Debate Games and Exercises
1. "The Parachute Game"
This game is inspired by the Father Ted episode "Flight into Terror" where the priests are trapped on a plane and they have only two parachutes to get people off the plane. In order to decide who will get them, Ted asks all the others to write a speech about why they should the parachute. Essentially, you are getting the students to recreate this situation.
This debate is primarily about develop the skill of making arguments in favour of a motion or an idea. It is particularly useful as grounds them in the real world (by getting them to advocate for a real person or thing) before they end up debating more abstract ideas.
1. Students will be able to argue for a particular position
2. Students will develop their research skills and learn to use evidence to promote an argument
3. Students will be able to convince their audience of the correctness of their position
· This is best used as a prepared exercise. Tell students a few days in advance that they will be speaking, so they can research their speech properly. This game works best with four or five students.
· Explain to the students that they are to imagine they are on a plane full of famous figures from history. The plane will soon crash and there is only one parachute available.
· Students are to imagine that they are any person from history and they have to write a speech (2 to 3 minutes) explaining why they should get the parachute.
· Students then deliver their speeches to the whole group and the group votes for who they think should the parachute after they have all spoken.
After you've done the above exercise with students, there are a number of ways that you expand it to use it in the future as students become more confident and skilled.
· "I deserve it more than them" - after they've all spoken, get each of the speakers to explain why they should get the parachute over the other people. They must make reference to what other speakers have said and explain why their historic figure is more important than the others. This helps students work on their rebuttal.
· Narrow the focus. Tell the students they have to pick someone from a particular category like sports stars or American presidents or Irish independence leaders etc. This allows for greater comparative arguments between the speakers.
· Make it a life raft. Change the imaginary scenario to one where students have to advocate for the inclusion of something on to the last life raft which is leaving for humanity's new home. They have to argue for the importance of things like subjects in school, scientific inventions, films, sport teams and so on.
· Use it in the classroom. This game can be used across the school to get students to engage in various aspects of subjects they are being taught: students arguing which character is most important is whatever play they are studying in English, which scientist has had the biggest impact on life through their work in science, what city students would want to live in geography and so on.
Written by Mr. Gregg O'Neill