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[Lesson Plan/Ideas] Debate Topics

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

(These are not complete/detailed plans but are only meant to help ALTs in Japan come up with their own lesson plans - I had originally written this up so I have a record of the things I’ve done in the past. Please adapt the ideas however you like to fit your own classes and students.)

My Target Students: High School, Low to Mid-Level ESL Japanese Learner

In the previous year, I had worked with most of this grade on exercises to think objectively. I presented the same debate topics, but instead of doing a debate, I focused on the brainstorming part. I wanted them to learn to find information about something, and be able to present information on both sides with has little bias as possible.

Because of this, I will be shortening the brainstorming.

This will take 1 to 2 periods, depending on your class level.

Good Topics for Debate:

- cats vs dogs

- Tokyo vs Osaka

- J-POP vs K-POP

- bubble tea (flavours, stores)

- battle between Disney characters/movies

- school uniforms vs no school uniforms

- superpowers (which superpower is better)

- pizza vs onigiri

- USJ vs Disneyland

- tests vs homework

- (if you’re in a girls school) pants vs skirts

- (if you’re in a boys school) battle between two sports


[Beginning - 15 minutes]

Present students with the theme/topic. Spend some time and have students familiarize themselves with the topic. Encourage the students who don’t have an opinion to use this time to think about topic and try to form some kind of opinion. My current students have technology available and are higher level, so I like to encourage individual thinking and doing this part as a silent activity.

For low level students, you may want to do a more teacher-focus activity by presenting information to students. Your JTE can maybe help you print out some information in Japanese on the topic as a handout, and have students read the information then share opinion in pairs. I highly recommend spending more time on this part as necessary as many Japanese students find it difficult to form opinions, and thinking beyond surface-level reasons such as “I like cats because they’re cute/cool/funny!”

[Choose a side & Defend - 15-30 Minutes]

Tell students now that they must quickly choose a side. If you think your class will have trouble with this for any reason, you could just split the room in half.

If you have 2 whiteboards, give one for each side and have each side write their points on the whiteboard. Instruct students that they must defend their side of the topic, and that they can attack the other side but please make sure they don’t make things personal - at all. They have 5 minutes to present their points to the other side.

[Present Their Arguments - 2nd Period]

Have students present their points they’ve written on the whiteboard.

Make sure you stress that when one side is presenting, the other side needs to be silent and listening carefully. They should write down what they’re saying as they will need to create a counter-argument. Counter-arguments can be difficult for lower level students, so you may want to forego this part altogether or spend some time teaching students and encouraging them to try this part.

In my case, my JTE wanted to have a writing assignment, so I will be giving students some prompts to get them started on writing a counter-argument.

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