Class debates can be a great motivational tool for creating meaningful interactions and discussions with language learners. They provoke students to speak impromptu and express themselves freely. As a teacher, you are not only an outside observer or a mere prompter of the class debates, but also an active participant and a thorough designer of the class activities.
- Choose interesting topics for debates, keeping in mind their suitability, up-to-date focus and students’ likes and dislikes. Questions and topics for debates are provided mostly at the end of the text as an extended activity for practicing reading and speaking skills. Therefore, students have already gained some general understanding of ideas for further discussions and debates. What is more, you can persuade students to formulate their own topics and questions for debates, which is the best way of actively involving students from the very beginning of a preparation process.
- Divide your class into two teams by placing good students randomly and avoiding situations when only one team take turns and another keeps quiet. You can either appoint a team leader, a secretary and a main speaker yourself, or team members can do it themselves. It will help teams to get organized and distribute roles fairly within a group, involving all members (even the shyest and quietest) with some responsibilities.
- Instruct one team to prepare all supporting arguments in favor of the statement and another team to prepare arguments against it as a homework assignment. Recommend some Internet sites, books and other sources for further research and study. Students can write an answer to the question or brainstorm on the topic with pros and cons charts illustrating their answers with appealing and moving examples.
- Next class, arrange the seats so that the teams face each other as two opposing sides and the team leaders can monitor the groups. You will act as a coordinator who oversees the debate, makes comments during it and finalizes the outcomes. However, it is vital not to overuse your powers and your words during the debate; otherwise the class might become a podium for only one person – the teacher.
- Start your classes with an inspirational quote that could establish the right atmosphere for the debate.
- Let both teams present their views on the topic by encouraging students with your own remarks.
- Summarize the debate outcomes by exploring the most interesting opinions and evaluating students’ performance.