Science A-Z Resources to Practice Scientific Argumentation, Speaking, and Listening Skills
Science A-Z Debates provide students with meaningful, interactive experiences that integrate science content, critical thinking, research, speaking, listening, and teamwork. Debates require students to think and act as real scientists. After being presented with a realistic, yet fictional scenario, students consider arguments that are either for or against a proposal, take a position, and then defend it in a friendly, structured format.
Why Use Debates
Debates lay the groundwork for students to develop the important practice of scientific argumentation based on evidence. Students learn to conduct research, form opinions, communicate with peers, consider other points of view, and make new judgments based on arguments supported by evidence. All of these practices are important in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
Conducting a debate helps teachers satisfy many national and state-specific ELA standards and 21st century skills related to communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, and gives students the opportunity to practice compromise, empathy, and decision-making.
How to Use Debates
Choose the Debate Teacher's Guide for your grade range (primary or intermediate) to ensure a successful experience. Each guide offers tips to use before, during, and after the debate.
The Debate Process
- Select a debate that matches the science unit you are currently teaching.
- Review with students the debate components, which include a Purpose, Background, Situation (or “Set the Scene”), and an Idea or Proposal.
- Choose which sheet to provide to students. In grades K-2, choose between a blank T-chart or completed position cards. In grades 3-4 and 5-6, choose between blank cards so students can write about their own opinions or prefilled cards so students can debate based on established positions.
- Ask students to discuss their own positions and use the T-chart or cards.
- Challenge students to defend their positions in a format that you establish based on the ages and abilities of students:
- Formal one-on-one debate in front of the class
- Small groups from each side in a discussion-style debate
- Informal debate with the entire class at once
- Whole class debates the teacher