Debate Topics for Middle School

In 2022, debate remains a skill that students benefit from picking up in middle school. It sets them up to have the ability to discuss topics with their peers in a productive manner well into adulthood. They develop auxiliary skills too such as speech, conversation, and creative writing skills.

Let’s explore the skill of debate a little further and debate topics for middle school students.


What Is Debate?

A debate is a formal discussion on a defined topic. It can take place in structured and unstructured settings. For example, families can engage in informal debates at the dinner table. Students can participate in debates in structured classroom settings, clubs, and competitions.

At least two people with opposing views engage in the discussion. Sometimes they aim to win it. Other times, they hope to sway opinion in their favor. 

Although the discussions can become heated, ideally, participants will remain cordial and civil. Plus, they will back up their opinions with facts and figures as opposed to only their emotions. 

Members of the education community believe that 12 years old is a good age for students to start debating on a competitive level. They also agree that debating benefits the pupils.

Why Do Middle School Students Benefit from Debating?

Students in middle school range from ages 10 to 14. They are a step away from becoming full-fledged teenagers and high school scholars. Since high school provides an environment that develops young adults, it’s more manageable when pupils enter it with critical thinking skills and confidence. 

Debate is a great way to help them gain both.

More specifically, students pick up the following abilities through debate:

  • Public speaking skills
  • Improves information retention
  • Research abilities
  • Teamwork and collaboration

Researchers estimate that 70% of the adult population fears speaking in public. The fear ranges from slight anxiety to severely paralyzing. Lack of confidence is one reason why adults have this fear. Believing that audiences won’t receive their words with praise is another.

Public speaking is another form of communication. Individuals who cannot communicate in this manner might not share important thoughts, obtain meaningful job promotions, or receive raises.

If students pick up debating skills in middle school, they can walk into their high school years and adulthood with more self-assurance. Plus, they can research, work in collaborative environments, and opine more clearly.

"Teachers who find topics that engage students can help them develop lifelong skills."

Classroom Debate Process

When teachers set aside class periods for debate assignments, they assign a topic. Then, the students receive a night or more to prepare. Teachers can assign topics such as Should schools ban math from lesson plans? Those who do not enjoy the subject might say that schools should remove it from the curriculum. However, they need to prove their opinion methodically and factually. Thus, they need to research.

Many teachers pair students. It should help them deliver a creative opinion and split up the research. So the pupils receive another taste of teamwork and collaboration. 

High school is an intimidating period for many teenagers. If they enter it with confidence and the ability to speak and think, students can successfully navigate the awkward teen years and peer pressure. Then, carry it into adulthood.

Picking up the skill requires some structured experiences. 

Related resource: Lincoln-Douglas Style Debate Procedure

How to Structure Classroom Debate Sessions

Schools that have 45- to 60-minute class periods can easily fit in three to four student debates per session. 

Each debate requires a:

  • Topic
  • Group that defends the resolution
  • Group that opposes the resolution
  • Judge panel

During the debate, the group that defends the resolution begins with two minutes on the clock. Then, the team opposing the resolution receives two minutes to present their case. Next, both teams receive another two minutes to make rebuttals and summarize their position. The team opposing the resolution starts first. The team supporting the resolution closes the debate.

When judging debates, teachers and the panel should judge the quality of the arguments. Let’s consider the topic: Are dogs better pets than cats? The topic is similar to a rhetorical question. No correct answer truly exists. However, individuals can have strong feelings about one position or the other.

The goal is to have students defend their position through facts and statistics. Then, they must deliver their findings and opinions in a clear, concise manner. Next, they must listen to the other side. Even though they might not agree, pupils can only provide rebuttals if they listen. Thus, debate improves student listening skills too. 

What other topics can students debate?

Related resource: Compulsory Voting: For or Against?

Debate Topics for Middle School Students

If you’re wondering What are some debate topics for middle school? The good news is that you can keep the topics light. You might also wonder What are some good debate topics?

We can explore both.

The most debated topics of 2021 included:

  • Gun rights
  • Religious freedom
  • Animals rights
  • Vaccine mandates
  • Abortion
  • Legalization of drugs

In many cases, the most debated topic remains gun rights.

For your classroom setting, you can pick one of the above topics. You can also pick topics that impact the students on their level.

In 2021, middle schoolers said that gaming, COVID-19, social media, and the new United States President interested them the most. They also had an interest in future technology such as the possibility of flying cars, aliens, and anime.

To make the sessions meaningful to the students, consider topics that impact them as middle schoolers such as:

  • Should schools ban homework?
  • Is it better to excel at sports than academics?
  • Should the United States lower the voting age?
  • Should schools mandate uniforms?
  • Are Macs better than PCs?
  • Should schools ban junk food?
  • Should every student play an instrument?

After giving them time to think and research, some answers and positions that they give might surprise you. Do most students enjoy completing homework at home? Probably not. However, if they understand that it reinforces their lessons, they might accept it. 

Teachers who find topics that engage students can help them develop lifelong skills.  


Teachers help develop the generation of tomorrow. Incorporating debate sessions into the curriculum benefits the students who will need to communicate with their peers, think critically when making decisions, and listen to others with opposing points of view. 

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