It's Up for Debate!

Beth Gasior, Gifted Resource Teacher

Why Debate? Worth Watching...

BSRI Best Practices: Fifth Grade Debates

Resources to Get Started

These planning templates are useful for students participating in formal debates such as a classroom or district competitions:

Comprehensive Resource to Teach Argumentation, reasoning, evidence, discussion, writing

Word Generation for grades 4 and 5 expands students’ background knowledge and academic vocabulary, while emphasizing argumentation, analytic reasoning, reading to find evidence, oral discussion, and writing.

Each unit introduces approximately five or six high-utility “focus words” and offers a variety of texts, word-learning activities, writing tasks, and debate and/or discussion opportunities.

Each unit begins with a video newscast and a “Reader’s Theater” that introduces multiple perspectives on a high-interest topic. Students read, discuss, debate, and write about each topic, using the focus words.

Word Gen Weekly is a MS supplementary curricular resource that offers a series of dilemmas designed to promote students’ academic language and argumentation skills. Students read, discuss, debate, and write about each weekly topic, using the newly taught vocabulary words.

Debate in Action

DebateAble Debate Tournament- elementary school students debate zoos!
Breck Elementary 4th Grade Debate 1
How to Debate in a Classroom

Debate Strategies for Elementary Students

The Education World site has some simple lessons on how to introduce debate in the elementary classroom.

Lincoln Douglas Debate Format - Standard debate format plus ten strategies for engaging students in debate! (3-12)

Role Play Debate - Students assume the roles of various stakeholders in debates on issues of high interest. (3-12)

Using Fairy Tales to Debate Ethics - Three fairy tales challenge students to think about honesty, right and wrong, and other questions of ethics. (K-8)

Four Corners Debate - A strategy that gets kids thinking and moving. Debate topics included for all grades. (K-12)

Inner Circle/Outer Circle Strategy - The inner/outer circle debate strategy emphasizes listening to opposing views and writing an opinion essay. (3-12)

This Join the Debate Guide is for upper grades (MS/HS) but provides good information to adapt for all levels.

Finding Elementary Debate Topics

Elementary Debate Topics

Text Project has some ready to print and read texts with debate topics. Use as stand alone texts or in combination with other student research and sources. Writing prompts are included.

How Much Time Should We Spend in School?

How Much is Too Much TV Time?

Should Junk Food be Banned in Schools?

Should Plastic Bags Be Banned?

Do Kids Need More Exercise?

Do We Need homework?

Should Animals Live in Zoos?

Do We Need Music in Schools?

This Three Little Pigs ReadWriteThink series of lessons introduces students in grades 3-5 (can be adapted younger) to the process of debate. Using several versions of the story, students engage in critical thinking and oral debate about the characters and their actions.
These sites can be used to locate current event stories to use for debate.

DOGO News -

Newsela -

Tween Tribune -

Youngzine -

Here, There, Everywhere -

Mini-Court Grades k-2

Mini-Court Lessons - This resource from the New Jersey State Bar Association can be used with students in grades K-2 to debate the actions of the characters in Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Getting Started with Books - a Few Examples

Books with Ethical Issues

Consider using literature, both novels and picture books as a starting point for debate. This list of Books with Ethical Issues is a good starting point. Also the American Library Association has a nice resource for Approaching Ethical Issues Through Literature.

The Institute for Humane Education provides a nice list of books as well.

Persuasion vs. Argument - Moving into Debate

What is the difference between persuasive writing and argumentative writing?
In persuasive writing, students passionately defend their point of view, relying upon opinion, personal experience, anecdotes, data, and examples. Argumentative writing, however, seeks to offer a more balanced approach, as it acknowledges points from the opposing view.

Opinion vs. Persuasion vs. Argumentative Writing - a useful reference chart

Promoting Mathematical Argumentation

Persuasive Writing - Preparing for Debate

Here are a few resources to help with persuasive writing instruction.

Getting Started - Use Video to Engage Students in Debate: One Example

Sugar overload
Dairy Nutrition FAQ - Flavored Milk