How to Hold Debates in Your Classroom

how to run a debate in your upper elementary classroom

Turn your classroom into a courtroom and hold your own high-interest debates in your classroom to engage students and practice persuasive writing, argumentative discussions, and speaking and listening skills in a safe and structured environment. 

Debates provide students with the opportunity to see that it is OK to disagree with their peers. It also helps them to understand different perspectives and points of view on a variety of topics. 

This can include different holiday and seasonal topics like to have more winter or early spring (think Groundhog Day), should pranks be allowed at school (think April Fools Day), or a generic high-interest topic like, should homework be assigned?

I love using debates in the classroom. 

Not only does it address multiple skills and objectives, it allows students to put all of their persuasive writing strategies and knowledge into action within a real world activity.

While working on debate projects, students will sharpen ALL of these skills:

  • persuasive writing
  • reading
  • research and note-taking
  • point of view
  • listening and speaking
  • collaboration and teamwork
  • public speaking and eye contact
  • conversation etiquette

The best part about holding debates is that it is naturally engaging for students. By directly teaching students how to participate in a debate even your most timid students and reluctant writers will be ready to participate.

Here is how I break down and explain this genre of writing for my upper elementary students to help them understand the nuances specific to debates, as well as make connections to persuasive writing.

What is a Debate? What is Persuasive Writing?

Writing debates is always part of our persuasive writing unit. I love that debates give students the opportunity to use their persuasive writing skills in real-world situations. Here is how I define both persuasive writing and debates for my students:
  • Persuasive writing is a form of opinion writing used to convince others to think in a certain way and persuade the readers to share the writer's point of view.
  • A debate is a formal argument in which there are two sides that take opposing viewpoints and discuss them in an organized and structured way while trying to persuade listeners to share the speaker's point of view. 
By using these definitions, students can easily see the connection between persuasive writing and debate work. We also discuss that a judge will listen to both sides of the debate and decide which side made a better "case" and supported the argument.

Why Participate in a Debate?

How to Hold Debates in Your ClassroomIt is important to me to let students in on the "why" behind the lessons that I teach. When students participate in debates they develop listening and speaking skills. They begin to understand both sides of an argument and gain perspective from their peer's point of view. Additionally, by practicing public speaking in the form of a speech, students' fear of speaking in front of peer groups will decrease. Students need a lot of time to practice speaking in public. Help students get over any insecurities and fear by having them work in groups to debate different topics throughout the year. The more practice they have, the better!

What are Genre Specific Key Words?

Just like other writing genres have key words to signal key points, so do debates. Together as a class we brainstorm persuasive writing words that would help them successfully write an organized debate speech. For example, In my opinion, Consequently, Therefore, Specifically, That is why, are some key words to help you get started brainstorming with your own students.

How are Debates Organized and Written?

debate templates prompts and free lessons for kidsDebate speeches are organized in a familiar format for students. It begins with an introduction, requires supporting details, and ends with a conclusion. This is the same structure that students use when writing about reading. The major difference is the rebuttal component. The idea of a rebuttal is new for upper elementary students so it takes center stage of my lessons. Here is the debate structure I use with my students:
  • Introduction: Introduce yourself, the topic and the side you will be arguing for, and your claim
  • Support Your Idea: Have 3-4 strong and relevant points to support your claim
  • Rebuttal: Address and state a reason that will counter what the opposing side is claiming
  • Conclusion: Restate your claim and points and then thank the audience with eye contact.
Grab this anchor chart and debate topic ideas for FREE at the bottom of this post.

What Makes a Debate Different than Persuasive Writing?

How to Hold Debates in Your Classroom
The key elements that students need to understand when it comes to debates are pros, cons, and rebuttals. To fully understand these concepts students need direct instruction and practice. I love to use modeled writing to help students identify the different elements of debates, especially these three areas:
  • Pro: The pros or proposition side of a debate is the affirmative side. It is the why you believe in the side of the topic you are debating. The pros are for the topic at hand.
  • Con: The con side of a debate is the negative side. It is the why you do not believe in the topic. A con is against the topic at hand.
  • Rebuttal: A rebuttal is a statement made about the opposing side's claim to explain why their claim is wrong.

What are the Steps of a Debate?

Once students write their debate speeches it is time to actually debate. Since debates are structured and organized in such a way that allows both sides to have equal time to speak, students must be aware of the format. Here is a shortened version of the debating speaking order that I use with upper elementary students.
  • Affirmative side speaks to state their claim and supporting details.
  • Negative side speaks to state their claim and supporting details.
  • Negative side states their rebuttal and closing.
  • Affirmative side states their rebuttal and closing.

