Starting an Elementary School Speech & Debate Club

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Starting a debate club

Speech and Debate clubs are great ways to boost your child’s confidence and a great way to engage them early on in public speaking, improving speech and vocabulary, as well as encouraging leadership roles. The club teaches them vital life skills like project management, and working to be unbiased and see both sides of a topic.

The easiest way to go about it is to have your child become interested. After taking a tour of at a specialty school, I became interested after reading a poster about a debate club. I asked my mother several questions. Her response to me was, “if you want to start a debate club, then write down the rationale on power point and present it to your principal.” Sure enough, that was what I did. My mother gave me a few suggestions, but off I went with her to a meeting to discuss this after school club I wanted to start. I was surprised that all I needed was a parent or teacher who will be there at every club meeting to supervise and facilitate. My mother wanted me to highlight that she called a few administrators for their support too. Fortunately, since she is a leadership coach, she had experience and skills in the corporate world that all the students leveraged while she facilitated and led our club meetings and events.

After the initial steps of creating a club, you want to connect with some high school debate students that show up on a regular basis and teach the kids the skills of researching, collecting, presentation and portrayal of data. Then put up posters around the front of the school about the club to get new members. We had around eight members regularly and smaller is sometimes better so that all kids can present and argue their points.

Then next step is figuring creating an agenda for the meetings. Keep in mind that speech is a HUGE part of the club, buy a book of tongue twisters and have all the students line up and have them practice saying them in a loud clear voice (after introductions of course). Make sure everyone has a turn and encourage the quieter ones to speak up. Then split the kids into two groups from youngest to oldest. Then have each high school student go to one group and talk with them about what they are interested in and which side of the topic they want to argue; pro or con. It’s vital that the children get to choose their topic so they’re more passionate about it.

Then have the kids work at home on their topic. The more they like it, the more they research! Have at least one club meeting while they are researching so that everyone is on the same page. Have the next meeting be the date of the argument, there should be equal numbers of pros vs. cons and mix in some of the stronger speakers so that the quieter ones feel like they have strong support. While teams are presenting make sure to watch along with the coaches, everyone should take notes. All coaches should point out at least one positive set of feedback from each child’s argument and at least one piece of constructive criticism. Make sure there are no “winners” while you may think one side spoke better, you have to put these children in a growth environment where they are fueled by passion and not by short lived competitiveness. Then start the process over again at the next club meeting, it’s nice for the kids to be able to pick their own topic and feel independent and strong which all funnels into their confidence and individuality as a person.

Then at the end of the year invite teachers, parents, guidance counselors, high school debate coaches, and area administrators to attend the end of the year debate. View this as their grand finale, give them a couple weeks to trim and practice their speech. For this debate it’s best to do something relevant so that everyone can see how the children view a certain issue or topic, their voices aren’t always heard and this is a way that we as parents can help them speak up for what they believe in. It’s important to see the children grow and thrive each week, by the end they become much stronger, confident public speakers—qualities that our youth need to be developing.

Washoe County School District press release article on the Debate Club.

Blog by IRK

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