Matthew Walsh's EFL ESL website

How to do a debate class
  We've seen students doing a debate, or perhaps been invited to judge a debate, but how could we get our students to perform such a feat? 
  I thought their were 3 things my students would need to try this out. 1) A hot topic. 2) a whole class awareness of the issues surrounding this topics, and 3) the language to piece an argument together.
  I had an idea for how to deal with the material.  I had heard the term 'Active Reading'. The active reading thing was basically using pre-reading activities to touch on (activate) known relevant vocab,ulary items and then following up with some post-reading activities aimed at overall comprehention, but the way I did it involved the students paraphrasing the main points of a text and collaborating an understanding. If the text were about a controversial issue, it would be perfect ammo for a debate. Anyway, you can see below the stages I tried. It worked!
  Click here for my idea of an 'Active Reading' lesson.

Why do a debate class?
1) The have Ss comprehend and use key vocabulary in a clear context.
2) To develop skills of expression and assertiveness in English.
3) To develop general awareness on the topic.

Stages for debate class:
1. Select topic.
  I had select students write a topic on the board and then took a vote as to which one we would do. They chose  "Japan's self defence force being deployed to Iraq."
2. Prepare texts with opposing viewpoints.
  I wrote up two texts with opposite opinions fairly easily. Doing the intensive reading activities below using these texts would cover the topic itself fairly thoroughly, thus consolidating a whole-class awareness of the issues involved in the topic.
  Click here to see 'For',  and here to see 'Against.'

3. Do pre-reading prediction activity to activate previous knowledge on topic.
  I had them skim the text for 3 minutes and then had select students write on the board two things: 1) What they thought the main point was, and 2) Something they predict they would see if they read more closely. Then after a second reading (8 mins), checked to see if they were right.

4. Follow readings with Q's aimed at comprehension. Ss write own answers as T paraphrases, and reads out answers of students who finished quickly..
   At the end of the passage there were some questions listed. Giving the students a little time to look over the question, one by one I would say out the answer, paraphrasing, so as not to use the exact phrases that were in the passage. Once a few of the students had started to write their own answers, I started peaking over their shoulders and read them out slowly, encouraging the slower students to borrow the sentence as their answer.

5. Have Ss summarize main points of both texts using a graphic organizer.
  In groups of 4, I had them go back over both texts and summarize the points of the sides arguement on a 'Graphic Organizer', sheets very useful for brain storming and such.  Since there were 2 sides to this arguement they had to fill out two organizers. This got them to reinforce the phrases they would use later when the debate would start. At this point, they were only writing fragments, just enough identify the point.
Click here to download my 'Graphic Organizer'.

6. Divide class into 'for' and 'against'.
  Odds were 'for', evens 'against'. Students that had a preference could switch as long as the number came out even in the end.

7. Have Ss compile/prepare their points/opinions on blank sheet.
  Now they used their organizers to prepare their own arguement. Some students were able to add things and construct their own paragraph, some just came up with a string of a few sentences. They had only written phrases on the organizers so this gave themn a chance for some free production.

8. Ss individually present points. Other Ss prepare rebuttals on graphic cluster sheet from before. ( the side they are against ).
  The students needed a chance to come up and say their point once as practice. This also gave the other students a chance to imagine what they would  say against them.

9. Pairs battle in a tournament style. Pairs turn around, other Ss vote by hand on winner.
 After 2 students would come up and battle. They would be asked to face their back to the class while raised hands were counted as to "who had a stronger point."

   This really worked well and It took about 5 classes to finish. I really felt the students picked up a lot of language and had a chance to use it for themselves, thus transffering ownership of the language in the text over to the students.