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Nothing Like a Good Rebuttal

Brown Wooden Gavel on Brown Wooden Table

Yep, “rebuttal” is just a fun word to say.

Teaching kids rudimentary debate format and skills is another really fun way to think, learn, and process a year’s learning as we all stretch through late May and into June.

I usually just teach “argument”, “rebuttal”, and “conclusion”.

Simple structure:

  • Ask a Question
  • Form Teams
  • Mini Prep Time
  • Timed Arguments and Rebuttals until “done”
  • Conclusions


  • Teach three terms, with modified meanings for simplicity:
    • An argument starts a discussion.
    • Rebuttal- must address the argument of the other team
    • Conclusion- most cogent points of each team wrapped up
  • AWESOME kids debate podcasts that you may want to listen to before or after:


  • Ask a question with two answers, like
    • Pizza or Tacos
    • Equilateral, Isosceles, or Scalene (yes, three groups)
    • Learn Spanish or Learn Chinese/Cantonese
    • Non-fiction or Fiction
    • Independent or In Groups
    • Train or Airplane
    • Cats or Dogs
    • Study History or Study AI
    • Museum or National Park
    • Peanut Butter or Nutella
    • Tiny House or Tent
  • Keep asking until you get somewhere close to half and half.
  • Some of the Ground Rules I used- take them or leave them
    • Each argument gets a rebuttal from the other team.
    • The rebuttal can be followed by another argument or a rebuttal to the rebuttal.
    • No one gets a second chance to speak until all members have spoken. (This encourages discussion among team members- sometimes feeding of ideas. It’s okay.)
    • Every team member makes at least one argument or rebuttal.
    • An argument or rebuttal can be concise but must be a full sentence.
    • The conclusion is made either when things wind down or when set time is up. (Maybe have a few quick debates, depending on how they do.)
    • I allow a team meeting before the conclusion and a team-chosen person for the conclusion.
  • They choose their stances, stand on opposite sides of the room with desks in the middle.
  • A fun wrinkle- switch entire teams so that they defend the opposite of their opening opinion.
  • I usually provide a 5-10 minute, in-team discussion time before debating begins- with white boards so they can share ideas with speakers on their teams.
  • I am usually the moderator- but even better if you have a student do it.
  • Timers can be helpful- 30 seconds max per argument or rebuttal

Go on, argue and rebut!

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