The Debate lesson

I’ve been eagerly awaiting to post this lesson idea after spending the past three weeks in England teaching the Global Young leaders course I am responsible for running. This course is not language based and students had to write an essay to apply and be considered. Most of these topics are quite advanced but if you teach Upper-intermediate or higher your students will have enough language to express themselves. It’s also worth pointing out that the debate format allows for teachers to focus on communication skills. That means, that after observing a couple rounds of debating highlight some do’s and dont’s that students should be aware of when talking to each other. This activity is meant to help with communication as much as with vocabulary. I’ve added some ‘teacher notes’ below for some structure on how to organize the lesson but it’s flexible according to teacher/student needs. Enjoy!


Teacher notes:

There are a a few approaches to this lesson idea. You can focus on specific topics as they are below, then choose some of the controversies and have the debate. Another way is to focus on ‘functional language’ that students can use when debating like: showing the speaker you are listening, adding an additional point, supporting your arguments, linking expressions, disagreeing/agreeing, opinion adjectives, expressing opinions etc. Once you choose what language you want to focus on introduce it, make it visible and go to the debate. Another way it to introduce specific vocabulary related to the topics in order to help students discuss them.

Debate format:

For the debate itself I’ve always had this approach: Put students into A and B groups and give them each a side of the controversy. In those groups students deliberate and brainstorm their arguments to support their side of the argument and after a set amount of time you put them in one-on-one pairs facing each other with someone from the other group. This allows students to bounce ideas off of each other during the brainstorm in case some lack ideas and then gives them an opportunity to debate a different person each time(change the person they debate for each round). If you have a big class you can break them into smaller groups by language strength or age(older ones will be better at this than younger students).

As mentioned above this activity is very beneficial because it practices communication, emphasize that this isn’t meant to be competitive- I win you lose type of activity but to practice communication skills and vocabulary.

Debate topics 


  1. Husband and wife should equally share the responsibilities of the household. This means that husbands should help raise children, cook, clean toilets, and go food shopping. Women should make repairs in the house/car and do the gardening and take care of family finances. 
  2. It is ok for wives/mothers to work full time and earn money for the family to live. 
  3. Every professional should be paid the same amount for any job they do: doctors and plumbers, lawyers and construction workers, teachers and politicians 
  4. Gay and transsexuals should be allowed to marry and be parents. 
  5. Education for all, means that everyone gets the same quality university education rich or poor. 


  1. Being vegetarian or vegan is a waste of time. 
  2. Climate change is not a real issue. 
  3. A zero waste life should be obligatory. 
  4. Only the government has the power to diminish the impact of climate change. 
  5. There should be a limit on how many children you can have. 
  6. Our fruit and vegetables need to be genetically modified so as we can eat whatever we want at whatever time of the year we fancy. 
  7. I should be able to have the latest phone upgrade because it’s fashionable and it’s got nothing to do with the environment or the world’s resources. 
  8. Fracking is the best way of ensuring energy provision to maintain our industries and lifestyle 
  9. Second-hand clothes are for paupers not for leaders. 
  10. Sites like freecycle are pointless 

21st century 

  1. Should private companies be allowed to collect any data they want on people who use their services? (Google, Facebook, Amazon) 
  2. Are you in favor of artificial insemination as a way of reducing the risk of, and possibly eliminating, genetic diseases? 
  3. There are more benefits than dangers improving artificial intelligence? 
  4. Is it ethical to take performance-enhancing substances/ nutritional supplements? 
  5. How often do you expect to change career in your lifetime? 
  6. Would you emigrate to another country? Give reasons and explanations for your answer. 
  7. Would you marry someone from another country? Give reasons and explanations for your answer 

It’s debatable (more statements)

  1. Modern technology doesn’t make our lives better
  2. Marriage can’t be forever in a modern society
  3. Your school days are the best days of your life
  4. Celebrity culture is harmless fun
  5. Protecting culture and traditions from globalization is not important
  6. Governments need to censor the internet to protect their citizens
  7. Art is an expensive waste of money
  8. Thirteen is too young to join a social networking site
  9. A seventeen-year-old shouldn’t be allowed to get a tattoo.
  10. An eighteen-year-old who has just passed his driving test isn’t ready to drive the family car.

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