Debate Relay


“Debate Relay” is a dynamic and interactive debate format designed to cultivate and refine students’ skills in quick thinking, impromptu speaking, and rapid rebuttal within a debate context. Unlike conventional debate formats, which allow participants time to construct and articulate their points and counterpoints systematically, “Debate Relay” immerses participants in a fast-paced environment where they are compelled to formulate and present their arguments and rebuttals in a concise and impactful manner within tight time constraints.


This activity serves as an invaluable tool not only for honing quick-thinking debate skills but also for brainstorming potential subject areas for competitive debate topics within a vibrant and collaborative environment. By exploring various topics in a rapid, back-and-forth format, participants inadvertently surface areas of interest, controversy, or common misunderstanding, which can be further explored and refined into structured topics for more formal debates.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Quick Thinking: Students will develop rapid response and thinking skills in a debate context.
  1. Persuasive Argumentation: Students will construct succinct and persuasive arguments.
  1. Analytical Acuity: Students will enhance rebuttal and counter-argument abilities.


Divide and Prepare: Begin by dividing students into two teams, ensuring a balanced mix of debating experience across both. Each student should be prepared with a notepad and pen for quick notes during the relay.

Next, choose a topic or issue that possesses multiple facets for debate and that’s appropriate for your classroom. Consider using the current or past NSDA topics. After you introduce the topic, allow teams a brief period to discuss amongst themselves and formulate some preliminary points before the relay begins.

Structure and Timing: Set clear time limits for arguments and rebuttals, and this will depend upon student experience.

  • Refute Opponent’s Argument – 1 minute
  • Present New Argument – 1 minute

Determine a Speaking Order: Establish an order of speakers for both teams, or decide to allow teams to choose their next speaker spontaneously.

Explain the Relay Mechanism: Clearly articulate that Team A will present a point, followed immediately by a rebuttal and a new point from Team B. Stress that the relay involves a continuous alternation between teams, ensuring fluidity and dynamic engagement.

Let’s Debate Relay! Once the relay initiates with the first speaker from Team A presenting their point, an immediate rebuttal followed by a new point must be provided by a member from Team B, maintaining a swift and uninterrupted flow in the debate. The process of presenting a point that counters, and introducing a new point is crucial to uphold throughout the activity, as it ensures continuous engagement and requires participants to be adept in their argumentative and rebuttal capabilities.

As the debate relay continues, you might need to give teams “prep time” so that they can prep new arguments and craft responses to the opposing team.

Review: Conclude this activity by having students evaluate the arguments that were presented in the relay. This juncture provides a fruitful opportunity to identify and discuss potential subjects for deeper exploration, especially if this activity is used to brainstorm arguments for a competitive debate topic.

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