Debating the issue

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By Rob Waltonteacher and freelance writer

Teach children why rules are made and how to draft and vote for their own


In the activities that follow, children are going to learn why we need rules, and how governments make laws in a democracy. They will also find out, in theory and practice, what makes a democracy. They will have a debate on a topical issue and generate ways of resolving differences.

The activities have obvious cross-curricular links with English, especially persuasive writing and many aspects of ‘Speaking, Listening, Learning’ as mentioned in the Primary National Strategy guidance. There are also numerous connections with Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL), which many schools are now addressing.

The children will be given much of the information that they need, but will also be asked to contribute what they already know and what they have picked up about such topical issues from the media. Relevant ICT links are also provided. Recording and reporting of citizenship can be difficult, so ensure you keep any notes, take photos and make a big display!

Ages 7-9

Rules of debate

Learning objectives: to resolve differences by looking at alternatives; to compare arguments.

You will need: Activity sheet 6, ‘Debate, decide, discuss’; space for children to enter a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ lobby; pens and papers for children to make notes; whiteboard.

  • Explain to the children that an important part of their citizenship studies concerns rules and laws. Ask if anybody knows any class/school/lunchtime rules. Then ask if anybody knows of any laws that people must follow. If necessary, prompt them by asking about rules concerning driving or voting. Explain that people must agree upon rules and laws, if they are to be effective. Does the school have a school council which helps to make rules in the school?
  • Next, discuss the opportunities that children have to vote on matters which are important to them. Explain that the children are to debate a motion that’s relevant to the school. In this activity, the healthy school meals issue is used as an example. The motion could be: ‘All food served in school should be healthy’. Write the motion on the whiteboard. Talk through the rules of debate, and elect a chairperson by a show of hands. Give the children the chance to discuss the example points on Activity sheet 6, ‘Debate, decide, discuss’ and to add further points of their own. Help the children to split into two groups – those for, and those against, the motion. Decide who will be the main speakers on each side of the debate and ensure all children can have some involvement.
  • You should ensure that the chairperson runs the debate, only intervening when absolutely necessary.
  • At the end of the debate, explain that the voting will now be done as it is in Parliament, by entering either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ lobby. Appoint a child to count how many children have voted for and against the motion.
  • It is important to discuss everything at the end of the activity, so children are aware how the arguments were presented, which points were made well and why it is important to accept the majority decision.
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