Debates are a great tool for engaging students and adding some excitement to classroom curriculum. A debate is a discussion in which participants articulate and justify their position on an issue. Teachers should have students participate in a classroom debate multiple times throughout the semester because they encourage students to:
Work cooperatively with a team
Apply questioning skills
Use multiple reading strategies to conduct research, identify main ideas, and gather important information in support of their opinion
Use writing skills to prepare notes for the debate
Become more proficient in speaking, reading, and writing
Express their opinions assertively in a respectful manner
Debate Lesson Plan Inspired by March Madness
With the March Madness classroom debate lesson plan students will get in on the bracket battle fun! Students will participate in a series of debate activities with their classmates (or other classes in their grade level). The winners of each debate will move down a bracket system until only two teams remain. Once teams are knocked out of the debate tournament, students can act as newspaper columnists reporting on the debates. The winning team of the final debate challenge will be the champions!
Download the free March Madness Debate Lesson Plan for your classroom. Everything you need to implement the various debate activities in your classroom are included in downloadable bundle!
How the Classroom Debate Activities Work (included in download)
Tell students that they are going to be participating in a series of debates with their classmates (or other classes in their grade level). Explain to them that a debate is when you look at both sides of an argument.
Let them know they will be given a topic to research. They will record arguments in support of and opposing on a Debate Challenge T-Chart (included in download). Tell the students based on their stance on the argument they will be split up in to several teams. Give them advanced warning that there needs to be enough people in support of and opposing, so some students may be arguing the opposite of what they believe (let them know the sign of good debater is someone that can do that successfully).
In keeping with the spirit of the March Madness tournament here are a few possible topics in sports to debate:
Should kids under 14 play contact sports?
Should everyone get a trophy?
Should homeschoolers be allowed on publish school sports teams?
Should college athletes be paid?
Should heading the ball be banned in youth soccer?
After the research is complete and the teams are set, students will prepare their notes for the debate using the Debate Challenge Note Organizer (included in download). Remind students that they will want all of their notes with though during the time of the debate. Their notes should include:
1. An overview of their topic and opening statement
2. Three facts in support of their opinion
3. Three questions for the opposition
There are several decisions you will need to make based on your class, grade level, and if you will have any colleagues available to help you monitor the debates.
Set time limits and have a timekeeper
Decide what you will do with teams once they are knocked out of the March Madness Debate Challenge. One option is to have students act as newspaper columnists reporting on the debates. After each debate they can submit a short newspaper column summarizing the opinions and debate winner.
You need to have judge(s) for the debates. Use the Debate Challenge Rubric (included in download) to help in analyzing the teams opinions and performance.