This debate strategy gets kids thinking and moving. Debate topics for all grades are included.
- listen to a statement on a controversial topic and decide if they strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with the statement.
- work in groups to record information in support of their position.
- reconsider their stance in light of new information.
- write a concise paragraph expressing their opinion about the statement.
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- four posters, each labeled in large letters with one of the following: Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree
- a teacher-generated list of statements for discussion (provided)
- writing paper and pencils
This simple and active strategy helps students focus their thinking about topics of debate as they prepare to write a well-supported paragraph stating their position.
Before the Lesson
Create four posters/signs printed in large letters with the following labels, one label per sign:
Place each poster in a different corner of the classroom.
- Strongly Agree
- Strongly Disagree
Present to students a statement that takes a stand on an issue of interest to students or of importance to the world.
Education World has collected a handful of Web sites that make good sources of timely, high-interest debate topics in the classroom.
- The New York Times - An exhaustive list of topical issues for debate and persuasive writing.
- IDEA Debatabase - This database/search engine links students to resources for debates on issues related to culture, the environment and animal welfare, science and technology, sports, and more.
- Intelligence Squared Debates US - A debate series that provides opposing viewpoints on an array of contentious policy and cultural issues.
- Ideas for Debate Topics - A list of debate topics geared towards younger students. Topics include: "Should your class be permitted to go on a field trip this year?" and "Should you be permitted to have or attend a sleep-over party?"
For this lesson, you might use one of the following statements as the starting point for a classroom discussion. Some of the statements are not appropriate discussion starters for elementary level students; select an appropriate statement that will engage your students. As an alternative, you might choose to make a statement about a controversy in the news or about an issue of interest to people in your area.
- Students should wear uniforms to school.
- Kids should be able to have TVs in their bedrooms.
- Beauty is only skin deep.
- Wearing a helmet when riding a bike should be mandatory.
- The Pledge of Allegiance should be recited in school each day.
- Because many kids need more sleep, school should start two hours later than it does now.
- Chewing gum should be banned from schools.
- Scientists should be allowed to use animals to test new medicines.
- Kids should be able to spend their allowance any way they want to.
- Kids younger than 18 should be able to make their own decisions about whether to get a body piercing.
Select a statement appropriate for your students, read aloud the statement, and give students 5 minutes to collect their thoughts about the topic. Then ask students if they
with the statement. Direct those who strongly agree to move to the corner of the classroom where the Strongly Agree sign is posted, those who agree to move to the corner of the classroom where the Agree sign is posted, and so on...
- strongly agree,
- disagree, or
- strongly disagree
Hopefully, you have four groups gathered in different corners of the classroom. Appoint one student in each corner to be the note taker, and give students 5-10 minutes to discuss with the other students in their corner the reasons they strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree.
At the end of the discussion period, ask one student from each group to share with the class some of the ideas they discussed in their group.
Perhaps one of the four groups made such a strong case that some students have changed their minds about their reaction to the statement. If that is the case, at this point in the activity give students an opportunity to change corners.
Provide 5-10 more minutes for students to continue their group discussions. At this point, every student in the group should be taking notes. At the end of the discussion time, each student uses those notes to write a concise paragraph stating his or her position on the issue. (for example, I strongly agree with the statement [statement goes here] because) Students should include in their paragraphs the four strongest points supporting their position.
- Have students come up with their own discussion topics.
- Over a couple class periods, use the four corner strategy to discuss three or four different statements. Then have students write a position paper on the statement they have the strongest feelings about.
- Provide time for students to read aloud their papers. Then provide time for peer reaction. First, ask students to share only positive comments about their classmates' papers; then provide time for students to share only constructive criticism. ("You might have done this differently")
Student paragraphs follow the proper form and include at least four solid reasons supporting their position on the topic of discussion.
Lesson Plan Source
Find more Debate Resources or click to return to this week's Lesson Planning article, It's Up for Debate!
Last updated 01/20/2017