Tennis Debate

Tennis Debate

Tennis Debate


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Session 2

Using Debating as a Teaching

Strategy to Develop Language

Skills and Critical Thinking

June 2013

English Language Education Section

Curriculum Development Institute, EDB

Useful Resources


Useful Sites

BBC homepage- Student Life (debate)


Debatabase by IDEA (International Debate Education





Hong Kong Public Libraries





Integrating Debating into the Compulsory

Part and Other Elective Modules


• Encourage more participation, interaction and

impromptu responses in class

• Allow students to experience debating without

necessarily taking the elective module

• Ease students’ fear by doing without the formal

set-up and procedure of debating

• Help students see how debating-related skills are

embedded in and transferrable to different

aspects of their English Language learning

• Develop students’ ability to think critically and

consider an issue from multiple perspectives

Useful and Common Debate Games

• Balloon Debate

• Four-corner Game

• Stakeholder Debate Game

• X vs. Y Comparison Debate

• Devil’s Advocate

Tennis Debate

• Angels and Devils (conscience


Balloon Debate

• Speakers are flying in a hot-air balloon which is


• Someone must be thrown out for the others to


This activity allows teachers to design characters

based on what students have been learning (e.g.

historical figures, characters in a story).

• Each speaker (usually in the role of a famous person,

profession, fictional character) has to persuade the

audience why he/she should not be thrown out

• The audience vote to decide who can stay

• Other perilous situations such a shipwrecked raft, or

a nuclear bunker may be used to replace a sinking


Four-corner Game

• Place four separate signs: Strongly Agree, Somewhat

Agree, Somewhat Disagree and Strongly Disagree in

each of the corners of the classroom

• Pose different topics/statements to the class based

on students’ level of maturity

This activity encourages all students, even the

passive ones, to take side and express their views.

• Ask students to walk to the corner that best

describes how they feel about the topic

• Ask the group to discuss the topic and share the

reasons for their decisions with the class

• Repeat with another topic

Stakeholder Debate Game

• Set up a topic for the class to debate (e.g. Secondary students

should stay at school for lunch)

• Ask students to list the stakeholders involved (e.g. parents,

teachers, students, janitors, restaurant owners nearby)

This role play activity encourages students to

think out of the box and consider issues from

multiple perspectives.

• Write the names of stakeholders on index cards. Give each

student a card. Students of the same role form a group

• Ask students to make a list of arguments for or against the

situation, based on the stakeholder they represent

• Each stakeholder group takes turn to present their arguments.

Other groups can ask questions to challenge their stance.

An example using a topic related to social issues

Stakeholder debate - Compensated dating.doc

X vs. Y Comparison Debate

• Choose some students to serve as judges

• Split the rest of the class into two groups. Each group

will represent one item/figure

This • Ask activity each group allows to students brainstorm to at practise least 10 reasons using

rhetorical why their devices item is and better persuasive than the other language, team’s as well

as making creative arguments.

• Students vote on the three strongest points for each

side, then develop them into solid arguments with

support and elaboration

• Representatives from both groups argue about the

items’ worth

• The three judges will determine the winner

An Example: Pen and Pencil Debate

The Devil’s Advocate

• Prepare some motions that do not need much

research or preparation (e.g. It is better to be

This a man activity than encourages a woman.) students to challenge

their • Ask own students arguments, to speak which for two often minutes helps them on one

realise side of their flaws issue and assumptions and build

stronger • Announce arguments. "SWITCH," they have to argue the

opposite side of the issue and challenge the

arguments they themselves have just made

Tennis Debate

• Announce a topic and give students suitable preparation

time. Do some groundwork to familiarise students with the


• Divide the class into two sides, one FOR and one AGAINST

the topic.

