MS Debaters

The “Middle School Debaters” page is meant to connect middle school debaters with resources to help them improve their skills.


The Chicago Middle School Debate League Format is very similar to the high school debate format — with somewhat shorter speech times, four stock issues on the affirmative (Harms, Solvency, Desirability, and Topicality), and four negative argument options (Case Attacks, Disadvantages, Topicality Violations, and, for JV/Varsity teams, Critiques).


The Chicago Middle School Debate League Argument Limits lay out which affirmative cases and which negative arguments are runnable in each Division (Novice, JV/Varsity), at each CMSDL tournament.


2013/14 CMSDL Core Files Resources

Browse or download the 2013/14 CMSDL CDL Core Files, as well as to other useful Core File-related documents, below:

The 2013/14 CMSDL CDL Core Files

Word Version

PDF Version (recommended)

2013/14 CMSDL Core Files Outlines

Outlines enable you to review all of the frontline arguments in the CMSDL Core Files, both case arguments and off-case arguments, both affirmative and negative, without the evidence, to be sure the argument claims being made are fully understood.

CMSDL Case Outlines

CMSDL Off Case Outlines

The CDL has produced labels for filing the Core Files. These labels are printable on Avery 5160 labels (or the equivalent) and help make the filing process less time-consuming. Simply print the labels, adhere to file folders, and file all of the pages from the CF into the appropriate file folder.

CMSDL Core Files Labels


Learning To Debate

Everyone who debates knows that learning the basics can be a daunting challenge. There’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time when you first start debating, which is why we’ve included the following guide for learning to debate. The guide, written by the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues primarily for high school debate but very useful for middle school debate, with only minor adaptations, details several aspects of debate that will help inexperienced debaters learn the basics and experienced debaters master the fundamentals.

Learning to Debate includes the following sections:

  • Getting Started
  • Evidence and Research
  • Communications Strategies
  • Affirmative Strategies
  • Affirmative Speeches
  • Negative Strategies
  • Negative Speeches

Additional Resources

There’s no real improvement in competitive academic debate that doesn’t start with the flow sheet.

This electronic version of a flow sheet is useful if you are flowing on a laptop — a practice that can be more efficient and legible.

Mini-Debates Exercise: Hold a mini-debate next practice with this document. Describes the format and details of a mini-debate lesson.

The basics of refutation are laid out in this Basic Refutation Powerpoint presentation.

The Disad Exercise both defines the core terms used in debating disadvantages and offers a very meeting-ready exercise in teaching disadvantages to beginning and intermediate-level debaters.

A Debate Glossary produced by Maine East (IL) Debate has useful definitions of many or most of the terms used in Varsity-level debate.

The Emory Policy Debate Manual is first-year and inexperienced Varsity debaters.


As always, if you have specific questions about debate, feel free to Ask David.