Debate Lessons for the ESL Classroom

One of the great perks of teaching English to speakers of other languages is that you're constantly confronted with differing world views. Debate lessons are a great way of taking advantage of these points of view, especially to improve conversational skills

These Tips and Strategies provide tips on other methods used to improve conversational skills in the classroom. 

Write the name of some major multinational corporations on the board (i.e. Coca Cola, Nike, Nestle, etc.) Ask students what their opinions of the corporations are. Do they hurt local economies? Do they help local economies? Do they bring about homogenisation of local cultures? Do they help promote peace internationally? Etc. Based on students' responses, divide groups up into two groups. One group arguing for Multinationals, one group against Multinationals. More »
Discuss the differences between what is considered a First World Country and a Third World country. Ask students to consider the following statement: First World countries have an obligation to help Third World countries with funds and assistance in cases of hunger and poverty. This is true because of the First World's advantageous position attained by its exploiting the resources of the Third World in the past and present. Based on students' responses, divide groups up into two groups. One group arguing for extensive First World responsibility, one group for limited responsibility. More »

Lead a short discussion asking the student's opinion on what they consider to be the most important aspects of learning English well. Ask students to consider the following statement: The most important ingredient of learning English is Grammar. Playing games, discussing problems, and having a good time is important. However, if we don't focus on grammar it is all a waste of time. Based on students' responses, divide groups up into two groups. One group arguing for the prime importance of learning grammar, one group for the idea that learning just grammar doesn't mean that you are able to use English effectively. More »

Write a few ideas on the board to encourage discussion of the equality between men and women: the workplace, the home, government, etc. Ask students if they feel that women are truly equal to men in these various roles and places. Based on students' responses, divide groups up into two groups. One group arguing that equality has been achieved for women and one that feels that women have not yet attained true equality to men. More »
Ask students for examples of violence in various media forms and ask them how much violence they experience second hand through the media every day. Have students consider which positive or negative effects this amount of violence in the media has on society. Based on students' responses, divide groups up into two groups. One group arguing that government needs to more strictly regulate the media and one arguing that there is no need for government intervention or regulation. More »

Tip for Using Debates

I like to ask students to take the opposing point of view when holding debates. While challenging for some students, there are two advantages to this approach: 1) Students need to stretch their vocabulary to find words to describe concepts they don't necessarily share. 2) Students can focus on grammar and construction as they are not as invested in their arguments.