Category Archives: Debate

Debate Research Tips

  • In your own words
    • If you sound like you’re reading for Wikipedia, your audience a) won’t believe you and b) will be bored.
  • Similes/Comparisons
    • Include a simile to make statistics more meaningful to your audience
    • It’s hard for your audience to imagine numbers and facts. Can you make a comparison to something familiar to your audience to help them understand.
    • E.g., Ontario would save $8 billion – that’s enough money to build and staff 3 new nuclear power plants.
  • Word Choice
    • You need to sound passionate about your topic. Use passionate, powerful words!
  • Concessions
    • If you don’t address something your opponent says, you are conceding the point – saying it’s true.
  • Summarize
    • Before you are done speaking, you will want to remind your audience of all of the great points you made before your opponent gets a chance to speak.

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Ideas for Term 2: Be persuasive

Let’s try this one more time! I gave you can opportunity to give ideas of what you’re interested in learning about for term 2.  Many issues were brought forward without suggested solutions.

  • What I need to know is what issues are important to you?
  • What skills do you want to develop?


  • Way to get out of writing, or
  • Let’s go on a field trip! (without being specific)

So, I will help you with the formatting.  Your response will look similar to a debate format of claim, warrant, impact or point, proof, comment:

First line (interest, skill or issue):

  • I am interested in learning about…,
  • I really enjoy (skill e.g., writing, or performing, or computers, etc..)
  • I am passionate about this issue (environment, bullying, etc…)

Second line (suggestion/solution):

  • ” I would like to”, or “I think we should” (be specific)

Third line (impact)

  • This would help me build confidence…
  • I would be very engaged in this activity…
  • It would allow us to make a difference in the community…

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Homework: Debate research

We are having a class debate and your student with be arguing for or against the following statement:

Be it resolved that technology is diminishing our humanity.

Students were brainstorming today in class, and tonight they are to find “evidence” to support their claims. Tomorrow, groups will be ranking their claims and preparing their arguments.

Students, it would be helpful to debate this topic at home with your parents. It will give you a different perspective on your topic.

Posted in Debate, Language, Parent/Guardian, Planners | 3 Comments

Ted Talk: What Adults can learn from Kids

We learned that Ted Talks are “persuasive” talks, just like debating. We watched the Adora Svitak tell us what adults can learn from kids. Here is your chance to teach this adult something. I’m listening. What would you like to do or learn in class. Be persuasive in your comment below.

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Conducting a Debate (plus Rubric)

A debate is a discussion or structured contest about an issue or a resolution. A formal debate involves two sides: one supporting a resolution and one opposing it. Such a debate is bound by rules previously agreed upon. Debates may be judged in order to declare a winning side. Debates, in one form or another, are commonly used in democratic societies to explore and resolve issues and problems. Decisions at a board meeting, public hearing, legislative assembly, or local organization are often reached through discussion and debate. Indeed, any discussion of a resolution is a form of debate, which may or may not follow formal rules (such as Robert’s Rules of Order). In the context of a classroom, the topic for debate will be guided by the knowledge, skill, and value outcomes in the curriculum.

Structure for Debate

A formal debate usually involves three groups: one supporting a resolution (affirmative team), one opposing the resolution (opposing team), and those who are judging the quality of the evidence and arguments and the performance in the debate. The affirmative and opposing teams usually consist of three members each, while the judging may be done by the teacher, a small group of students, or the class as a whole. In addition to the three specific groups, there may an audience made up of class members not involved in the formal debate. A specific resolution is developed and rules for the debate are established.

Debate Preparation:

• Develop the resolution to be debated.
• Organize the teams.
• Establish the rules of the debate, including timelines.
• Research the topic and prepare logical arguments.
• Gather supporting evidence and examples for position taken.
• Anticipate counter arguments and prepare rebuttals.
• Team members plan order and content of speaking in debate.
• Prepare room for debate.
• Establish expectations, if any, for assessment of debate.

