Product review: Debating Cards

  • Product review: Debating Cards

Contact: www.tts-group.co.uk Reviewed by: John Dabell

Mothers should stay at home and look after their children. Space exploration is a waste of money. There is no longer a need for public libraries. Zoos should be banned. Are you starting to worry about this reviewer’s opinions? No need – because these are actually just a few of the controversial and emotive motions under discussion in a brand new resource from TTS called Debating Cards (LI01897 – £34.95 exc vat).

We all know that young people are good at arguing. What they are not particularly skilled at is debating. Mention the word argument to most people and it will trigger a largely negative response and conjure up an image of conflict and perhaps even violence. But arguing is an art form within the context of a debate as it involves critical thinking, critical listening and critical speaking. Indeed, politicians make a living at it. Learning to debate is a real life-skill for a whole host of jobs and situations beyond Parliament though, and serious thought should be given to finding regular opportunities to debate in class.

Hot topics

This clever collection of 50 Debating Cards is perfect for upper primary children, right through into KS3. Each card is a glossy A4 gem of lively issues. On one side there is the motion along with discussion points and top tips for debating. On the other, you’ll find for and against points to help engage students and kick-start their thinking. The resource also comes with ten ‘Just a Minute’ cards where individuals have to talk for 60 seconds on a selected topic (hesitation, deviation and repetition allowed, however) – which work well as a warm-up. Everything is also on a CD.

The topic areas for each card have been carefully selected and cover relevant themes that children will be able to take ownership of, relate to and offer an opinion on. They are clearly excellent tools to help build self-esteem and self-expression. What the cards can offer the classroom is not only a starting point but a clear structure for setting up and planning a debate with a purpose. They offer advice on reasoning and evidence, expression and delivery, listening and responding and organisation and prioritisation. You could use the cards as they are or incorporate them as a platform for further research. They are great for helping young people to see a topic from a range of perspectives and encouraging them appreciate that life’s issues are seldom black and white but multi-coloured, diverse, elastic and complicated. What I also think the cards will do is help children appreciate fairness and how to compromise, help them how to get a message across and make decisions together.

In my opinion, these sophisticated debating cards will prove useful not just for speaking and listening but within writing too as they will help students to structure what they want to say and make their points within their work with more punch and vitality. And the cards themselves are just a starting point; you could easily add to them and adapt according to your own needs. You could even encourage learners to follow the format and invent their own cards too.

Confidence boosters

These cards are perfect speaking and listening resources for any classroom to help students debate, discuss, argue and role play. They will help children structure their thoughts, extend their vocabulary and think on their feet; and with regular use will engender the confidence required to listen, think and speak critically. They will also help young people learn more about body language, pace, and how to hold their own when conversing with others without it leading to a fight.

My own teaching experience has taught me that informal discussion doesn’t seem to be an especially effective way to foster critical thinking skills, character or resilience, whilst setting up more formal debates most definitely does. Debating helps children develop their own arguments rather than regurgitate those of others and it develops their higher order thinking skills. It should form part of every young person’s classroom experience as the benefits stretch far beyond one subject. Some schools have debating clubs and many enter competitions locally and nationally. Why not consider this for your school too, using these thoughtful and inspiring cards as a source of inspiration?

Adventures in language

Maison Claire Fontaine is a French language trip specialist based in the beautiful Burgundy countryside. Sole use of one of their centres and the use of native French bilingual and crucially qualified teachers ensures all time spent with them is focused on genuine language learning outcomes for your group. Lessons are delivered to lesson plans and schemes of work and link directly to time then spent ‘in the field’ on excursions and activities, which are also all led by the qualified French staff. All this can and is tailored to the objectives of each school that visits with no opportunity missed to generate enthusiasm and measurable language progression for all pupils. www.maisonclairefontaine.com

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