Welcome to Competitions Week here at Noisy Classroom, where we’re dedicating a whole week’s worth of blog posts to debating and oracy competitions. Hopefully you’ll read our posts and be inspired to enter your students into some competitions…or even host your own.
DEBATING COMPETITIONS – A CHECKLIST FOR TEACHERS
Debating competitions are a fantastic and fun learning experience, for both students and teachers. However, as with all school trips, preparing for debating competitions can take a lot of time.
This checklist aims to help you register for, prepare, and attend competitions, so that your school can get the most out of the day.
When registering for the competition:
- If you’re at a state school check if there are any bursaries or fee waivers. Most competitions have them, but you often need to ask for one.
- If you can, offer to host a regional round. It is a great way to get more students involved with, and exposed to, competitive debating, and can also be a way to raise your school’s profile in the local community.
- Check when you need to pay for competition entry.
- Put it in the school calendar and start filling in all the necessary trip forms.
Before the competition:
- Check and see if there are any prepared motions and if there are, get thinking of arguments.
- Check the format. Is this competition using 3-a-side debates? Is the format British Parliamentary?
- Is this the first round of a multi-round competition? Or is it a one-day competition?
- If you’re feeling up to it, why not volunteer to host your local regional round? This is a great way to show off your school, and expose more of your students to debating competitions.
- Read and listen to the news and make a note of any ‘hot topics’ – one of the debates might be on current affairs.
- Have a chat to your students. What are they hoping to get out of the competition? What one or two things do they want to really focus on improving?
- There is likely to be a lot of down time (between rounds, breaks, while your students are preparing etc.) so make sure you take something to occupy your time: a book to read, marking, a podcast to listen to.
On the day:
- Take water, snacks and a packed lunch if food isn’t going to be provided.
- Make sure you have plenty of paper and pens. Do you want a stopwatch so students can time their speeches?
- Ask judges for extra individual feedback. This can be a really useful opportunity to get some extra debate coaching, from someone who is hearing your students from the first time.
- Judges may use jargon-heavy feedback, assuming you and your students understand all the terms they are using. If your students didn’t understand the advice they were given, make sure you ask the judge to explain it again – it is the judge’s job to deliver a clear, useful adjudication. If your students are beginners, try and tell the judge before they deliver their feedback – that way they can better pitch their advice to help your students.
- There has been an increasing trend in competitions, especially those in the British Parliamentary format, for teams to dispense with style with the speakers focussing instead on making fast-talking analytical speeches. At Noisy Classroom, we believe a good debater’s first priority should be to make well analysed points. However, they should not forget that debating is also about spoken persuasion and that style can be a useful tool in convincing both judges and audiences.
- Use time between rounds to relax and talk about topics other than debating. Your first competition can be a really nerve-wracking experience, so make sure students have some time to take a break and have a moment to themselves.
- Note down feedback (even if students don’t) – then you will know which areas to focus on improving at your next club session.
- Competitions often run late, especially those organised by university students, so make sure your travel plans are flexible and students’ parents have been told that your return time is just an estimate.
- Talk through the day with the students. What was their favourite motion? Which was the hardest?
- Implement some of the feedback and advice from the judges
- If there was a debate in which your students really shone, you could also ask them to do it again as a ‘show debate’ in your club or in an assembly
- If your students enjoyed the competition (which they hopefully will have done), then sign up for your next one!