Conducting Debate:

Debate opens with the affirmative team (the team that supports the resolution) presenting their arguments, followed by a member of the opposing team. This pattern is repeated for the second speaker in each team. Finally, each team gets an opportunity for rebutting the arguments of the opponent. Speakers should speak slowly and clearly. The judges and members of the audience should be taking notes as the debate proceeds. A typical sequence for debate, with suggested timelines, is as follows:

  • the first speaker on the affirmative team presents arguments in support of the resolution. (5 – 10 minutes)
  • The first speaker on the opposing team presents arguments opposing the resolution.
    (5 – 10 minutes)
  • The second speaker on the affirmative team presents further arguments in support of the resolution, identifies areas of conflict, and answers questions that may have been raised by the opposition speaker. (5 – 10 minutes)
  • The second speaker on the opposing team presents further arguments against the
    resolution, identifies further areas of conflict, and answers questions that may have been raised by the previous affirmative speaker. (5 – 10 minutes)
  • The rules may include a short recess for teams to prepare their rebuttals. (5 minutes)
  • The opposing team begins with the rebuttal, attempting to defend the opposing arguments and to defeat the supporting arguments without adding any new information. (3 – 5 minutes)
  • First rebuttal of the affirmative team (3 – 5 minutes)
  • Each team gets a second rebuttal for closing statements with the affirmative team having the last opportunity to speak. (3 – 5 minutes each)
  • There cannot be any interruptions. Speakers must wait their turns. The teacher may need to enforce the rules.


Criteria 1 2 3 4
  1. Organization and Clarity:

viewpoints and responses are outlined both clearly and orderly.

Unclear in most parts Clear in some parts but not over all Most clear and orderly in all parts Completely clear and orderly presentation
  1. Use of Arguments:

reasons are given to support viewpoint.

Few or no relevant reasons given Some relevant reasons given Most reasons given: most relevant Most relevant reasons given in support
  1. Use of Examples and Facts:

examples and facts are given to support reasons.

Few or no relevant supporting examples/facts Some relevant examples/facts given Many examples/facts given: most relevant Many relevant supporting examples and facts given
  1. Use of Rebuttal:

arguments made by the other teams are responded to and dealt with effectively.

No effective counter-arguments made Few effective counter-arguments made Some effective counter-arguments made Many effective counter-arguments made
  1. Presentation Style:

tone of voice, use of gestures, and level of enthusiasm are convincing to audience.

Few style features were used; not convincingly Few style features were used convincingly All style features were used, most convincingly All style features were used convincingly



Additional Resource:

Peer Evaluation checklist:


Post your “Be it resolved that …” statement below.

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Fairy Tale – Moral Debate

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students consider the ethics of characters in three fairy tales.

  • In “Puss in Boots,” a clever cat engineers a succession of hoaxes and lies for the benefit of its master. As a result, the master eventually marries the king’s daughter and appoints Puss in Boots prime minister, and all parties live happily ever after. Among the debatable questions inspired by this fairy tale are
    1. Was Puss in Boots wrong to lie to the king and deceive him?,
    2. Was the cat wrong to trick the ogre and then kill him?, and
    3. Is trickery ever justified?
    4. Challenge students to support their positions with at least three cogent arguments.
  • In “Jack and the Beanstalk,” young Jack, whose impoverished mother is left with nothing but the family cow, is sent to market to trade the cow for as much money as he can. Jack trades the cow for a handful of beans and, in despair, his mother throws the beans out the window. Jack narrowly escapes from the giant with two stolen treasures that will secure the future for himself and his mother. Among the debatable questions posed by this story are
    1. Since the giant wanted to eat Jack, was it OK that Jack stole the giant’s goose and harp?
    2. An older version of this familiar tale offers up some unique twists that will add to the debate: Since the giant had stolen everything from Jack’s father, do you think it was OK for Jack to take it back?
  • Create a two-column graphic organizer for the first two fairy tales above. Print one of the ethical questions raised by the tale at the top of the graphic organizer. Print “Yes” at the top of the first column and “No” at the top of the other. As students share their responses to the questions, write the responses in the appropriate columns.For a printable comparison chart, see Comparison Chart.

