Five Interactive Debate Sites for Students

Online Debate Sites for Students and Teachers

Perhaps the best way to have students prepare for debate is to have students see how others debate on a variety of current topics.  Here are five interactive websites that can help educators and students learn how to select topics, how to construct arguments, and how to evaluate the quality of arguments that others are making.

Each of the following websites offers an interactive platform for students to participate in the practice of debate.

The International Debate Education Association (IDEA) is a "global network of organizations that value debate as a way to give young people a voice." 

The"about us" page states: 

IDEA is the world's leading provider of debate education, providing resources, training and events to educators and young people.

The site offers the top 100 Topics for Debate and ranks them according to total view. Each topic also provides the voting results before and after debate, as well as a bibliography for people who may want read the research used for each debate. As of this posting, the top 5 topics are:

  1.  single-sex schools are good for education
  2. ban animal testing
  3. reality television does more harm than good
  4. supports the death penalty
  5. ban homework

This site also provides a set of 14 Teaching Tools with strategies to help teachers become familiar with the practice of debate in the classroom. The strategies included can help educators with activities based on topics such as:

  • Introductory Exercises
  • Argument Construction 
  • Rebuttal 
  • Style and Delivery
  • Judging

IDEA believes that:

"debate promotes mutual understanding and informed citizenship around the world and that its work with young people leads to increased critical thinking and tolerance, enhanced cultural exchange and greater academic excellence." 

More »
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 Debate.org is an interactive site where students can participate. The"about us" page states: 

Debate.org is a free online community where intelligent minds from around the world come to debate online and read the opinions of others. Research today’s most controversial debate topics and cast your vote on our opinion polls.

The site  Debate.org offers information about the current "Big Issues" where students and educators can:

Investigate today’s most controversial debate topics covering society’s biggest issues in politics, religion, education and more. Gain balanced, non-biased insight into each issue and review the breakdown of pro-con stances within our community.

This website also offers students the opportunity to see the differences between debates, forums, and polls.  The site is free to join and provides all members a breakdown of membership by demographics including age, gender, religion, political party, ethnicity and education. More »

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Pro/Con.org describes itself as a nonprofit nonpartisan public charity with the tagline, "The Leading Source for Pros and Cons of Controversial Issues.". ProCon.org

Pro/Con.org describes itself as a nonprofit nonpartisan public charity with the tagline, "The Leading Source for Pros and Cons of Controversial Issues." The About page on their website states that they provide: 

"...professionally-researched pro, con, and related information on more than 50 controversial issues from gun control and death penalty to illegal immigration and alternative energy. Using the fair, FREE, and unbiased resources at ProCon.org, millions of people each year learn new facts, think critically about both sides of important issues, and strengthen their minds and opinions."

There have been an estimated  1.4 million users on the site from its inception in 2004 through 2015.  There is a teacher's corner page with resources including:

Materials on the website can be reproduced for classes and educators are encouraged to link students to the information "because it helps to advance our mission of promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship." More »

CreateDebate is a new social networking community built around ideas, discussion and democracy. CreateDebate

If a teacher is thinking of having students try to set-up and participate in an online debate, CreateDebate might be the site to use. This website could allow students to involve both their classmates and others in an authentic discussion on a controversial issue.

One reason to allow student access to the site is that there are tools for the the creator  (student) of the debate to moderate any debate discussion. Teachers have the ability to act as a moderator and authorize or delete inappropriate. This is particularly important if the debate is open to others outside the school community. 

CreateDebate is  100% free to join and teachers can create an account to see how they could use this tool as debate preparation:

"CreateDebate is a new social networking community built around ideas, discussion and democracy. We’ve done our best to provide our community with a framework that makes compelling and meaningful debates easy to create and fun to use."

Some of the interesting debates on this site have been:

 

Finally, teachers could also use the CreateDebate site as a pre-writing tool for students who have been assigned persuasive essays. Students can use the responses they receive as part of their action research on a topic.  More »

In 2011, The New York Times began publishing a blog titled The Learning Network that could be accessed free by educators, students, and parents:

"To honor The Times’s longstanding commitment to educators and students, this blog and all its posts, as well as all Times articles linked from them will be accessible without a digital subscription."

One feature on The Learning Network is dedicated to debate and argumentative writing. Here educators can find lesson plans created by teachers that have incorporated debate in their classrooms. Teachers have used debate as a springboard for argumentative writing.

In one of these lesson plans, "students read and analyze the opinions expressed in the Room for Debate series...they also write their own editorials and format them as a group to look like the actual Room for Debate posts."

There are also links to the site, Room to Debate. The "about us" page states: 

"In Room for Debate, The Times invites knowledgeable outside contributors to discuss news events and other timely issues"

The Learning Network also provides graphic organizers educators can use: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs/learning/pdf/activities/DebatableIssues_NYTLN.pdf More »

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Bennett, Colette. "Five Interactive Debate Sites for Students." ThoughtCo, Feb. 21, 2017, thoughtco.com/interactive-debate-sites-for-students-8042. Bennett, Colette. (2017, February 21). Five Interactive Debate Sites for Students. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/interactive-debate-sites-for-students-8042 Bennett, Colette. "Five Interactive Debate Sites for Students." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/interactive-debate-sites-for-students-8042 (accessed November 18, 2017).