Category Archives: Training Material

Training material for coaches and debaters

Notes on the January 27 Clemency Topic

Happy 2018!

With three weeks of school before our next debate tournament, we thought it might be helpful to share some ideas regarding our next topic with all of you.  The motion for January 27 is:

This House would eliminate executive pardons and commutations.

A very successful former high school debater, now in college has generously provided some notes on the motion, which you can download here:  Notes On January 27 CTMSDL Motion .

The notes discuss plans and counterplans relative to the topic, and provides a useful set of references.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Information Packet for October 21 Scrimmage

On September 23 the Connecticut Debate Association, our high school debate league, used the following resolution at their Novice Scrimmage:

Resolved:  Every citizen should complete one year of national service.

CDA debates include a packet of articles to provide background on the topic.  As this resolution is similar to the middle school scrimmage topic, we thought coaches might find it useful, either for their own education, or, after review, to pass on to their students.  It complements the brief prepared by Eliza Posner that was previously made available to you.

You may download the packet here:  CDA National Service Packet

Email us if you have questions.

Analyzing a Debate Round–an Example

I was asked by a Coach I know to write a more detailed review of a round I judged at the April 22 tournament.  We agreed it might be useful to share it with the other Coaches and teams in the league.

I realize the season is over, but take a look.  As a long-time coach, judge and debater I think this is what every debater should do for every round they debate after the tournament is over.  I’ve always found debate theory meaningless in the abstract, but very useful when you have a real debate in front of you.  And since you rarely get to see your own students debate, teaching them how to record and review their own performance is one of the most valuable skills you can impart.

You can download the following files:

If you have any questions, feel free to email me.


December 3 Tournament Topic Announced

The CT Middle School Debate League’s first competitive tournament of the year will be held on Saturday, December 3 at Smith Middle School in Glastonbury. The motion will be:

This House would make voting in US elections compulsory.

Please remember that Proposition teams may narrow the topic as long as they still give Opposition teams enough grounds upon which to argue. This year we’ll award trophies to the top five teams and speakers and 3-0 teams will earn pins. We’ll send out an invitation the week before Thanksgiving.

Dues Reminder

We ask participating schools to please pay $50 dues before the end of the calendar year. (Schools may attend one event before paying dues.) The CTMSDL 2016-17 Dues Form has directions regarding whom to make the check out to and where to send it. If you’ve already paid dues, thank you!

Middle School Debate Handbooks

Coaches, if you purchase a copy of Speak Up! or Speak Out!, the League will reimburse you — just send me your receipt. Here are links:

November 21 Tournament, Dues and Online Resources


  • DUES for 2015-16
  • ONLINE RESOURCES, including debate videos!

November Tournament

We’ll hold the first competitive tournament of the 2015-16 season on Saturday, November 21, 2015 at Classical Magnet School in Hartford.  We’ll have one open division of Parliamentary Debate using the MSPDP format described in our CTMSDL Handbook.  Debaters should prepare cases on both sides of the motion:

This House would establish a program to revive extinct species and restore them to the environment.

The day will begin at 9:30 and end at 2:30.  We’ll have three rounds of debate (the first two will be randomly paired, the third will be power-matched) followed by a public final round between the top two teams, and an awards ceremony.

We’ll notify schools when registration opens on, approximately two weeks before November 21.


Dues to participate in the CTMSDL for the 2015-16 season have been set at $50.  Please send a check, made out to CT Association of Schools, to CAS, 30 Realty Drive, Cheshire, CT 06410, attention Cheryl Novicelli, by December 31, 2015. Please iInclude this CTMSDL Dues Form 2015-16 with your check to make sure the dues are applied to your school’s membership.

Please note:  you do not need to pay dues before the November tournament; we simply ask that you try to pay by year-end.

Online Resources

You can find videos and some helpful resources regarding the MSPDP format here:

Please contact us at with questions.  Hope to see you on November 21st!

CTMSDL Handbook Available

The new CTMSDL Handbook is now available.  The Handbook explains our format, schedule and policies.

Please note some important changes since last year:

  • 4 minutes of prep time are now built into each debate.
  • Each speech will have a 15 second grace period.
  • Debaters are strongly discouraged from reading pre-written speeches; the highest score they may receive if they read a pre-written speech is a 25.

You may download the handbook in pdf format using this link: CTMSDL Handbook

If you have questions or comments on the handbook, please email us at Handbook Comments with questions.s

Notes on November’s Scrimmages

For a number of years I have been writing commentary about Connecticut Debate Association topics and debate.  You can find this material through the CDA Training Material page.

I’d like to extend this practice to the Middle School League.  This, Scrimmage Commentary Nov14, is my first effort, based on the demonstration debates at our Novice Scrimmages at Bethel and Smith Middle Schools.

There is a brief discussion of three topics:  taking notes, defining terms and covering arguments.  I also include a summary of my notes for each of the demo rounds, so your students can see examples of what debate notes might look like.

If you find this material useful, you should feel free to make copies and share it with your students as you see fit.  If you notice any mistakes, or have any suggestions for improvement, please email me.


CTMSL Debate Format

The Connecticut Middle School League will use the Middle School Public Debate Program format, which is becoming popular across the country.  It is a variant of Parliamentary debate, which is the most popular debate format in the world.

In this format, two teams debate a motion, one side arguing in favor, the other side against.  Each team has three members, each of whom presents one speech:  a first constructive, a second constructive and a rebuttal.  The speeches alternate between the teams, with the team arguing in favor leading off.  The order of the rebuttals is reversed, however, with the opposing team speaking first, giving the supporting team the last word.  This is similar to a court trial where the prosecution has the burden of making its case, and is given the first and last word to support that burden.

We have a two page description of the format with more details.  You may download the pdf file CTMSDL Debate Format.  You may also find the Middle School Public Debate Program website a useful source of additional descriptive and educational material.