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The Lost Art of Democratic Debate

  1. According the Aristotle, what is justice?
    1. Who should get the best flutes?
  2. Golf: disabled must be accommodated as long as the accommodation does not change the nature of the activity.  Casey Martin.

  1. Why do affluent kids get more cancer?
  2. What does constructive conflict require? Why is this hard?

Answer as comment below:

  1. Can you think of a situation where you remained quiet when you should have spoken up? What was it?
  2. What do you think the main idea of these two videos was? What was the biggest take-away message you got from these two videos?

Posted in Debate | 20 Comments

Debate Quiz: Claim, Warrant, Impact!

Please complete the short quiz on claim, warrant,impact!

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Intro to Debate

Objective: To understand the formal “claim/warrant/impact” structure of an argument.

So what are the fundamentals of debate? No matter whether you do PF, LD, CX, or congress, they are the same across every format. In fact, these skills are foundational to any attempt at persuasive communication. These basic steps to making an argument are referred to as CLAIM, WARRANT, and IMPACT/DATA.

CLAIM: As its name implies, a claim is a statement you are advancing as true. If you are reading evidence, your claim is usually summarized in the card’s tag (or it should be!). Even when you’re not reading evidence, a claim is any declarative statement that you are trying to establish as true within the debate.

So, if you are debating about immigration reform, and your strategy for the debate requires you to win that immigration reform is good because it improves the economy, your claim is simply “immigration reform is good because it improves the economy.”

WARRANT: This is where the magic happens. Warrants are what you use to create legitimacy for your claims. They are the reasons why the claim is true. You should dedicate a substantial amount of your time to debating about warrants.

Warrants can be just about anything, as long as they’re arguments that support the accuracy of the claim. The more specific the explanation is, the better off you will be. For example, if you want to support the claim that “immigration reform is good for the economy,” you could say:

  • Immigrants provide a necessary labor force to produce needed goods
  • Immigrants pay taxes, resulting in more net revenue for the government
  • Immigrants open businesses and make investments, increasing jobs
  • Immigrants compensate for Baby Boomers leaving the workforce and keep entitlement programs solvent
  • …or plenty of other reasons

Warrants are almost always better if they are supported by a piece of evidence. However, this does not mean that your explanation of the warrant should be just saying a phrase like “according to my evidence.” Instead, find out what your evidence says, and then expand upon those arguments in your speech! Your performance will improve dramatically if you make yourself a commitment to never reference your cards without explaining exactly what they say.

You should also answer your opponents’ warrants, and compare them to yours. Why should the judge prefer yours? Is your evidence newer, or from a more reliable source? Is it comparative—that is, does it directly answer questions raised by your opponents’ arguments? Does it make more sense contextually? There are a million reasons you could use to convince your judge to prefer your warrants over your opponents’. But you have to make these in your speeches! Again, the vast majority of a good debate will be about the warrants: why should we believe X is true instead of Y?

IMPACT/DATA: The impacts are why someone should care about your argument. Why is this point important? What does winning it get you in the context of the rest of the debate? How does it interact with other considerations that might also be important?

For example, in our hypothetical debate about immigration reform, you would say “immigration reform is good because it improves the economy,” articulate one or more reasons why we believe this is true, and then explain why having a strong, growing economy is important. CX debaters might say “economic downturn leads to nuclear war; that causes extinction.” LDers might say economic liberty is fundamental to respect for human rights. In PF, you might simply want to explain that economic growth prevents poverty and improves quality of life. Exactly why economic growth is important is up to you, but make sure you have a reason. That’s your impact. Don’t forget that your impacts themselves must also contain warrants (reasons why your description of the impact is believable).

Remember that most debates are somewhat close. You will not always be able to win every point. Instead, you have to carve out your path to victory by assuming you will be behind on some questions, but explaining why the things you are winning are more important than the things you are losing. Impacts are what allow you to do this. Like warrants, you should always be comparing yours to those of your opponent and explaining a decision calculus that would lead the judge to vote for you.

