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Pop-up Debate

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The pop-up debate is a way to engage every student in, as creator Dave Stuart Jr. likes to say, earnest and amicable argument by presenting concise and thoughtful remarks on a topic in an open-format debate or discussion.


Essentially, the strategy has two premises: everyone talks, and all remarks should connect to the topic at large while fitting into the context of the current conversation.

Instruct every student to, in turns, stand (pop up) and share an idea related to the topic and current conversation. Why the standing? Because it significantly reduces the overlaps of just shouting out a thought, adding, as well, a layer of formality that induces more composure.

An effective pop-up debate must begin with a topic that students are exploring in some depth. While the topic need not involve controversy, it helps to leverage something with differing (or the potential for differing) opinions.

Consider using pop-up debates with things like articles of the week or other current events.

Another possible source for the topic is a problem of some kind with the potential for open-ended solutions. Be sure students have ample time to explore the topic and draw some thoughtful conclusions or formulate insights and opinions. Then have students record those insights as well as references to the sources from which those insights originated (such as an article, class text, or other website). It may be best to have those notes on a sticky or notecard for ease of reference during the actual activity.


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