Does education mean only learning new material? Actually, it also includes developing a skill of speaking your mind on things happening around you using the knowledge you acquire at school or college. So a debate is an essential part of the academic program. You cannot conduct a successful debate without preparation — and preparation starts with searching for a thorough topic. Here are some tips on how to find a strong topic engaging students of different ages and interests.
Get Ready with the Arguments
The idea of a debate is that people involved in a discussion have their own position concerning a chosen issue, and each participator (or a group of participators) give arguments. In this case, searching for facts that support your point of view is not enough. If you want to sound persuasive, think over the facts your opponents may use.
So, the effective way to prepare for a debate is to analyze a topic and make a list of pros and cons to see the problem from different sides. Here is an example of how to do it with a topic ‘Using the Internet: Should Parents Control Their Children’:
- Pro: The Internet offers too much information that can harm children’s emotional health as well as moral values.
- Con: Children have a right to have their private space, and other people, including parents, should respect it.
- Pro: Parents are responsible for their children’s safety, and they have a right to know what’s happening in their lives, including online life.
- Con: Parents can install programs that prevent harmful content, but it is unfair to control every website or social media their children use.
However, be ready your opponents might find another argument. So, you will develop your skill of speaking spontaneously. It’s important because in everyday life we don’t speak to people with prepared speeches.
What Topic to Choose
What if you are responsible for choosing a topic? Well, the list of things to be discussed seems to be enormous. Still, you may feel confused about finding out an issue that is interesting for students and can be developed into the real debate with different positions.
Your uncertainty stems from your fear. Yes, you are afraid that the audience will not be excited about the question you choose. But at the very beginning forget about the audience. Make a list of things YOU enjoy or good at. Then choose the points from your list that may be interesting to your coevals.
Still, be careful with narrow topics with many aspects and terms. Prefer more general issues, which can engage children of different beliefs into an exciting discussion. A good idea is to prepare a question from your academic program. Firstly, such topics are familiar to participators. Secondly, it’s an effective way to get ready for exams.
Keep in mind that most students are unable to conduct a deep analyze of information. Debate and academic work are not the same. Avoid topics that require complex research, because your aim is to encourage, not frustrate.
Level of Education
The arguments students offer are based on their knowledge, so take into consideration their level of education.
Engaging Debate Topics for Elementary School
It’s a good idea to involve elementary school students into a discussion so that they become more self-confident and make first steps in speaking their mind. But remember they are not experienced enough to conduct deep research. At this age, children won’t give arguments based on facts. You may use one of the questions below:
- Should I bring my pet to a classroom?
- Is it easy to be a superhero?
- The best season. Winter vs summer.
- Which pet would you choose — a cat or a dog?
- Watching cartoons vs playing computer games.
Relevant Topics for Middle School
At this age, students are already able to think over slightly controversial issues. Though they still cannot make a complex analyze, the task is to help them develop their logical and critical thinking. Actually, proves they give often stem from their beliefs and preferences, not from facts. Nevertheless, in this way students are to recognize they have their own position on controversial questions that may differ from their opponents’ position. The idea is ‘I have a right to think so, but I respect your right to do the same’.
Here are some topics aimed at middle school students:
- Pros and cons of audio books.
- Should smartphones be banned at school?
- Cheating at tests — is it harmless?
- Is it good to make students wear a uniform?
- 1,000 friends online or 1 real friend — which would you choose?
Suitable Questions for High School
High school students get acquainted with more serious things happening around the — social, political, economic, and psychological. And these things influence their inner world. They get used to the feeling that they are adults. In this case, the goal of a debate is to help them analyze and find persuasive arguments: and not just to convince their opponents — first of all, to convince themselves. School discussions give an example of how to search for answers in more difficult issues they may face in the future.
Below are a few topics relevant for high school students.
- Social media: freedom or slavery?
- Is higher education necessary?
- Choosing a carrier: is it up to you or up to your parents?
- Is fame a part of happiness?
- Does finishing school mean becoming an adult?
- Violence in video games and movies — is it relevant for children?
- Does the wall of honor stimulate good results in the learning process?
- Global warming — does it affect each of us?
- Should students be aware of their classmates’ grades?
- Celebrities: an example or an idol?
Debate Questions for College and Beyond
Students have finished school and they are not children anymore. They stick to their strong position, they have their set of beliefs and they make argumentative conclusions on what is moral or immoral. Of course, they still divide things in black and white, but they can explain why.
Students won’t be excited about topics from their curriculum. They are ready to discuss issues they are deeply concerned about.
Here are a few great debate topics for college students:
- Should I leave a college right now if I have made a wrong decision?
- Getting married: should I wait till I graduate?
- Do professors have a right to tell students what to believe?
- Testing medicine on animals — cruel or justified?
- Alternative sources of energy — is it a way out?
- Competition method in the academic process — encouraging or harmful to students’ self-esteem?
- Is marriage registration out of fashion?
- Should vital kinds of sport be banned?
- Pros and cons of online education.
- Are technologies responsible for the increase in depression?
Debate helps students become more organized and responsible. Children develop communication skills as well as critical thinking, they also acquire new knowledge. Yet, one more important aspect is that they learn to listen to opponents and respect their point of view. Also, you will get through stage fright.
However, the main thing is that debate helps to approach to adult life. Every day we face problems, and sometimes these problems are really controversial. It’s up to us what to decide, but the right decisions require the ability to analyze, search for facts, and protect your set of moral values.