• English Debating

    Obama Debating

    English Debating Course

    by Matt Townend

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  • 1

    Hot air balloon

    A Balloon Debate


    Your hot air balloon is falling from the sky! You need to lose weight or you will crash! You have to throw someone out of the balloon - but who?

    A balloon debate is a kind of debate where 4-6 debaters all say why they should be allowed to stay in the balloon.

    Each debater chooses one famous person (can be real or a character) for the debate. They are now that person or character. They must talk for 1-2 minutes to say why they should not be thrown out!

    For example, if they chose Florence Nightingale, a famous nurse, they can say:

    I should stay because I helped many sick people in my life.

    Florence Nightingale

    You should think of many reasons why you should stay - write them down in a list:

    1 - I help sick people!

    2 - I am kind!

    3 - I am a woman - I can have children!

    These are your points and you should also add examples and comments. Use this planning sheet to help you!

    Balloon Debate Planning Sheet


    A good idea is to also say why you think the other people in your balloon should be thrown out! Say their bad points - why they are not as good as you! Watch this video of a good balloon debater!




    The best balloon debaters may even have some surprising and very creative reasons why they should stay in the balloon. And if you can make the audience laugh - you will probably win!


    Finally, the class will have a vote as to who to throw out and your teacher will give you a mark! Gain a badge for your Debating Experience box!

    Balloon Debate

    • 2

      Team Debates


      In a team debate, there are two teams. They must argue over an idea called a motion - one team says the motion is true (this team is FOR the motion). The other team says the motion is not true (this team is AGAINST the motion). 


      Here are some motions.

      This house believes that all schools should have school uniform.

      This house believes that games are the best way to learn.

      This house believes that cats are better than dogs.

      This house believes that aliens do exist.

      This house believes that we should stop wasting money on space.

      This house believes that we colonizing other planets is foolish.

      This house believes that governments letting private companies claim space for themselves and this is bad.


      As in the balloon debate, you need to make points, examples and comments to say why the motion is right or wrong. Use this sheet to help you.

      Debating form


      It is a good idea to choose a team captain to help organize the team. You don't want two team members making the same point.


      Each speaker will stand and say their points, examples and comments.


      The side for the motion goes first, then the side against goes second.


      Then each side will have a chance to make counterpoints, again starting with the side for the motion. Finally, the judge will decide which side won the debate.


      It is a good idea to have a pen to write down the opponents' arguments so you can rebutt them or attack them using critical thinking!

      Team Debate

      • 3

        Presidential Debate

        • 4


          A trial scene from the movie "A Time to Kill" where a father kills the white rapists of his daughter

          A Trial


           In a trial, someone is accused of a crime, and the court tries to decide if they are innocent or guilty. If they are guilty it means they did the crime and need to go to prison. If innocent they go free.


          In some trials it is the judge who decides if the person is innocent or guilty. But in important trials it is usually a jury - a group of 14 men and women chosen at random from the public.


          There are some problems with this system. Using normal people to decide a trial feels fair in some ways as it is more democratic than just one judge (who may be biased), but they are not legal experts and may just use emotions or their own bias to decide, which means the result of some trials may not be fair.

          How to Do it


          In any trial there are two sides - the Defence team who defends the accused, and the Prosecution who try to attack and put the accused in prison.

          In the trial, each side (starting with the prosecution) can make an opening statement to say why they think the accused is innocent or guilty. Then each side calls witnesses, people who saw the crime or know something about it or the accused, to take the stand (sit in a box) and answer questions. The other side may also question the witnesses (called cross-examination). Then the other side calls their witnesses. Then each side may make a closing statement, before the judge or jury decides if the accused is guilty or not.

          In our trial the class will be divided into two teams - a defence and a prosecution. Some students will play the lawyers, some the witnesses, and one must be the accused.


          If one side's lawyers feels the other side is cheating or saying something  bad they can say "objection" and the tell the judge why they feel it is unfair. The judge can say "sustained" means they agree with the objection and the lawyer must stop their bad behavior, or "overruled" meaning the judge does not agree.

          Common reasons to object:

          Argumentative: if the lawyer is not asking the witness a question, but it making a statement instead. "You are a murderer" instead of " are you a murderer?" They are only supposed to ask questions. But "You are a murderer, are you not?" is probably ok.

          Badgering the witness: if the lawyer is being rude to the witness or not letting them answer "You are a nasty person, are you not?"

          Irrelevant: the question is not useful to the trial: "What's your favorite color?"

          Compound question: Two questions together, designed to confuse the witness: "You saw him enter the room and then you saw him murder the man?"


          For a full list of reasons to object see here:


        • 5

          Impromptu Debate


          The word "impromptu" means "without preparation". An impromptu debate is a speech you give on why something is right or wrong - you have to make the speech with only a short time to prepare.

          You can choose which topic you wish to debate from a list.

          You have 10 minutes to prepare. The speech will only be a few minutes long.

          The first thing to do is write down a list of points you can make.


          Then it is time to add examples and comments. Examples can also be stories! Watch this guy!




          It is also a good idea to think of what criticisms an opponent could make of your arguments and add some rebuttals e.g. "Now some might think this is wrong because X. However, it is not wrong because Y." This is using critical thinking to anticipate attacks on your arguments, which makes your arguments more persuasive.

          Impromptu Debate

        • 6

          Yin Yang Debate


          A Yin Yang Debate is where you make a speech saying all the good things about something, and then saying all the bad things about something. Just like the yin yang symbol which is half white and half black.

          Your teacher will give you a topic like computer games. You need to say all the good things, and the bad things about computer games.


          This might seem like you are disagreeing with yourself, but it is good to see things in different ways and from different sides.


           This is the essence of critical thinking - seeing the good and the bad.

          Yin Yang Debate