• A student from the FOR side “serves” by making an

argument for their side. Then, the AGAINST side “returns”

the serve by responding to the argument and making new


• Each student can only speak once. No arguments/points

can be repeated without additional information

• The process continues until one team drops the ball and

cannot continue

Tennis Debate

This activity can be conducted with both

impromptu or researched topics. It encourages

the participation of everyone in the class and

caters for learner diversity as great room for

flexibility is allowed in terms of the length of

speeches and peer support is allowed.

Angels and Devils (Alley Debate)

• The teacher presents a situation where a person stands

at the crossroads

• The class forms two lines facing each other. One person


(a teacher/student)

activity allows



the role




an indecisive


character and walks between the lines, while students


on both


sides take




to give






character, which is useful for teaching literary

• The character will lean towards the side he/she finds

texts. more convincing along the alley

• When the character reaches the end of the alley,

he/she has to consider the arguments/reasons from

both sides, announce the decision and explain why

Using Debating Activities in the English

Language Classroom: An Example

Text: My Sister’s Keeper

• A novel written by Jodi Picoult

• A film directed by Nick Cassavetes

Story Synopsis:

• Anna Fitzgerald was brought into the world through

in vitro fertilization to be a genetic match for her

older sister, Kate, who suffers from leukemia.

• When Kate turns 15, she goes into renal failure.

Eleven-year-old Anna is asked by her parents to

donate one of her kidneys.

• Anna knows that she may not be able to live the life

she wants to after the operation – to be the cheerleader,

soccer player or a mother. She rebels against

her parents and proceeds to sue them for the rights

to her own body.

Debate on a Moral Dilemma

• Mr and Mrs Liu’s son suffers from

Leukemia. They need suitable bone

marrow to save the boy’s life. While

parents cannot provide it and there is

limited bone marrow that matches him in

the world, one possible way to ensure a

reliable supply of bone marrow for

transplant to save his son would be to

give birth to another baby.

What Should the Liu’s Choose?

1. Have another baby to provide the son’s

suitable bone marrow to save his life.

2. Rely on bone-marrow from unlikely donors

and wait for miracles.

Questions to Consider

• Who will be affected in this issue? How are

they affected?

• Whose interest should come first (the

survival of the first son / the right of the

baby) in this situation?

• What is the right and responsibility of

parents? Do they have the right to dictate

their child’s life?

• Should parents try their best to protect their

children and save their lives?

Debating Activities

• As a variation of the four corner game, have

students choose between options 1 and 2 and

walk to one side of the classroom. They can

discuss the reasons for their decision as a group.

• The teacher plays the role of Mrs Liu, students

standing on two sides to form the conscience

alley. Angels and Devils

• The teacher may ask students on the two sides to

switch halfway through the alley. Devil’s


Hands-on Practice

In groups, with reference to the learning and

teaching material provided, plan a lesson that

involve the use of debating as a teaching strategy :

You should:

• think about the objectives and expected

outcomes of the lesson

• show how the debate activity can help students

achieve the learning objectives/complete the task

• outline the teaching steps (e.g. the sequence of

tasks that comes before or/and after the debate)

Assessment of the Debating Module

in the HKDSE

Public Examination




Paper 2 Writing – Part B

‣ A longer and more open-ended writing task of

about 400 words

School-based Assessment

Part B – The Elective Part

‣ A group interaction or an individual

presentation based on the modules in the

Elective Part



Paper 2 Writing

Questions specifically set for the debating module:

Module Text type Role Task






A letter to the




A reader of

the Hong

Kong Post

• describe some unreasonable complaints

you have heard

• explain why you think those people

making complaints are unreasonable






A speech to

students at the

school assembly



A student –




• explain the debating club activities

• explain the benefits of being in the club

and the importance of debating skills in


Paper 2 Writing Topics

from 2013 HKDSE Exam Paper

Other questions involving arguments and persuasion:

