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Debating at Higher Levels

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This is a lesson plan for higher levels (C1+) designed to help students develop their discourse management and debating skills. Download the handouts below:

Discourse Analysis: Guardian 5-minute Debates

In this section of the lesson students will watch a video from the Guardian 5-minute debate series in order to analyse the ways in which the speakers structure their arguments and the language they use. The topic of the debate is:

In the debate the two speakers (Michael Rosen and Lindsay Johns) are specifically talking about London street slang. A school in South London took the decision to ban street slang from the classroom, the banned words are in the picture below:

If you want to look up any of these words you can use the urban dictionary.

Language to pre-teach:

Have students watch the debate, while they are watching they should answer these questions:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2013/dec/09/should-schools-ban-slang-video-debate

 

Discuss their thoughts in open class.

Give out the transcript and show students the powerpoint. The powerpoint will take them through some of the structural techniques that Michael Rosen uses such as:

A Less Formal Debate – Debate-O-Rama Cats vs. Dogs

Now tell students they’re going to watch a less formal debate, the topic is dogs vs. cats. Split the class into two groups: the dog group and the cat group. Each group has to watch the video and and write down the arguments that the two people give to support their animal, i.e dogs are smelly, cats are selfish.

Students watch the video and takes notes. (Video from 1:15)

Give out the debate language handout. Tell students that they are going to recreate the dogs vs. cats debate but using the language on the handout and some of the structural techniques we saw earlier. Give them 8-10 minutes to structure their arguments. The debate will follow the following structure:

Debate Structure

  1. Opening statement (90 secs)
  2. Cross examination (30 secs)
  3. (repeat)
  4. Rebuttal #1 (30 secs each)
  5. Rebuttal #2 (30 secs each)
  6. Closing Statements (30 secs each)

Award a winner based on the strength of their arguments and how well structured they are. The debate handout has further debate topics for future classes.

Debate Handout:

Language

Opinion

The way I see it,

In my view,

In my opinion, I think that

My view on the matter is…

As far as I understand it,

As far as I’m concerned,

I’d say that…

I personally am (not) a big fan of…

Evidence/Popular Opinion

All the evidence points to/suggests…

I think you’ll find that…

If you ask anyone,…

The vast majority of people would say…

We have no evidence that…

9 out of 10 people would say that…

There’s no evidence to support that whatsoever.

 

Main arguments

I support/oppose the notion that… for the following reason: Firstly,…

The key issue here is…

The real question/dilemma is… (question form)

The critical/crucial factor here is…

It’s vital to remember that…

By far and away the most important point is…

Adding points

What’s more,

On top of that,

Besides that,

Apart from that,

Another thing to consider is…

We shouldn’t forget that…

It’s also worth bearing in mind that…

Rebutting/Cross-Examining

So what you’re saying is…

So let me get this straight…

Correct me if I’m wrong but…

You’re not seriously suggesting that…, are you?

You can’t possibly be saying that…

I feel I must also disagree with you about…

Conceding/Partially Agreeing

I admit that your point about… may be true, however,

I take/see your point about…

Let’s say I agree with the idea of…

I hear what you’re saying, but…

Conclusion

In a nutshell,

So to sum up,

So in summary,

So to wrap up,

So as I was saying,

All in all,

Debate Structure

1.       Opening statement (90 secs)

2.       Cross examination (30 secs)

3.       (repeat)

4.       Rebuttal #1 (30 secs each)

5.       Rebuttal #2 (30 secs each)

6.       Closing Statements (30 secs each)

Low-stakes Debate Topics

(Credit to debatable youtube page)

Dogs vs. Cats Superpowers:

Flight vs. Invisibility

Pancakes vs. Waffles Hot dogs vs. Hamburgers French fries vs. Patatas bravas
Beer vs. Wine Whisky vs. Rum Are ghost real? Does the internet do more good or bad? Camping, good or bad?
Taylor Swift vs. Ariana Grande Soup vs. salad Pasta vs. pizza Is it ok to pee in the shower? Tea vs. Coffee
Coke vs. Pepsi Burger King vs. MacDonald’s Chinese food vs. Japanese food City vs. Country Morning Showers vs. Night Showers
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