The key skills for a debate are:

1) Active listening

You must show the other students that you are listening. The points you state must follow on or contradict another argument.

Key phrases might include:

  1. ‘I hear what you are saying about…; however, I feel’
  2. ‘(insert name), I know you feel that….but….’
  3. ‘I agree with you (insert name) because….’
  4. ‘I disagree with you (insert name) because…’

These phrases do feel extremely unnatural but they are important in showing that you are not randomly stating facts. This will make you sound professional and as though you have structured your argument.

2) Spontaneous vs. Planned speech

Planned speech: This is pre-prepared speech that has been memorised.

Spontaneous speech: Speech that is spontaneous is unplanned and is not pre-written.

Much of the spoken language can be planned beforehand, including key phrases, language techniques and statistics. However, much of the work will need to be spontaneous. You will need to consider how you will include your planned structures. There may be points in the debate where you wish to contribute spontaneously. Remember to consider what you are saying before you speak.


Your teacher will give you a topic to research. It may be a statement or a question. You will need to decide if you are ‘for’ (in favour) or ‘against’. Once you have decided, you will need to plan your arguments. You cannot switch sides and you must have an opinion on the topic.

Examples include:

  1. Should abortion be legal?
  2. Is technology ruining language?
  3. Human advancements are ruining the planet.

Unlike a speech, where only you will perform, you will be required to engage with the other students in the class. You may be given a chance to speak for an extended amount of time. It is this time you should plan for.


It is vital that you research your topic. You must have an understanding of the facts, before you form your opinion. You may think your opinion is set beforehand; however, as you delve deeper into the topic, this may change. You must go into the debate with a very clear idea of how you will vote. Be very careful which websites that you use. Wikipedia can be extremely unreliable. You are allowed to research in any language that you choose but you must present all ideas in English.


You will be nervous on the day and the words will probably escape you. Your classmates will all be feeling exactly the same.

The teacher will introduce the debate. Usually, the classroom is divided into half, with those in favour on one side, and those against on another. You should know beforehand who else is voting the same way as you. This will make it easier.

When you contribute to the debate, remember:

  1. Stand confidently
  2. Do not fidget
  3. Speak loudly and clearly
  4. Do not be scared to show emotion in your voice
  5. Do not laugh

You need to look professional when you are presenting your ideas.

When you are not speaking, do not sit there doing nothing. You will still be being assessed at this point. Look at the person speaking, as this shows that you are listening. Do not converse with any other member of the class, if it is not your time to speak.

Debate, figure 1


You will be assessed immediately and feedback should be provided straight away. There are a few official forms to complete, so try not to be surprised if your teacher is writing lots of notes.__ __

What makes a good debate?
What is the difference between ‘planned’ and ‘spontaneous’?
How should you stand during a debate?