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Debate Camp teaches parliamentary style debate.  It is a core style for us, that for the past 22 summers has proven itself to be an excellent vehicle for developing analysis, organized thought, refutation and rebuilding, as well as the capacity to answer questions on the spot.  These are core take-away skills for our 5 and 6 day programs. We have some tip, developed over many summers, that greatly assist in teaching all this... well.



Everything you teach in debate can be connected to the emerging knowledge of the Middle School learner. Kids in these age groups (11 through 14) ar developing an increased capacity to understand the world around them. Always engage them as you instruct. They are full of ideas. You retain their attention far more by soliciting their input as you go. Ask them questions. Get their opinions. Ensure the room is interactive; that there is enthusiastic sharing of knowledge - - even if you have to direct their energy to keep on track, this is far better instruction quality than a quiet room.


Allow some time ahead of your workshops to think ahead. Think ahead on a choice of debate topics, brainstorm prompts, key questions, examples and props. Ensure you have the required materials with you for a variety of activities. Get to your teaching space ahead of time, be set-up and ready for campers. Set up the desks in a purposeful way. Make sure the whiteboard markers work. Make sure your tech works. Be on your feet, be ready to go with a plan in mind. Ensure campers have available what they will need for a successful session; sharpened pencils, notepads and / or their workbooks. In the case of 2 or more instructors in a session, decide in advance who will do what.


Talk less and let them interact more. Middle School learners have about a 4 - 6 minute threshold for auditory learning in exclusivity. They need knowledge in intervals, and then a chance to consolidate their learning - by speaking, trying or working through an idea in conversation with you or other campers. Always pause and check for understanding; call on them to verify the degree to which they are following you before advancing. Give time to practice things; to converse with a small group and come up with ideas. Give them time to share their understanding - again, all in short intervals vs lengthy explanations.


Debate Camp is not a debate tournament. Particularly for novice campers, Once things are underway you do not need to stay completely quiet like in a tournament setting (where judges do not speak until the end). At Debate Camp you serve as judge and moderator, so at the very least you say a few things between speakers. You not only call them up, you can remind them of the task ahead “Mira will now deliver a constructive and rebuttal speech of no more than 4 minutes” etc. You also protect the speaker’s uninterrupted time and quash (nicely) any cross-debate that arises. You maintain that P.O.I-s are in the form of a question. You thank each speaker as they conclude. In spite of having a lot to possibly write down as you listen to the debate - try for more eyes up and encouraging nods even (to all speakers) as they deliver their remarks.


As you listen to debate rounds, it is essential that you capture as much of what they say on a flow sheet that you can review with them in your debrief. All debaters thrive when the feedback you give them honours what they said - and for this to happen, you need capture as many of their points (however slim at times) as possible. This allows you to point out where the debate achieved a true clash of ideas and where some of their best analysis is. It also builds in their mind the importance of measuring what you say, knowing that it has value. Debaters in the younger set often forget what they in fact said in a round - so hearing their round spelled back, inclusive of your comments on where things connected and where impacting prevailed - is huge for them at this age. It very much re-enforces their learning.


Debaters, as they learn the techniques of parliamentary debate, should hold to the following key areas of protocol for the man reasons that it keeps the game friendly, fair and memorable for them:

  1. Always cross the floor and shake hands as the round completes

  2. Ensure P.O.I-s remain questions; remind debaters they do not need to take them all

  3. Show support for each other

  4. Road map and sign-post your material to ensure direction

  5. Speak in role “we on side government” and / or “I as your Prime Minister” etc.


A camper has made an argument during prep time that falls outside of the scope of the debate round, and is really proud of it. How do you approach the camper in such a way that they change their argument to be more persuasive? 

What are some methods of good community building?

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