Introduce your class to debating with this simple activity for upper KS2. This is a quick and easy format for a mini debate that can be set up with minimal resources. It is very flexible and great for beginning to build debating skills.
To complete this activity you will need:
• Large pieces of sugar paper divided in half.
- Tell the children that the class are going to have a debate and how that works. Have they ever seen or heard a debate?
- Explain that a good debater can argue for and against a point without believing in their arguments – it is a case of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes – what might they think? Emphasise that it is a very important skill to listen to and think about other viewpoints, even if you don’t agree with them.
- Remind them that you are arguing about the point a person is making, not arguing with the person themselves.
- A statement is put to the class – our statement today is
“This house believes that aliens exist”
- First of all we need to think of all of the arguments for and against aliens existing. Model on the board writing an argument some people might use. For example; “The universe is so vast here must be other life forms out there!”
- In groups, record on the paper ideas that people might have to support the argument that alien life exists.
- Next model some ideas people might have against the motion. For example; “If aliens existed, they would have made contact by now.”
- Again, record the ideas that people may have against the motion. During the discussion, encourage children to develop their arguments more fully. Ask questions such as “Can you say a bit more about that?” and “Why do you think people might think that?”
- Split the class exactly in half. Try to balance it so that you have confident speakers on each side. Cut each piece of paper in half and give all the “for” arguments to one side and all the “against” arguments to the other. Nominate one person on each side to read out all of the ideas to their team. (If you have two adults in the room, put one with each side)
- Line up the opposing sides on either side of the classroom, if possible. This also works well in a hall.
- Remind children that they need to make the argument for the side they are on – they will have a chance to vote on the issue at the end!
- Starting with the “Against” side, ask for volunteers to put their case. Encourage the children to justify their ideas, rather than just make statements. Give each speaker a time limit and guide the debate so that it moves forward.
- Once all of the ideas have been put, ask the children to vote by moving to the side they personally support.
Be aware that this debate may touch upon religious questions that might be sensitive for some members of the class. Use your judgement in dealing with those questions.
• Once the children are familiar with the format, encourage them to think about the ways in which an argument might be rebutted at the group stage.
• Lead on to a more structured debate with time to write speeches and vote – this page has a great explanation of how to do this.
• Show the children this clip – has it changed your mind?
• Prepare a piece of writing discussing whether aliens exist, giving a balanced for and against argument.
National Curriculum 2014 English
Key Stage 2
Pupils should be taught to: participate in discussions, presentations, performances, role play, improvisations and debates
This post was written by Sam Collins
Sam teaches in Devon, and has over 20 years experience in primary education teaching Early Years, KS1 and KS2.
For more fun activities visit our literacy page or follow us on Pinterest.