Teaching Tools

Spar Debates

List a number of common, easily debatable topics on the board. Have two students come to the front of the room. After a coin toss, the winning student selects either the topic (then their opponent selects the side: affirmative or negative) or selects the side (then their opponent selects the topic).

Both debaters receive five minutes to prepare. Then a very quick debate occurs: Affirmative opening speech (90 seconds), cross-examination (60 seconds), negative opening speech (90 seconds), cross-examination (60 seconds), affirmative closing (45 seconds), negative closing (45 seconds). To keep the exercise running quickly, two students can be preparing while another two are debating. The debate lasts about as long as the preparation time.

Following the debates the class and the instructor can take the opportunity to discuss strong arguments, strategies, and goals to work on for the future. In addition, given the very-short speaking times, the instructor can also point out the importance of selecting the best arguments and stating them concisely. Some possible topics for spar debates include: Honesty is always the best policy, slavery still exists, education is key to success, violence is sometimes necessary, animals think like humans, school starts too early, city life is better than country life, and should obey authority.