A Few Tips and Tricks...

    How to Hold Debates in Your Classroom
  • Help students prepare for the debate by creating a checklist to keep them organized.
  • Allow students to pick their own side or mix it up by randomly assigning which side they will be "for". This is a great way to differentiate for your top writers, too. 
  • Assign cooperative group roles to help students stay on track! I have found the best roles to use for debating units are recorders, time keeper, and speakers.
  • Do not try to have students memorize their speeches. Instead, have students write their speeches in bullet form to help them read it fluently while they are presenting.
  • Encourage students to practice their debate speeches within their small groups several times before presenting to help build their confidence.
  • Since speaking in front of their peers can be intimidating, help them feel positive by giving a lot of encouragement and positive praise.
  • Make it fun! Make the kids laugh and giggle at YOU by dressing up as a judge complete with a gavel to take the pressure off the kids!
  • Use the holidays and seasons to engage students in meaningful topics to debate:
  • Use current events and topics of interest for debates, such as:

Holding debates in the classroom is a fun and engaging way to keep students working hard and practicing so many different skills at once. Provide students with many opportunities to debate over topics in the classroom. Not sure of an idea to have students debate about? Ask them! They always come up with the best topics to debate. 

You might be interested in this printable AND digital debate resource.

Love these ideas? Pin for later!

debate activities and lessons for elementary

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This is great. Thank you for sharing the information.

  3. Somecustom essay writing services use aggressive advertising strategies to make sales and promote themselves. SpeedyPaper, for example, often engages in aggressive advertising and upselling. Another service, GradeMiners, is considered to be one of the top essay writing services in the US, and has received many positive reviews from clients. It's a company that has been around for many years and has perfected its system for gaining repeat customers.

    1. Students now face more difficulties when hiring cheap assignment helpers because of the fierce competition in this field. Pupils are perplexed because they can't seem to locate a reliable writer who can assist them in getting over all of their academic obstacles.

  4. Carefully study the manual - how to write a profile essay link . With this information, you can write a great profile essay. However, make sure you agree with the theme you choose. if you're having trouble choosing a theme, check out a different theme.

  5. Text messaging is a great way to communicate with your audience. It allows you to send messages to people who may not be able to attend your event. You can use text messaging to promote your event, provide information about your event, and even ask questions from your audience.

  6. School years are the most carefree time. I always remember this period with warmth and nostalgia. When I went to study at the university, everything became much more complicated. This also applies to study and the specifics of tasks. One day I found a site and turned for help when I did not have time to write all the assignments in many subjects. Thanks to this, I evened out the load balance and could prepare for exams.

  7. When it comes to ensuring the accuracy of your content, there's no substitute for a great fact-checker. And if you're in need of one, you've come to the right place! At Skillhub, we've assembled a team of top fact checker writers, specialists in the field of fact-checking, ready and willing to help you get your facts straight.

  8. Hello, One very important feature of a VPN service that is often overlooked is the technical support available 24/7. VPN services are constantly improving and changing, so it's important that you're always up to speed and that this site can help you solve any problems you may encounter. View detailed specifications and best VPN deals

  9. Regardless of your age, Neuropure is the ground-breaking therapy that can help you reduce the intensity of your neuropathic pain. Neuropure

  10. I think that it's better to have fun with tiny fishing after a long debate. At that time, students can have a relaxing time.

  11. When you purchase a resume online, you gain access to the expertise of professional resume writers who specialize in crafting compelling resumes. These professionals have extensive knowledge of industry trends, hiring practices, and the specific elements that make a resume stand out. They can effectively highlight your skills, qualifications, and achievements in a way that appeals to employers. Learn more here:

  12. Visit travel websites such as TripAdvisor,, or MakeMyTrip. These platforms often provide Jim Corbett Resort with Swimming Pool detailed information about resorts, including amenities like swimming pools, as well as user reviews and ratings.

  13. Delivering a solid essay. Thanks to the variety of top-notch content pieces, I'm learning more and more valuable stuff every day. Thank you for sharing your expertise! Keep up the wonderful work! Continue to share. You are welcome to check out my website.
    Bankruptcy Lawyers Near Me

  14. While the officially estimated lifespan of most seawalls typically hovers around four decades, in practice, many of them tend to last for about thirty years unless they receive significant maintenance. It is crucial to prioritize the maintenance of complex structures like seawalls and docks. Neglecting their upkeep can lead to premature deterioration, resulting in substantial repair expenses. Hence, it is vital to establish routine maintenance programs for your seawall repair and docks, including monthly inspections, to offer you added peace of mind. If you require assistance or have any concerns about your seawall, don't hesitate to contact HMC. Our team is fully prepared to offer the necessary assistance and expertise to address your specific requirements.

