Introducing Debate into the Primary Classroom

Should we wear school uniform? Do we need to do mental maths if we have calculators? Should we recycle? These are all questions that are great for encouraging debate in the classroom.

Introducing debate in the classroom is a fantastic way of developing higher-order thinking skills of evaluation and analysis, engaging with material in different ways and eliciting class discussions about often difficult subjects.

From deconstructing classmates’ opinions to developing their own, debate can improve students’ writing skills to produce more developed arguments and encourage class participation.

What’s more, with there being a huge focus on speaking and listening in many curriculums, debate is a good way to introduce and develop these skills.

With this being said, we’re going to explore a few ways you can introduce debate in your classroom…

Psst… Don’t forget about our ThinkIts which are great for encouraging debate and higher-order thinking skills. Check them out and log in here.

Socratic method

Effective and simple, this method sees the teacher asking a debatable question to their class and afterwards, inviting students in the class to present arguments ‘for’ and ‘against’ them.

This is a free and autonomous way to introduce debate in the classroom and can encourage students to dissect their peers’ ideas for critical thinking and develop their own ideas and confidence in turn.

Group debate

Split your class up into groups of around four students. Give them a question to explore within their groups. Get them to plan, research and write down their answers in response to the question.

Then, get each group to nominate a speaker to present their arguments to the class – you could even set them an additional task to create a formal presentation to present their ideas and make it a whole lesson.

This is a great way of getting the whole class to participate, getting those less likely to speak up and involved with debating and thinking critically.

Whole-class involvement

This is an idea to not only introduce debate into the classroom but get the whole class involved in debating all together! Present a question to your class. Nominate someone to present arguments ‘for’ that question and someone to argue ‘against’.

The rest of the class will act as the ‘audience’ and will be able to put questions across to the nominees to answer – this means they’ll be able to question both sides of the argument. This method is fantastic for encouraging speaking and listening in the classroom.

What’s great about debate is that it’s not just a great way for encouraging class participation, it’s also a fantastic learning and assessment tool. It’ll teach your class to recognise that discussions are best when everyone can speak and when there are no interruptions. However, it’s also a fantastic assessment tool to see if students have grasped a concept too!

Happy debating!