Module Text type Role Task





A letter to the

Bus Operators

Association of

Hong Kong



An article for

the company





A local


A human



• express your concerns about private school

bus service operators who do not follow

proper safety procedures when dealing with

young children

• give recommendations for how private

school bus services could be improved

• describe the issue of your colleagues leaving

the office very late

• discuss the negative effects

• give suggestions to improve the situation

Paper 2 Writing Topics

from 2012 HKDSE Examination Paper

Module Text type Role Task



A response to a

debate on an

online forum


A reader of

a e-


• express views on the value of doing

virtual sports (e.g. games on a Wii)

versus real sports

• give reasons to support your views


A response to a

debate on an

online forum



A websurfer


reader of an



• express views on whether using drama

techniques in class brings educational

benefits and whether serious learning

can take place through drama

• share personal experience of learning

through drama



A Letter to the



A reader of

Hong Kong


• express views on the obsession with

physical beauty and cosmetic surgery

• give examples and explanation

Paper 2 Writing

General assessment criteria for writing

Content Language Organisation

• Fulfilment of

requirements of


• Relevance of


• Development of


• Creativity/imaginati


• Ability to engage

readers (i.e. interest)

& audience


• Accuracy, range &

complexity of



• Grammar


• Word choice

• Accuracy of

spelling &


• Appropriateness

of register, tone &


• Effectiveness of

text organisation &


development of


• Cohesion of text

(i.e. appropriate

use of cohesive ties)

• Coherence of

overall writing

EDB One-stop Portal for Learning & Teaching

Resources Assessment Tasks Bank



A Sample Assessment Task

Your cousin in Vancouver, Vince, has sent an email to tell you, with

both excitement and anxiety, that he has joined the school debating

team and will take part in his first debate next month. The motion is

“Every secondary school student should take a gap year (a year off to

work or travel) before starting university”. Your cousin is the first

speaker of the affirmative side.

As an experienced debater yourself, write a reply to tell him how he

can prepare for this debate. You should include some information


• what he can say in his role;

• the arguments he can use in his rebuttal; and

• how he can be a more persuasive speaker.

Sign your name “Chris”.

Step 1: Understanding the Topic

Text Type:



To advise

Role of the Writer: A secondary student

Target Reader:

Cousin, who is also a

secondary student

Detailed Analysis of the Question


Pre-writing Preparation and Prior Knowledge

Content Language Organisation

• Researching on the

issue of gap year and

find out arguments for

and against taking a

gap year before


• Participating in an oral

discussion on an issue

related to teenage life

• Watching a live or

recorded debate to

identify the role of

each speaker and

procedure of a debate

• Discussing what makes

a persuasive debater

based on a debate


• Introducing debaterelated

vocabulary to

describe a debate (e.g.

affirmative, negative,


• Introducing vocabulary

related to study and

employment (e.g. career,

prospect, skills)

• Introducing modals,

imperatives and other

sentence patterns to

give suggestions and

advice (e.g. You

should/may…; I suggest

you …)

• Discussing tone in

personal emails (i.e.

personal, friendly,


• Discussing the structure of

an advice email (i.e. an

opening to greet the

reader and show empathy,

a body section to detail the

advice, and a final section

to give reassurance)

• Introducing appropriate

cohesive devices and

expressions to link up

advice and suggestions (e.g.

It’s not enough to just

know the arguments in

favour of taking a gap year.

You’ll also need to be

prepared to rebut…; Finally,

let me say something

about arguing persuasively)

Suggested Teaching Procedures

Leading to Assessment

Suggested Activities for More

Advanced Students

• To expand students repertoire of knowledge, T may

introduce other more advanced persuasive skills and

strategies and examine their use in successful

speeches, e.g.

– emotional appeal

– personal appeal

– logical appeal

– rhetorical questions

– parallel structure

– repetition

Assessment Form for the Task

A task-specific


form for

clarifying the



Analysis of Students’ Work

Providing Quality Feedback

Hand-on Practice

With the use of the assessment criteria, review

the three pieces of argumentative writing:

You should:

• Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the


• Make suggestions for improvement

• Think of a follow-up activity based on the

student’s strengths and weaknesses

A general


form for



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