  15. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is here, and it's available for online purchase! This flagship device is a game-changer with its cutting-edge features, stunning design, and powerful performance. Buying online is the easiest way to secure this coveted piece of Buy iPhone 15 Pro Max Online technology. Don't miss the chance to own the iPhone 15 Pro Max and experience the future of mobile innovation. Get yours now and step into a new era of smartphone excellence.

  16. Are you a looking for a reliable Veterinary merchant processing solution? Look no further! We've got you covered. Our veterinary merchant processing services are top-notch, offering seamless transactions and secure payment options. Trust us to handle your payments while you focus on providing excellent care to your furry patients!

  17. Engaging students in debates is such a valuable educational tool, fostering critical thinking and communication skills. Your insights on how to hold debates in the classroom are incredibly helpful. Creating an environment where students can express their opinions and engage in respectful discourse is essential.

    I would also like to share a little tip for teachers looking to add a touch of excitement to their classroom activities. If you're planning a debate night or any engaging discussion, consider providing a cozy and refreshing atmosphere for participants. A great way to do this is by offering some warm or cold beverages, and Java Sok has got you covered with their amazing drink sleeves. Plus, using the java sok discount code can make it even more enjoyable for both teachers and students.

    Cheers to fostering a vibrant learning environment that not only stimulates the mind but also creates memorable and enjoyable classroom experiences!

  18. Eye Lasik Austin offers advanced laser eye surgery procedures to correct vision problems and improve visual acuity. Our skilled team of ophthalmologists utilizes state-of-the-art technology and techniques to provide safe and effective treatments. With a focus on patient care and satisfaction, we strive to deliver exceptional results and enhance the quality of life for our patients.

    At Eye Lasik Austin, patients can expect a comprehensive evaluation and consultation to determine their eligibility for Lasik surgery. The skilled surgeons utilize cutting-edge equipment and techniques to perform the procedure, ensuring precision and minimal discomfort.


  19. I am happy to see a nice post. It is very excellent and informative.
    Abogado Criminal Federal de Nueva Jersey

  20. I am grateful that you shared this article as it contains valuable information. Provide additional updates in the future.criminal lawyers prince william county

  21. I loved to read your blog. It is one of the best sites that I have visited. Hope you will share more quality blog posts thank you.
    How to Obtain Divorce Decree in New York

  22. Classroom debates promote critical thinking and communication skills by selecting relevant topics, establishing rules, encouraging active participation, and debriefing after the debate to enhance the learning experience and maintain a balance of perspectives. Nueva York de Divorcio en Período de Espera

  23. Great informative post. Keep sharing more of your thoughts in your future blogs. Fairfax DUI Lawyer

  24. Explore innovative techniques for encouraging active participation, managing time efficiently, and fostering a positive learning environment during debates. Whether you're a seasoned educator or a first-time debate facilitator, our blog offers valuable insights and resources to make the experience enjoyable and educational for everyone involved.
    leyes de divorcio sin oposición de virginia
    lista de verificación de divorcio no disputado de virginia
    litigio de divorcio de nueva jersey

  25. student nowadays faces academic problems. It will also be important for your grades. whenever the assignment deadline is too near and you don't have much expertise to complete it, you should go with online assignment help Best Case Study helper in UAE

  26. In the state of Virginia, anyone under the age of 18, to participate the sexual activities are illegal. If you search for lawyers call us anytime and anywhere. solicitation of a minor

  27. your article is greatfull and thanks for sharing this article in my family. your article is very happy more aticle is share.Bastar Movie (2024)

  28. south jersey flsa lawyer
    The 'How to Hold Debates in Your Classroom' guide is a valuable resource for educators, offering practical instructions for fostering engaging and educational debates among students. It provides insightful tips and strategies to create a dynamic learning environment, encouraging critical thinking and effective communication skills. The guide is a must-read for teachers aiming to incorporate debates into their classrooms, offering clear instructions and helpful suggestions. It promotes an inclusive and constructive atmosphere for student debates, making it accessible for teachers at various levels. The guide's thoroughness and adaptable strategies make it accessible for teachers at various levels, fostering a positive and participatory learning experience.

  29. Content that provides information is always helpful for those who want to succeed in their lives. By reading this content a lot of SHS students will get guidance from upcoming challenges. Just like a lot of students hire Best Case Study helper in UAE

  30. Your practical tips and strategies make it easy for teachers to implement debates effectively. Keep up the fantastic work!
    cheap divorce lawyer near me


Back to Top