Introduction — Coaches

We are so excited that you are the one who will be teaching the next generation of students about speech & debate.

Speech & debate education is a form of active learning that has been embraced by millions of students around the world to help students develop foundational skills in communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and character. Skills that are commonly referred to as the “5Cs.”

The “5Cs” are currently the most sought-after job skills, and in a world of advancing artificial intelligence, where machines will be able to complete many tasks requiring physical and intellectual labor, individuals who need to establish their own businesses will need to learn how to work well not only with AI tools but with each other.

Already, many students who have participated in speech & debate consider it to be one of the most important, and often the most important, educational experiences of their lives. They report learning how to critically analyze information, organize it, discern new ideas from it, present it orally, compare and contrast it with other ideas, and defend it in a debate are essential skills they use every day at work.

As you begin your debate course, one critical thing to keep in mind is that speaking and debating are skills. For students to develop these skills they must be actively involved in practicing the development of these skills. Although there will certainly be content that you need to teach, instruction in speaking and debating will focus more on helping the students develop as speakers and debaters rather than primarily on content. 

You might even go so far as to compare teaching debating to coaching a sport. When coaching a sport, you would teach students the rules of the game, develop their skills, and develop and teach them some plays they can execute on the field.  You will do all of these when teaching your students about debate, but your plays will become your arguments.

In the process of teaching these skills, you will also need to encourage your students, motivate them, pick them up when they are down, teach them important values, and, hopefully, celebrate their many competitive successes if they enter speaking and debating competitions. And it is through these competitions that they will continue to be motivated to improve.  Again, all the things you would need to do as an athletic coach.

Eventually, your students will learn how to do these things on their own.  You can of debate coaching as first show a person a fish, demonstrating how to fish, helping them learn to fish, and empowering them to fish on their own.

In this Teacher’s Guide, we aim to provide you with the tools you need to assist students with learning the critical components of speech and debate.

The Guide is meant to be adapted to the specifics of your own teaching schedule and the pace at which your own students will learn the material.  Depending on the length of your specific classes, the number of students enrolled, and the background and English-speaking abilities of your students, you many need to adjust the pacing of the lesson. This is something you already understand as a teacher.

As you approach teaching debate, please remember that the most important thing is what you already know — how to be a teacher. The content of speech and debate may be new to you, but
teaching is not. Teaching is what you are already good at doing. If you maintain your focus on being a great teacher, you will succeed in being a great teacher of speech and debate.

Next: Introduction to Debate