Mini-Debates on Space Exploration

Lexington H.S. (MA) debate coach Katie Gjerpen recently posted to the National Debate Coaches Association Listserv (which you can register on the NDCA site) this useful variation on the Mini-Debate Exercise, using next year’s space exploration topic and this conveniently organized space weaponization debates website as the source of both topics and evidence.

For my second-year debate class of around 20 kids, I used this lesson:

I chose three “debates” discussed on the site:

US Space Assets Threatened/Not Threatened
Space Weaponization Inevitable/Not Inevitable
Space Weaponization Advantageous/Not Advantageous.

The site is great in the way it breaks down each topic –

I picked 5-6 pieces of “evidence” for each side of the three arguments. I formed 6 groups with 3-4 students in each. Each group received the set of “evidence” for their topic and was paired with the opposing group on the same topic. I gave them the full period to prepare for the next class’ mini-debates by having them read through/highlight their evidence and come up with strong analytics.

Here are the speech times and informal structure I used:

Team 1 Constructive (4 minutes): Present your OWN argument with an explanation, evidence and analytics
Cross-X (3 minutes)
Team 2 Constructive (4 minutes): Present your OWN argument with an explanation, evidence and analytics
Cross-X (3 minutes)
Team 1 Rebuttal (3 minutes): Respond to your opponents’ argument and explain why yours is better Team 2
Rebuttal (3 minutes): Respond to your opponents’ argument and explain why yours is better

Since there were 3-4 students in each group, I had the students pick two spokespeople for the Constructive and Rebuttal. All students participated in Cross-X.

I especially like the idea that the teacher pre-selects the evidence for each side of each of the debate. This can focus your students on structuring their arguments and on refutation.

You might want to try this exercise out with your debaters this week or next, and if you do let us know how it goes!

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