Web teaser: Holding a classroom debate


A formal debate focuses on a proposal, often called a motion. An example of a motion might be something like this:

The voting age should be lowered to 16.


The debate will then be about whether the house (in this case, the class) agrees or disagrees with the motion. At the end of the debate, the class will vote and the motion will either be carried or defeated.


The class must select students to fill the following roles:

  • The Chair: The role of the Chair is to be a sort of referee. He/she keeps order in the debate, deciding whose turn it is to speak and when someone has spoken long enough. The Chair is not allowed to take part in the debate him/herself, nor can he/she vote. (In your classroom debate this role can be taken by the teacher.)
  • The proposer presents the arguments for the motion. This speech should be well prepared, but not read aloud. Use notes.
  • The opposer presents arguments against the motion. As with the first proposer, the speech should be prepared beforehand in the form of notes.


classroom debate

Once the proposer and opposer have presented their arguments, the floor is open to other speakers. Those who want to speak must signal to the Chair who writes them on a list. This list must be followed, but the Chair can allow people to reply if speakers direct questions or comments to them.


It is wise to have a time schedule to ensure that both sides in the debate get an equal opportunity to argue their case. The following is a suggestion:

  • The proposer: max. 4 minutes
  • The opposer: max. 4 minutes
  • Contributions from the floor: max. 2 minutes
  • Replies to contributions: max. 1 minute

The overall length of the debate depends on the time available. But remember to leave time for a vote at the end!


Here are some suggestions for motions:

  • Selling and using tobacco should be made illegal.
  • The parents of young offenders should be fined.
  • Religion is the curse of mankind.
  • Girls are more intelligent than boys.
  • The price of petrol and diesel should be doubled.
  • There should not be any final exams in Norwegian upper secondary school.