Its debatable…Speak Up!

November 15, 2007

Instructional Idea – Flowing and “line-by-line”

Filed under: Debate,Instructional Ideas — bk2nocal @ 12:34 am

Today’s instructional idea is one of my favorite activities to do with students to demonstrate the idea of line-by-line debating and flowing.  I can’t remember exactly where I learned it, but I’ve used it for a number of years at institutes and the students always like it and I find they have a better idea of how line-by-line works after we do it. 


Deck of cards (or two or three)

Large table/floor space

Flow paper

Different colored pens (2 colors)


Get a space where you can lay the playing cards out in a vertical line and side-by-side.  Try to make this location where the students can not see it (behind them perhaps).  Start by flipping over the first card and reading the number and suit out loud to the students, e.g. “My first argument is the three of hearts” – the students should write down what you say on a flowsheet as they would an argument.  Continue to read the number and suit out loud, spacing the cards out in such a way that you will have room to put multiple cards next to each one of them.  Once you have five or six cards stop and tell the students you are moving to the next speech.  For this speech, you should use three point “refutation”, so you would say, “Off the three of hearts, I have two responses, my first is the four of clubs, my second is the ace of diamonds.”  and lay the cards so you can tell they are responding to the three of hearts.  Continue on in this manner, conceding arguments sometimes, making MANY answers to one card, etc.  Once you have completed the “debate” you can have students bring their flows and compare it to the actual “flow” of playing cards you have laid out on the table or floor.


I find this activity to have a number of benefits.  First, it allows the students to get away from having to understand what is being said and allows them to just concentrate on how to flow correctly – proper spacing, line-by-line structure, using symbols, etc.  Second, it uses correct refutation style that they can model in their debates.  Third, it provides students with a visual representation of the flow through the playing cards.  You can play around with this activity – having different “flow sheets” (one on the table, one on the floor, etc.), reading faster and faster, using UNO cards instead of playing cards, having students read the cards, etc.  This is a great activity for novii to do each week.


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