DEBATE is an opportunity for students to use their skills of reading, thinking, writing, speaking and listening in a meaningful situation that can be related to their own lives. Teams of two students research a controversial issue to collect facts and expert opinions for/against a proposed change (stated as a resolution). They prepare cases by using these data and making inferences. Teams face opponents in timed speeches. They attempt to elicit judges’ votes by stating a strong case and refuting opponent’s claims with contradictory facts and explanations. Elementary students argue either as an affirmative or a negative team.
Debate focuses on six main skill areas:
1. ANALYSIS: the higher thinking skill of breaking down an idea into its parts (parts may be comparisons, contrasts, causes and effects, and trends). In debate, analysis follows a fairly standard process of finding pro and con positions on the issues.
2. ORGANIZAT ION: the three part organization of a speech—introduction, body, and conclusion.
3. DELIVERY: the presentation of a speech including projection, eye contact, fluency, and style.
4. EVIDENCE: facts, statistics, and expert testimony given in support of an argument.
5. REASONING: the higher level thinking skill of synthesis used to identify main points, support each with evidence, explain relationships, and draw conclusions.
6. REFUTAT ION: identify and counter opponents’ arguments and conclusions with reasoning and evidence.
Debate includes specific vocabulary and speech structures.