Leaders That Listen Public Speaking Curriculum

Debate Guide


Debate is an engaging and rigorous way to explore issues that directly impact society -- it also trains your brain to listen carefully, which is important for leaders! When done well, debate can be used to develop empathy, perspective-taking, and productive conflict by teaching people how to navigate difference and interrogate ideas (as opposed to personal attacks). This toolkit is an introduction to debate protocols and argumentation skills, as well as how to judge debate, how to run a debate practice, and even how to start a debate team. Whether you are involved in formal debate, these resources can help you improve your spontaneous speaking and ability to persuade an audience!

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  • reading-video

    Reading w/ Video

  • activity-ideas

    Activity Ideas

  • speech-template

    Speech Template

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  • tips-video

    Tips w/Video

  • rubric-quiz2


  • project-sketcher

    Planning Tool

Resource 1: Debate: Listening Like a Leader


This essay discusses how debate can be used to develop empathy and promote listening.

Resource 2: Using Debate to Navigate Difference


This essay discusses why debate can be exclusionary and inaccessible, unless taught using inclusive methods to navigate difference.

Resource 3: Debate Team Stories: Memories from the Author


The author shares experiences helping a middle school student create a debate team to address issues of diversity and equity.

Resource 4: Getting Debate Started: For Educators and Facilitators


This one-pager contains 6 personal checkpoints for helping people improve their debate skills.

Resource 5: Getting Debate Started: For Speakers


This one-pager contains 6 personal checkpoints to help speakers prioritize key skills to develop in debate.

Resource 6: Getting Debate Started: For Listeners


This one-pager contains 6 personal checkpoints to help people provide better feedback to help debaters improve.

Resource 7: Designing Debates


Use this resource to create different debate formats utilizing six common protocol elements.

Resource 8: Structuring Arguments on the Spot


These tips guide how to analyze topics, outline arguments, diversify arguments, and generate sufficient offense and defense.

Resource 9: Tips for Anticipating and Responding to Arguments


Use this resource to respond to arguments in a debate in a clear, well-organized manner.

Resource 10: The Art of Synthesis and Summary


Use these tips to practice strong closing speeches that summarize key points in a passionate, compelling way.

Resource 11: Parliamentary Debate Format


This resource covers the basics of a spontaneous debate format modeled after British parliamentary procedure.

Resource 12: Moral Judgment Debate Format


This resource covers a classroom method for discussing and debating philosophical questions.

Resource 13: Debate Skill Drills and Warm-Ups


These 8 short activities can be used as drills and warm-ups to focus on specific skills used in debate.

Resource 14: Activity Examples: SPAR and Extemporaneous Panels


Practice argumentation skills through standards-based activities using these protocols for panels and mini-debates.

Resource 15: Class Project: Debate Scrimmages Assignment Sheet


This assignment sheet describes how to run a culminating debate “tournament” to assess debate skills.

Resource 16: Debate Rubric for Outside Judges


This instruction sheet and example ballot can be used for guest judges for a debate tournament.

Resource 17: Community Change Idea: Creating a Debate Team


This extensive checklist outlines what is required to start a debate team.

Resource 18: Project Sketcher


This planning tool and calendar help organize public speaking project goals and prioritize specific skills and milestones.

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