Debate topics for an ESL English class

Written by joel barnard
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Debate topics for an ESL English class
Debate topics for an ESL English class. (Getty Premium images)

Classes with a language level of lower-intermediate upwards should be able to engage in debates if the teacher chooses a topic carefully and teaches the relevant vocabulary. Ensure that all students know the rules of the debate before it starts. In addition, choose topics that are likely to spark interest, but are not likely to offend.

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Smoking should be banned in public places

This debate topic is useful during any course where you have been teaching vocabulary and structures related to health. Before the debate revise key vocabulary such as, "lungs," "cancer," "cost to the public," "nicotine," "addictive," "healthy," "passive smoking," "chain smoker," "smoking-related illnesses," "second-hand smoke" and so on. This is likely to be an emotive topic and lively debate so be prepared to remind students of the debate rules.

The death penalty should be abolished in all countries

This topic works especially well with more advanced classes from intermediate level upwards who have the language to express abstract ideas. Before the debate begins review or teach key language such as, "electric chair," "lethal injection," "innocent," "guilty," "jury," "inhuman," "legal," "law," "rights," "crime," "murder," "abolished" and "court."

The Internet needs to be more strongly regulated

This topic is likely to work well in most classes and with most language levels as it is relevant to most students, and even those with limited language skills are likely to be familiar with much of the vocabulary. Before the debate begins, review or teach key language such as, "websites," "search engines," "browsers," "pornography," violent images," "blocked," "inappropriate," "Google," "international terrorism," "freedom," "malware," "regulated," "viruses," and "spam."

Schools give students too much homework

This debate is likely to work well during any course that has been focusing on the language of education and that contains a large number of parents. Before the debate begins review or teach key language such as, "exhausted," "coursework," "after-school activities," "tests," "math," "biology," "physics," "chemistry," "course," "cram," "revise," "state schools," "private schools," "headmaster," and "education."

"Silly" topics

Not every debate topic need be related to an important social or political issue. Often it is appropriate to ask students to debate something lighthearted and fun, after a two-hour lesson studying exam techniques, for example. Examples of lighthearted topics that will engage most classes include, "Women are more intelligent than men," "Dogs are better than cats," and "Aliens live on Earth."

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