How to Conduct a Class Debate?

 1. Introduce the topic: 

All debates start with a topic, or resolution. Choose a topic to which your students can relate and perhaps one with practical application and interest. Make sure that your students understand the issue and any specialized vocabulary that goes with it

2. Assign the speakers into for and against: 

There are two sides to any debate. Naturally, one will argue for and another against the resolution. The class can be divided into two groups and each group can select 3 to 4 members to debate. Prepare the criteria for the evaluation and inform the students.

3. Give time for research: 


Your students will need time to collect ideas related to the issue. They will also need additional instruction on the specific vocabulary that may be involved. Encourage each group to form a strategy as to who will do most of the talking during the debate. Remind them that all of them are expected to participate in the research and strategy of the debate.

4. Keep track of time:

Decide the order of the speaker (alternatively for and against). The speakers present their arguments. You can assign one of the students as the time keeper to remind the speaker about the time. Give a minute to the first speaker to present his/her counter arguments at the end since s/he doesn‟t get that in the beginning.

5. Make a judgment: 

Usually, in debate, the winner is the one who has presented the strongest case. For ESL classes, the overall purpose of speaking is more important than the specific outcome of the debate. Still, your students will probably want to know who won. You can ask them to vote secretly and combine the votes with the score they have obtained in your judgment to determine the winner.


    • Divide the students into four groups.
    • Assign one group to speak for the motion of the first issue and the second group to speak against the motion of the first issue.
    • Assign third group to speak for the motion of the second issue and the fourth group to speak against the motion of the second issue.
    • Tell them to make preparations for the debate by collecting the ideas from the members. Monitor and help them while they are making preparations.
    • Ask one of the students to be the Master of Ceremony and ask him/her to lead the programme.
    • Ask one participant from each group (you can allow more to speak if you have time) to speak for or against the issue as assigned earlier.
    • Evaluate them and decide the winner. Explain the strengths and areas to be improved as feedback.
    • You can also ask the students to vote the best speaker secretly to decide the winner.
    • Some ideas for the first issue (against the motion) are provided below.