Some teachers set up one hot seat to represent each side, and students must take turns in the seat.In less formal variations (which require less prep), a teacher may simply read provocative statements students are likely to disagree on, and a debate can occur spontaneously without a text to refer to (I call this variation This or That in my classroom icebreakers post).
Note that these are not strict categories; it’s certainly possible to simplify or add more meat to any of these structures and still make them work. These are smaller techniques that can be integrated with other instructional strategies and don’t really stand alone.
From that spot, students take turns defending their positions.
Variations: Often a Philosophical Chairs debate will be based around a text or group of texts students have read ahead of time; students are required to cite textual evidence to support their claims and usually hold the texts in their hands during the discussion.
For larger classes, teachers may need to set up seminars in more of a fishbowl-like arrangement, dividing students into one inner circle that will participate in the discussion, and one outer circle that silently observes, takes notes, and may eventually trade places with those in the inner circle, sometimes all at once, and sometimes by “tapping in” as the urge strikes them.
Basic Structure: Give students a broad question or problem that is likely to result in lots of different ideas, such as “What were the impacts of the Great Depresssion?