Glossary of Kids' Debate Terms

DebateAble teaches debaters to present their arguments in language that can be easily understood by their audience, avoiding unnecessary "debate jargon" so that arguments are inclusive, engaging and educational for all. At the same time, there are some terms common to our program or the larger debate world that are integral to debate format and make it easier for us to communicate with each other as debaters.

Affirmative Team: Argues in favor of the resolution. The affirmative team is responsible for introducing the resolution with relevant definitions, listing the claims that support their argument along with evidence and reasoning, and refuting the negatives' arguments.

Argument or Argumentation:  Using evidence and reasoning to support claims.

Claim:  Controversial statement that a debater supports or refutes with evidence and reasoning. To be a claim, a statement must have at least two sides. "Schools should run year round" is a claim; "Wednesday comes after Tuesday" is not.

Constructive Speech: A speech that presents a debater's basic arguments for or against the resolution.

Cross Examination: The period during a debate when a member of one team asks questions of an opposing team member to obtain additional information about their arguments and positions. DebateAble does not teach cross-examination to elementary-aged students, focusing instead on combatting opponent's arguments through refutation (see below).

Debate: The process of arguing the affirmative or negative side of a resolution against an opposing team. Debate Matches and Tournaments also include the presence of a judge and an audience.

Definitions: During debates, resolutions sometimes contain terms that require explanation so that all debaters have the same understanding of their meaning(s). Definitions must be fair, relatively unbiased and generally conform to the ordinary meaning of the words. For example, in a debate where the resolution is whether elementary school children should do homework, "homework" might be defined as "an out of school task assigned by a teacher."

Evidence: Information used to support a claim.  Some types of evidence are:

  • Testimonial: evidence from an expert or other external source not including the debater, such as author, researcher, witness, etc.
  • Statistics: measurements, numbers and percentages
  • Personal or anecdotal: first-hand experiences or observations from the debater.

Fallacy, or Logical Fallacy: Bad or erroneous reasoning that results in an unsound argument.

Flowing: Taking notes during a debate in order to keep a record of what's been said and prepare for refutations and cross examinations.

Judges: Individuals who listen to debate, decide the winner, rank debate competitors, and ensure that the experience is educational for all participants in a debate competition.

DebateAble Debate Format:  A format that matches two, three-person teams against each other, one team affirming and one opposing the resolution. Both teams emphasize critical thinking skills, education and tolerance for differing viewpoints through their arguments and behavior. All debaters are required to argue both sides of the resolution.

Negative Team:  Argues against the resolution and the affirmative team's arguments. The negative team states the claims that support their position, provides evidence and reasoning, and refutes the affirmatives' arguments.

Reasoning: Using analysis to connect the evidence to the claim.  An argument using reasoning might look like this:

"All humans should be vegetarians (claim)
"because animal farming is the primary reason for the killing and removal of trees, which reduces the level of oxygen on earth (evidence).
"This means that farming destroys the ability of humans to live on our planet just so we can raise animals to be slaughtered for food (reasoning). 
"Therefore, all human beings should be vegetarians (conclusion)."

Rebuttal Speeches:  Speeches in debate that challenge and defend arguments introduced in constructive speeches.

Refutation: An organized attack on an opponents' argument. Refutation is not simply arguing the opposite side of the opposing team. It is the practice of specifically addressing the evidence and/or reasoning of an opponent, exposing weaknesses and undermining arguments. DebateAble students are taught Four-Step Refutation:
They Say...
But... (I disagree; that's not true; the evidence doesn't support this; etc.)

Resolution: The topic or claim being debated.

  • The resolution is always presented as an affirmative statement by the affirmative team, who have the burden of proving the truth of the resolution.
  • To clarify the resolution being argued, we start every debate with the word “resolved.”  Specifically, the first debater or 1A, who presents the topic and argues the affirmative, begins her argument with the resolution. For example, "Resolved: elementary school students should be required to wear uniforms to school."

Watch DebateAble in action.

We see the empowerment that comes when upper elementary students participate in debate. From public speaking to civil discourse to teamwork, and more. Your students can do this too.  See for yourself.

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