Impacts connect small pieces of the debate to the broader picture. They help us decide what decision is best.  Failing to dedicate some energy to your impacts will often result in judges who say things like “I agree you won X, but I’m not sure what to do with that argument.” If you’re hearing phrases like that, you can correct the problem by always making an effort to explain why each individual argument matters, and why they outweigh those of your opponents.

Each of these three steps (CLAIM, WARRANT, IMPACT) should be included in every argument you make in a debate. Remember, nothing should escape your lips without you considering and articulating WHAT you are claiming, HOW we know it is true, and WHY the judge should care. This will make sure your arguments are always fully-developed, your judge understands them, and they earn you maximum clout in the debate.  If you hold yourself to always going through all three steps when creating an argument, it will quickly become second nature. You won’t believe how much your win-loss record will improve once you master these basic fundamentals.

Consider this: you and a friend are arguing about what to have for lunch. You want salad, and she wants pizza. How would you approach this conversation? Chances are, you would not just stand there screaming “PIZZA!” “NO, SALAD!” back and forth for an hour. Instead, you would advance reasons for preferring one over the other. You might say “We should have salad, because salad is much healthier, and we will both feel better all day if we eat a healthy meal.” If you’ve been paying attention, you should see how that statement already contains a claim, warrant, and impact. Similarly, in a debate you should never answer an opponents’ argument by simply re-reading a tag or rearticulating a claim. When you do that, you aren’t really debating. You’re more like screaming. So make sure that every time you say something, that statement contains all three pieces of a well-developed argument: claim, warrant, and impact.

Now get out there, craft some arguments, and don’t forget to keep those fundamentals tight!


Some people think that “engaging in argument” means being mad at someone. That’s one use of the word “argument.” In debate we use a far different meaning of the term. In some ways though, making an argument in debate is the opposite of being mad at someone. It means making claims based on logical reasoning and proof.

There are three parts to an argument in debate: the claim, the data, and the warrant. These terms seem kind of formal, and they are. But whether you know it or not, solid  arguments that you make every day are based on these concepts.

Here is an example of an argument: “Team X will win the basketball game against Team Y
because Team X has taller players than Team Y.”

  • The “claim” is the bottom line conclusion of the argument – namely in this example that “Team X will win the basketball game.”
  • The “warrant” is the reasoning behind the claim. In this example the reasoning is that the taller team will win the basketball game.
  • The “impact/data” are the facts used to support the warrant. In this example the data is that Team X is taller than Team Y.

Here is another example of an argument. “The death penalty should be abolished because
innocent people are killed.”

  • The claim is that “the death penalty should be abolished.”
  • The warrant is that any  policy that results in innocent people being killed should be ended.
  • The impact/data is that innocent people are killed by the death penalty.

Claims without reasoning are very weak arguments. Some might say it isn’t even an argument at all. The more warrants, or reasoning, that a claim has the stronger it is generally speaking.

Sometimes the data might be statistics sometimes it might be an expert opinion. For example, the argument “I saw that movie got ‘two thumbs up’ so we should go and see it”
uses the expert opinion as the data for the claim. The claim is that we should go see the movie.

The warrant is that movies that receive two thumbs up are worth seeing. The data would be that the movie did, in fact, receive a review of “two thumbs up.” This reasoning is based on an appeal to the expertise of the reviewers, and little more.

So, that’s an argument. Claim-Warrant-Data. Debate is based on competing arguments. Each team offers arguments that they defend, and they attack the arguments of their opponents. Research provides the data and warrants for defending and attacking arguments.

There are many ways to attack an argument. You could challenge the factual basis of the
claim. In the first example, perhaps Team Y was in fact taller than Team X. In the second
example you could prove that there has never been an innocent person executed in the U.S. Another way to go would be to attack the reasoning/warrant. In the first example you could point out that the taller team does not always win basketball games. You could find examples of games that were not won by the taller team. You could say that other factors such as shooting ability, experience, effort, and coaching might be equally or more important factors in winning.

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