21Debating an Issue

by Danny K. Howard, EAP Associate Director

For students in our EAP program, debate is something they will do several times in the school year. Debate is a great way to develop your critical thinking skills. It also helps students to look at topics from many different viewpoints.

Debate is also something done at many colleges & universities. It is great because it combines all of the 4 major skills together:

  1. 1) First, students must read & sometimes research their topics completely.
  2. 2) Then they must think critically & write out their arguments.
  3. 3) Next, they must practice what they will speak about in the debate.
  4. 4) And finally they must listen to their opponents’ arguments.

Here is a fun activity that students can do to improve their debating skills. Practice doing this now, and you will really impress your teachers later!!

What to do:

1 Choose a very simple topic to debate. Just choose an issue that has at least 2 sides to it. Here are some easy ideas.

  • Which is better: one long vacation or a few short ones?
  • Should students wear school uniforms?
  • Should all students take English in high school?
  • Which is a better pet: a dog or a cat?
  • Which is a better country to study English in: America or England?

Now, make a chart like the one below and write out some possible pros (good points) and cons (bad points) like the sample below. It’s good to do this for both sides because it is good to know your opponent’s ideas!

Should students wear school uniforms?

Yes, they should

It would save time getting ready in the morning

Their parents would save money

Students feel part of a group

Students feel equal

Students stay out of trouble because people know their school

No, they shouldn’t

It destroys individuality


It makes school boring

Students feel too much the same

Students can feel relaxed when they study

Students can be fashionable

2 Next, write a short paragraph including many of your arguments above. You can either choose one of them or write an argument for both sides.

Students should wear school uniforms for the following reasons. First, it would save them time when they get ready in the morning. For example, in the morning, I can get ready in only 30 minutes because I don’t have to select what I will wear. However, when I did a homestay in California last year, I took a long time in the morning to decide my clothes. Next, parents will save money. For example, my host brother used to wear very expensive sneakers. And every few months he wanted the newest style. He was the same way with his clothes. I thought about how lucky I was to not have to worry about the latest fashion! In addition, students can also feel a part of a group. When my friends and I wear our uniforms, we feel very close to each other. We also feel a lot of pride in our school...

As you can see, the person has added a lot of examples to support the arguments. Examples are very important in anything you do at NIC or abroad!

3 Finally, you can practice saying what you wrote. Have fun with it when you do this!

Of course, this is a lower level debate topic. Higher level debate topics require more reading about the topic. But first do some easy ones like the one above. Planning for a debate is great for almost anything you do here at NIC or abroad. Most importantly, it teaches you to group ideas and support an argument.

Try out some of the other ideas above. If you need some more topics, feel free to send me an email and ask!

Take care!
Danny K. Howard