In-class activity for counterarguments

To illustrate the process of addressing counterarguments you can organize a mini-debate. I choose as the topic legalizing marijuana. I explain that I choose this topic because nearly everyone has an opinion about it and because it generally breaks into three groups.

Students should chose a side and form three groups on the issue: no legalization, legalization for medical use only, and legalization for medical and recreational use.

Then ask each group to write three good counterarguments:

  • The no legalization group writes arguments in favor of legalizing for medical use.
  • The medical legalization group writes arguments in favor of legalizing for recreational use.
  • The anything goes group writes arguments opposed to legalizing at all.

Have each group present their three arguments for the class to see (on board, type in powerpoint, etc.). Each group should then take one of the arguments they wrote and discuss how they would deal with it in their speech if they were giving a speech supporting their own view. Could they refute it? Minimize it? Concede it?

This can be time-consuming, but the instructor can also manage things so that it never becomes a full debate but stays focused on the importance of knowing the other sides’ views to better prepare to address your own.

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About teachingpublicspeaking

I believe public speaking can go from most dreaded class to favorite class. I'm a former public speaking college instructor who spent years seeking out activities, assignments and examples to make the class interactive as well as educational -- they are collected here. I welcome suggestions for additions.

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