How the Debate Class Works

I just got a question about this on Facebook, and here's what I said ...

I assign debating partners at random. Students typically get to choose from a short list of available topics. They are told they must be either "pro" or "con" (for or against) the topic we're debating - and they are told which they must be. For our final debate, they must be prepared to argue either side of the issue, as they won't know if they're arguing "pro" or "con" until the debate starts! This teaches them to prepare for both sides - which will help them have some idea of what their opponent might be arguing.

Some of the topics are serious, but some are fun and kind of silly, which keeps the pressure off. All students must have a working mic to participate in this class. And each debate is short for any particular student, typically "pro" gets 2 minutes to present a case; "con" gets 2 minutes to respond; and then each gets a 1 minute rebuttal. 

We will have three debates over the course of the semester, and in between we will analyze rhetoric and how to argue effectively. We will look at common mistakes of logic and the merits of various techniques of persuasion.

Also, I touch on "Argumentation on the Internet" (such as it is) - which is probably how most of these young people will use their debating skills in real life. That could be a whole course in and of itself!

And we have fun along the way! I realize that there's probably no greater stress that a student feels than having to present something live in class, so I try to be supporting, calm the nerves and keep everybody engaged and enjoying themselves.

I will grade based on both presentation techniques and the work done to prepare for each debate. There will be quizzes along the way, but the parents are the ultimate arbiters on how their children are doing. My grades are not the last word - yours are.

Feel free to message me if you have any other questions!