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Teachers: Citizenship

Last Updated: Thursday May 12 2005 12:47 GMT

How to hold a debate

How to hold a debate:

Explain to the class that a debate is based around a suggestion or motion.

An example of a motion is: The voting age should be lowered to 16.

Present the motion to the class.

Divide students into proposers and opposers. Ask them to research and write down arguments which either support or oppose the motion.

Seven students are then selected to be:

  • Speaker. This person chairs the debate but cannot take part or vote.
  • First proposer to speak
  • First opposer to speak
  • Opposer to sum up
  • Proposer to sum up
  • Two tellers to count the votes
Explain the rules of debating:

As followed in the Houses of Parliament

1. The debate is chaired by the Speaker, whose decision on all matters is final.

2. You can only speak ONCE during the debate. Your speech should be about two minutes long. If you can, develop an argument rather than making a single point.

3. But you can 'intervene' as many times as you like. To intervene is to ask a question about a point being made. E.g. Are those statistics up-to-date?

4. You can use notes to help you with your speeches and make notes during the debate.

5. If you want to speak during the debate, you should catch the Speaker's eye by standing up as soon as someone has finished speaking. The Speaker will pick someone from those standing up.

6. If you spot someone breaking these rules you should tell the Speaker. This is called a point of order.

Hold the debate in this order:
  • The Speaker presents the motion.
  • The first proposer presents the arguments for the motion.
  • The first opposer presents the arguments against the motion.
  • One of the proposers presents their arguments for the motion.
  • An opposer presents their arguments against the motion.
  • This side to side motion continues until everyone has had their say.
  • An opposer sums up their group's main argument.
  • A proposer sums up their group's main argument.
  • Name one side of the classroom the 'aye' wall and the opposite side the 'no' wall.
  • The Speaker re-reads the motion.
Students vote:
  • Students vote to support or oppose the motion, depending on which they thought were the most convincing and well constructed arguments. This may not necessarily be what they believe personally. The Speaker can't vote.
  • They do so by going to the 'aye' or 'no' side of the classroom.
  • The two tellers count up the votes (bodies), on either side of the room.
  • The Speaker announces the result of the vote.
Top 12 motions for debate:

The voting should be lowered to 16.

People should be able to drive at 16.

People should be able to become an MP at 16.

Everyone should carry an identity card.

All sports that cause pain and death to animals should be made illegal.

All activities that cause pain and death to animals should be made illegal.

Every household should be entitled to a free computer.

Higher education should be free.

The UK should be part of the Economic and Monetary Union.

School uniform leads to better behaved pupils.

People who don't sort their rubbish for recycling should be charged.

All cities should have a congestion charge.

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