Best Debating Topics in My ESL Class So Far…

I teach grade 6, and one of the problems that occurs the most is lack of willingness to talk and get involved. I’ve tried a few things to get around this, the conversation box is one, another is just generally asking easier, more comprehendible questions on topics we come across throughout the year.

As of late, something that has been popping up more and more is debating. They seem to enjoy the idea of verbally fighting each other (for some reason). Whatever the reason be, it gets things moving in class and really pumps them up for using the language they’ve learnt.

There are some ground rules that need to be set first though. 

1. No matter what happens or is said, we remain a team, and friends.

2. No cursing in any language.

3. Points will be made side by side.

4. All points made must be clear and said in a way that the whole class can understand (not just me).

5. No repeating of what has been said previously.

6. Points are earned for points made/a good argument to the opposing team’s point.

7. Winner will be the team that earns the most points. 

8. Have fun.

So, once the kids all understand the rules of the debate you can choose the topic. The debate topic will be chosen a day in advance, to give everyone a chance to prepare some points, and prepare themselves for points the other team could make too. 

So here are 5 topics that have worked well for me:

1. Farming

As we know, farming today is a lot different from traditional farming. the use of machines and chemical fertilising has made farm production sky rocket. BUT, is that a good thing, what impact has that had on our environment and food quality? So the debate will be on ‘traditional farming vs modern farming.’

2. Breakfast

All students like eating, but many skip breakfast so they can sneak in that extra 10 minutes in bed. So, the topic is ‘is breakfast truly the most important meal of the day?’

3. Violence 

A lot of children around the world turn to violence to solve their quarrels. Is this the result of too much time on video games/watching tv? It could be…So the topic of the debate is ‘is tv violence making school a dangerous place?’

4. Babysitting

Parenting is tough, finding a good babysitter is even tougher. So who better than you’re very own child to help you out? A lot of my students babysit their younger siblings to help their parents out. The problem is that they are only just old enough to look after themselves, not to mention another, younger child. So the topic is ‘should there be a minimum age for babysitting?’

5. Summer beats all

Personally, I love summer. The sunshine, shorts and T-shirt, it all makes sense to me. Many of my students will agree but many others have their own ideas. So the topic is ‘is summer the best season?’

These 5 topics have proven to be the most entertaining and active, without causing trouble or taking things to a personal level. In my experience you will definitely want to stay away from topics regarding; gender, race, culture or religion. It’s just easier, trust me.

Enjoy debating and watch your students take over the class. It’s a fun class, but it takes some getting used to, so be patient.