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Using Debates in English Lessons A Communicative Approach.

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1 Using Debates in English Lessons A Communicative Approach

2 Why Debate? Debate activities...  Develop students’ creative ability, logic, teamwork, and critical thinking skills  Are interesting and engaging for students  Involve all students regardless of level  Improve students’ self-confidence

3 Methodological Note 1 In debate activities, students practice each of the ‘four skills’:  Reading: research, preparation work  Writing: taking notes, preparing arguments  Listening: understanding opposing arguments in order to respond  Speaking: making arguments and counter-arguments

4 Methodological Note 2 Debate activities help students practice various language structures, including those for:  Expressing agreement/disagreement  Asking and answering questions  Expressing opinions and reasons

5 Sample Debate Activity The following outline shows one way to incorporate a debate activity into an English lesson. The format can be changed or expanded to work with any group.

6 I. Introduce Debate Structure There are many possible structures for a debate. Your ideal structure depends on your groups, your topic and your time limit. However, most debates look something like this:  Introduction (A/B)  Argument 1 (A/B)  Rebuttal (Опровержение) 1 (A/B) Additional argument/rebuttal phases can be added as time permits.  Concluding Arguments (A/B)  You will want to explain the various phases if the students are unfamiliar with debating

7 II. Model Phrases for Use in Debates  Choose level-appropriate language structures  Make sure students can pronounce and understand each phrase  Encourage students to expand their vocabularies and use new structures (i.e., “The way I see it” instead of “I think”)  Allow students to reference these phrases (on board, handouts, posters)

8 Expressing Opinion  In my opinion...  The way I see it,...  As far as I'm concerned,...  I'm convinced that...  I honestly feel that...  I strongly believe that...  It is fairly certain that...  Without a doubt,...  As is widely known,...  As everyone knows,...

9 Expressing Disagreement  I don't think that...  Don't you think it would be better...  I don't agree. I'd prefer...  Shouldn't we consider...  But what about...  I'm afraid I don't agree...  Frankly, I doubt if...  Let's face it,...  The truth of the matter is...,  The problem with your point of view is that...

10 Giving and Explaining Reasons  To start with,...  The reason why...  That's why...  For this reason...  That's the reason why...  Many people think...  Considering...  Allowing for the fact that...  When you consider that...

11 III. Introduce the Topic  Your topic should be controversial: there should be good arguments for both sides.  The topic should be expressed as a statement. For instance: English is the most important subject for students in today’s world.  Students will be divided into two groups that will argue either the affirmative or the negative sides of this statement.

12 Statement: English is the Most Important Subject for Students in Today’s World Affirmative position: English is the most important subject for students in today’s world. Negative position: English is not the most important subject for students in today’s world.

13 IV. Brainstorming Arguments and Counter-Arguments  Give the students time to work as a group to come up with arguments to support both the affirmative and the negative statements.  They will need to know not only the strong arguments for their side, but also anticipate the other side’s arguments in order to refute them effectively.  Remind students that their personal opinion on the issue is irrelevant. They must argue for their side even if it goes against their personal beliefs!

14 Brainstorm... What are your ideas? Work with your group to find strong affirmative and negative arguments.

15 Sample Arguments Affirmative  English is the world’s most-spoken language, so knowing English will give our students the ability to travel anywhere in the world  English is the language of international business, so students need it for their future careers.  (etc.) Negative  Not everyone can have a career in international business. English is not for everyone.  Science and math are the true “international language” and are more important than English. We need scientists and engineers to develop our economy.  (etc.)

16 V. Organize for the Debate  Students should divide responsibilities. (One person will give the introduction, another the 1 st argument, etc.)  Remind students that each team member must speak. Arguments and rebuttals can be split between two team members if the groups are too big.  Students should work together to refine their ideas from the “brainstorming” phase into logical, strong arguments.

17 Organize... Make sure your team is ready for the big debate!

18 VI. Conduct the Debate  The teacher can act as the judge, awarding points for effective arguments and rebuttals.  Remind students to stick closely to the predetermined debate structure, to be polite, and to use the debate phrases.

19 Debate... Ladies and gentlemen, may the best team win!

20 VII. Wrap-Up  Draw conclusions from the debate. Which arguments were strong? Which were weak? Was it easy to refute the other team’s argument? Did your personal opinion about this issue change because of the debate?  The teacher could assign a home task connected with the debate. For instance:  Summarize the debate over this issue, including the affirmative and negative arguments.  Write a paper on your thoughts about this issue. Do you agree with the affirmative or the negative side? Did you learn anything or change your opinion because of the debate?

21 Scaling the Debates

22 Single Class Debates Your class time is limited, but debate activities can still be useful in class. If you only have 10-15 minutes: Try a “rapid-fire” debate. Teams have 5 minutes to brainstorm. Then, any student may jump in to give an argument or a rebuttal. The key is to keep things orderly and to make sure that all students are participating. To practice debate structure and phrases, you could have students debate using prepared information (on cards or on the board) rather than brainstorming.

23 Multi-Class Period Debates Debates can be stretched over parts of several class periods. A sample schedule: Class 1: Introduce structure, practice key phrases (10-15 min.)  Home task: practice key phrases (write sentences?) Class 2: Introduce debate topic; split into affirmative and negative sides; begin brainstorming process (15-20 min.)  Home task: brainstorm +/- arguments. Choose the 3-4 strongest arguments for each side. and write sentences using key phrases. Class 3: Organizing for debates (7-10 min.) and debating (15- 20 min.)  Home task: Write a ‘wrap-up’ of the debate.

24 Debate Clubs or Camps  Debate Clubs or a Debate Camp could be a great way to help your students become more confident in speaking and using English.

25 Case Study: Kremenchuk Debate Camp, June 2010

26 A Week of Fun and Learning  35 10 th -form students, 7 American Peace Corps Volunteer teachers, and 3 Ukrainian English teachers participated  Students spent four days learning about debates, practicing effective techniques, researching, and preparing  The culmination of camp, on the fifth day, was a series of three debates on controversial topics like “Ukrainian should be the only official language in Ukraine” and “Fast food should be banned.”

27 Learning about debate structure

28 Making strong, effective arguments

29 Researching the topic

30 Presenting the argument

31 Preparing the rebuttal

32 Final Thoughts  If interested, I have some debate-related materials in.doc format that I can share. Give me your e-mail address or contact me at  Questions?  Comments?  Thanks to everyone for coming and participating! Good luck using debates in your classes.

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