Module 0 -> Overview

SPAR debate protocol

Module Overview

The purpose of this module is to introduce the SPAR debate protocol prior to implementing this unit. Because the SPAR debate protocol is a key instructional strategy across modules and directly prepares students for the end of unit task, it is highly recommended that adequate time is taken to teach and practice the protocol.

SPAR is an acronym for SPontaneous ARgumentation and is a popular strategy for teaching debate in 9-12 classrooms. The intention of this module is to provide educators with the information and resources they need to teach the protocol in their classroom. The objective is for students to learn the format of the protocol, and to practice drafting opening statements, actively listening and note-taking as their opponents are presenting their claims. Students will also practice engaging in cross examination, and preparing and presenting closing statements.

While this format is often used in debate competitions in which students have five minutes only to frame their arguments in response to a prompt, the SPAR protocol can be implemented in various ways. In all cases, students should be debating a topic they have a good amount of prior knowledge about.

Modules 1 -4 use a Research SPAR approach as students delve deep into the topic of facial recognition technology and have several weeks to build their depth of knowledge about the topic. Student will engage in SPAR debate at least twice in the unit and have the option to use the protocol for their end-of-unit task.

Nota Bena

Educators who participated in the pilot implementation of this unit indicated that moving forward, they would teach the debate protocol in the beginning of the school year, so students have the opportunity to build their argumentation skills across units. This approach is recommended but you could also teach the protocol immediately before launching this unit. Keep in mind, the more practice students have with the protocol across topics, the stronger their spontaneous argumentation skills are likely to be.

Anchor Text(s) for this Module

Supporting Text(s)/ Resources for this Module

NYS Next Generation ELA Standards

  • W1c: Use precise language and content-specific vocabulary to express the appropriate complexity of the topic.

  • WHST1: Write arguments based on discipline-specific content.

  • SL1: Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on complex topics, texts, and issues; express ideas clearly and persuasively, and build on those of others.

NYS Computer Science & Digital Fluency Standards

  • 9-12.IC.3 Debate issues of ethics related to real world computing technologies.

  • 9-12.IC.1 Evaluate the impact of computing technologies on equity, access, and influence in a global society.


  • protocol: the accepted way of doing something in a particular situation

  • argumentation: logical arguments used to support a theory, an action or an idea

  • position: an opinion on or attitude towards a particular subject

  • affirmative: expressing agreement or the answer yes

  • negative: expressing disagreement or the answer no

  • argument: a reason or set of reasons that somebody uses to show that something is true or correct

  • opening statement: the first speech a debater makes to outline their position and to present their claims and evidence in support of that position

  • cross-examination: to question someone carefully and in a lot of detail about answers that they have already given

  • counter-argument: an argument or set of reasons put forward to oppose an idea or theory developed in another argument

  • closing statement: a final speech that a debater makes after all the claims and evidence have been given by both sides

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