?

  95. Does Reality TV Promote Dangerous Stereotypes? Or, Does It Ever Actually Do Some Good?
  96. Should Colleges Find a Better Way to Admit Students?
  97. How Should Parents Address Internet Pornography?
  98. Can You Be Good Without God?
  99. Do Our Neighborhoods Define Who We Are?
  100. Does Life Exist — or Has It Ever Existed — Somewhere Besides Earth?
  101. Should Computer Games Be Used for Classroom Instruction?
  102. Should Companies Collect Information About Us?
  103. Should You Care About the Health and Safety of Those Making Your Clothing?
  104. Should We Rethink How Long Students Spend in High School?

As a bonus, here are several more popular questions that we published since last year’s editorial contest that didn’t make the list:

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