In Class Debate: Freedom of Speech

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1 In Class Debate: Freedom of Speech Classroom debates are a great way to encourage group work, creativity, and critical thinking. For English Language Learners, classroom debates are also a great way to practice listening skills, have writing practice, and improve their speaking. Topics for in class debates could be anything, but topics that allow students to make a connection to their own lives will increase investment in the activity. Today s topic will be: We believe there should be no laws that restrict freedom of speech. Debate Format: The class can be divided in a number of ways. The class can be divided into two groups, with one group agreeing with the topic (Affirmative team) and one team disagreeing with the topic (Negative team). The teacher should assign 5 or 7 students to be the judge panel. The number must be odd to avoid a decision that is half Affirmative and half Negative. Alternatively, the students could be divided into small groups, in teams of 3-4, preparing arguments for both the Affirmative side and the Negative side. Then, the teacher can randomly select two teams to present their arguments to the class. You can adapt the teams based on the size of class and your goals as a teacher. If the class is split into two groups, here is a sample debate format for the class: Round One: Team One Team Two Team Discussion Period Round Two: Team One Team Two Presentation of arguments in agreement with the topic Presentation of arguments against the topic Time for teams to prepare their responses of opposing team s arguments Response (rebuttal) to all of Team Two s arguments Response (rebuttal) to all of Team One s arguments 7 minutes 7 minutes 5 minutes 5 minutes 5 minutes How to Prepare for the Debate:

2 Day One: Debate Research Give the teams a day to research their side of the debate. They must find evidence from reliable sources (No Wikipedia) such as news articles, journals, or books. Students must have 4-5 reasons that their side of the debate is correct. For example, the Affirmative team must find arguments that prove why we should not restrict freedom of speech. By the end of the research day, each side should have 6-8 arguments with evidence to support each argument. Have teams assign two speakers that will present the arguments during the debate itself. If students cannot be trusted with making these decisions, the teacher should assign two students per team to be the speakers. Tip 1: Have students find real-world examples of when restricting freedom of speech was good/bad for a country. Tip 2: Challenge the students to impact their arguments. Have them explain why these points matter to you, the judge. They should be able to explain why we need to care about each argument they present. Tip 3: Have the presenters read through their case to make sure it is close to ten minutes. Ten minutes gives plenty of time for students to read off a number of reasons why they should win. Day Two: Debate Presentations Students should have all of their arguments ready to present in speech form. An outline will be provided below. Students will be judged on the quality of their arguments and how well they present. Students should be confident and speak clearly. During the first speeches, the Affirmative team and Negative team must use most or all of their seven minutes to present. After each side has presented their speeches, the teams will have five minutes to write down arguments against the other side. They must respond to all arguments. The teams can attack a number of different things: where evidence came from, the quality of examples, or why their arguments do not make the situation better. In the rebuttal speeches, the speakers need to also weigh their arguments against the other team. This means the team should explain why their arguments are more important than the opposing team s. A list of strategies will also be provided below. Note: Explain to the students that the success behind using debates in the classroom is not in winning and losing, but how well prepared teams are and how well teams deliver their arguments.

3 After the Debate: The judges of the round must present why they voted for the Affirmative or the Negative team. The judges should say what each team did well and what each team could have done better. Have each student fill out an evaluations and reflection form of the debate. This is an opportunity for students to say what they enjoyed about the debate, what they think could have gone better, and how they felt about their role in the debate. Alternative: Have a full-class discussion about how the debate went. What went well? What could have gone better? How did students feel about their role? What was the most difficult part of preparing for this debate? Extra Assignment: Have students write a 1-2 page essay about how they personally feel about the topic. This is great for students to show what they learned from the debate and make a connection to their own lives. A possible prompt could be: Write your position on the debate topic we did in class. How did you feel about the debate process? What would you have done differently? Debate Presentation Outline (Affirmative)

4 Today we are arguing in favor of the topic: We believe there should be no laws that restrict freedom of speech. To make this debate clear, we will give the following definitions: Laws: Restrict: Freedom: Speech: We will show that freedom of speech is important and helps more people. Argument 1) A sentence that says what your argument is about. Argument 2) A sentence that says what your argument is about. Argument 3) A sentence that says what your argument is about.

5 Argument 4) A sentence that says what your argument is about. Argument 5) A sentence that says what your argument is about. Argument 6) A sentence that says what your argument is about. In conclusion, I hope that after looking at our points about (list the topics covered in your speech), that the judges will vote Affirmative. Debate Presentation Outline (Negative) Today we are arguing against the topic: We believe there should be no laws that restrict freedom of speech.

6 To make this debate clear, we will give the following definitions: Laws: Restrict: Freedom: Speech: We will show that there need to be laws that restrict freedom of speech because it provides more protection to a greater number of people. Argument 1) A sentence that says what your argument is about. Argument 2) A sentence that says what your argument is about. Argument 3) A sentence that says what your argument is about.

7 Argument 4) A sentence that says what your argument is about. Argument 5) A sentence that says what your argument is about. Argument 6) A sentence that says what your argument is about. In conclusion, I hope that after looking at our points about (list the topics covered in your speech), that the judges will vote Negative. Student Reflection Form Name What was your role in this debate? Circle one. Judge Researcher

8 Debater How do you rate your overall performance in this debate? 1 being poor and 5 being exceptional. Circle one What did you enjoy most about this debate? What would you do differently next time? How did you feel about this topic before the debate?

9 How do you feel about the topic after the debate?

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