Mock Debate

What You Need:

  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Timer

What You Do:

  1. Before leaping straight into the fun stuff, review what a debate is with your child. Ask her what he knows about a debate.
  2. Explain that most debates have a similar structure. There is an opening presentation, rebuttal, response and closing summary. Basically, this just means that both sides state their opinion before taking turns giving reasons why they believe their opponent is incorrect.
  3. Most debates have a pretty strict time limit as well. You don't have to follow any of the limits set by official presidential debates, but you should still come up with a time that both you and your child are comfortable with. Keep it short -- if you only have a minute or two to state your case, it makes the challenge even harder.
  4. Now you can dive into the fun stuff: topic choosing. Brainstorm topics that fit two criteria: (1) The topic should have two clearly defined sides. Either of the sides could be right, but neither of them should be a provable fact. For example, don't pick a topic like "It rained today vs. It didn't rain today." (2) The topic should be about something that, at the least, your child cares about. Ideally, you want to find a topic that both of you are interested in, or maybe one that you guys have already unofficially "debated" over before.
  5. Having trouble coming up with a topic? Take a look at the list of potential topics listed at the bottom of this activity. Remember, the more passionate each of you feel about the subject, the better.
  6. Once you pick a topic, flip a coin to decide who's going to be pro and who will be con.That's right -- you won't necessarily be arguing for the side you want to be debating for.
  7. Take some time to prepare separately. Encourage your child to write down some of the points he wants to make.
  8. Set the timer and start your debate. If you have another friend or family member nearby, recruit them to be the debate moderator. The debate moderator simply watches the timer, and makes sure no one goes over time or interrupts. However, you don't need a moderator. Just make sure one of you is keeping an eye on the timer.
  9. After your run out of time for your opening presentation, rebuttal, response, and closing summary, assess the debate's success with your child. This shouldn't be framed as who was the winner and who was the loser. Talk about what each of your best points were and how each of you could have argued better.
  10. Still have some debate gas left in the tank? Try switching sides!

Next time there's a family conflict in your house, why not trying solving it with a debate? Debates are a great way to teach kids -- and even adults -- how to respect each others' differing opinions.

Potential Debate Topics

  • Every member of the family should do an equal amount of chores.
  • Kids should get weekly allowances.
  • Teachers should be required to wear uniforms.
  • Every kid should have a pet.
  • All kids should read The Hunger Games.
  • Teachers should assign homework every day.
  • Teachers should assign homework over holiday breaks.
  • Kids should be allowed to go to the mall unsupervised.
  • Books are better than television.
  • People should read every day.  

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