Caveat: Woodchucks should chuck wood

Some time ago, I did as I often do, and was teaching a group of students in my Honors1 cohort the tongue twister that goes:

Q: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

A: A woodchuck could chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

This is one of my favorite tongue twisters.
But I did something rather innovative with it for this class, these past two weeks. I made it into a debate.

Proposition: “If a woodchuck could chuck wood, a woodchuck should chuck wood.” 

We divided into PRO team and CON teams on this proposition. Because we have five students, to make the teams even I ended up on participating, on the PRO team. This made for 3 speakers on each team, with each speaker speaking twice.
The students brainstormed ideas and wrote speeches. Then yesterday, we had our final debate. All but one student presented their ideas entirely without notes – the one relying on notes is new to the class so I gave her some leeway.

I rewrote the debate reasons that we came up with in class with cleaned up grammar and throwing in a few additional bits of humor or word-play. This can serve as a guide (but not a verbatim script) of the debate in the video above.

Jared PRO Introduction

Hello everyone. Today we are here to debate on the proposition: if a woodchuck could chuck wood, a woodchuck should chuck wood. I am here representing the PRO team, which also includes Sophia and Narin. We believe that woodchucks should chuck wood, and we are going to explain to you why we believe this. You might think this is not important, but we think that if a woodchuck could chuck wood, it must do so. First, Sophia will explain about the need not to waste other food. Next, Narin will talk about the woodchuck’s name. Finally, I will talk about the woodchuck’s cute teeth. Please, listen to our ideas, and then make a smart decision about whether to support our proposition today.


Hi, I’m John. Today’s proposition is whether, if a woodchuck could chuck wood, a woodchuck should chuck wood. Roy, Alisha and I are on the CON team, which means we don’t think that’s a good idea. A woodchuck should chuck whatever it wants to chuck, don’t you think? Alisha will talk about our first reason, which is about saving the forests. Roy will explain that wood isn’t exactly delicious. I will give our third reason, which is that woodchucks have a right to be free to chuck what they want to chuck. Please listen to our speeches, and make a smart choice.

Sophia PRO First Reason

Our PRO team’s second reason why woodchucks should chuck wood is because if they ate other food, it would waste that other food. For example, let’s say some woodchucks chuck something like fruit or chicken or pizza, or your own favorite food whatever that is. Those foods will then disappear, because woodchucks are hungry, and they will eat it all up. I don’t even want to think about if ice cream disappeared. Can you imagine, your food disappearing because of a woodchuck. Isn’t that weird? You’ll end up fighting the woodchuck. Isn’t that sad? I know this sounds really weird, but you have to understand. Don’t let woodchucks chuck your chow, let’s have woodchucks chuck wood instead.

Alisha CON Team Reason 1

Our team’s first reason is that if we make woodchucks chuck wood, that will just waste a lot of wood. Do you know how many trees are already gone? A soccer-sized area of forest is disappearing every 10 seconds! Then do you really think we should tell woodchucks to chuck wood, with the forests disappearing? I don’t think so. We already waste wood in so many other ways, for example it is not easy for us to not use paper or other non-recyclable things. So if we want to save forests, let’s not have woodchucks eat wood.

Narin PRO Team Reason 2

Our team’s second reason why we think a woodchuck should chuck wood is because of the animal’s name. Think about it. The name is “wood” plus “chuck.” Wood is wood, of course, and “chuck” can mean “eat.”  So really the animal’s name is simply “eats wood.” Don’t you think that if the animal should eat something besides wood, it would have a different name? If it was going to eat flowers, it would be a flowerchuck, right? Or if it ate pizza, it would be a pizzachuck. But it’s not a pizzachuck. It’s a woodchuck. That’s why if a woodchuck could chuck wood, it should.

Roy Con-team’s second reason:

Hi, I’m Roy, and I’m on the CON team in today’s debate. We are talking about if a woodchuck could chuck wood, a woodchuck should chuck wood. I’ll tell our second reason why we disagree with this proposition. You see, wood tastes terrible. Wood is dirty, and disgusting. For example, Alvin the chipmunk doesn’t eat wood, because it is horrible to chuck wood. So woodchucks don’t have to chuck wood either, because it is terribly disgusting to chuck wood. Let them eat other, delicious foods. If we force a woodchuck to chuck wood, probably the poor animal will only end up upchucking the wood it chucked.

Jared PRO Reason 3

Hi, I’m Jared. Let me tell you my reason why if woodchucks could chuck would, I think they should. Look at this picture of a woodchuck. See, he has cute teeth. These teeth are like a beaver’s teeth, don’t you think? We all know that beavers eat eat wood. So, in this same way, I think it’s clear that woodchucks should eat wood too. On the other hand, do a woodchuck’s teeth look like human’s teeth? They don’t. Thus, woodchucks should not eat things like pizza or ramen or steak or rice. These might even be difficult for a woodchuck to eat. This is why I believe very strongly that a woodchuck should chuck wood.


Hi, I’m John, again. Remember me? Our CON team’s last reason is that woodchucks have rights, you know. On TV, on some interesting documentary, when we see some woodchucks, maybe we see them chucking some wood. We might think, then, “well, woodchucks must chuck wood.” But think about this: we know people have rights, right? Well, animals have rights too. So whatever we see on TV, there is no reason why a woodchuck must chuck wood. This is just a kind of prejudice. Please, cast away your prejudice, and respect every woodchuck’s right to chuck what it pleases.

Sophia PRO Rebuttal

Our team has a strong rebuttal to the CON team’s idea that “wood tastes terrible.” There is a simple thing that can shoot you down. Have you ever actually eaten wood? If you have, well, then, you can say that. But I don’t believe it. Here, here is some wood. Will you eat it? Unless you will eat it, I don’t think you can fairly say that wood tastes terrible. Maybe it’s delicious. Also, you know, different people like different things. Maybe even if wood tastes terrible to you, maybe it tastes delicious to a woodchuck. Think about it.

Roy Con-team’s rebuttal:

Hi, my name is Roy. I want to give a rebuttal to the PRO team’s third reason. Jared said that a woodchuck should chuck wood because of his teeth, which are very cute. Jared is wrong, however. If a woodchuck has teeth, of course he could chuck wood, but he could eat lots of different delicious foods, too. Teeth can be used for lots of things, not just wood. Woodchucks don’t have to chuck wood because their teeth can be for lots of non-disgusting things, not only wood. In fact, I think we should help them so they don’t chuck wood anymore. The PRO team is so wrong: “wrong” times infinity!

Narin PRO Team Conclusion

Today we talked about three reasons why if a woodchuck could chuck wood, it should chuck wood. First, Sophia said it was important not to waste other food. Second, I said that the animal’s name means he should chuck wood. Then Jared explained that it was because of his teeth, which are very cute. Finally, Sophia gave a rebuttal to the CON team’s ridiculous idea that wood tastes bad. How can we know how the woodchuck feels about that? The CON team is clearly wrong, and I hope if you are woodchuck who could chuck wood, you go home tonight and chuck lots of wood.

Alisha CON Team Conclusion

We really think a woodchuck should not chuck wood. We gave three reasons and a rebuttal why we think that way. First, chucking wood wastes wood and destroys forests. Second, wood doesn’t taste very good. Thirst, a woodchuck has a right to eat what it wants. We should not force woodchucks to chuck wood. Lastly, we gave a rebuttal why the PRO team is wrong. I think if you can agree with our opinion, you will be very happy that you have paper to write on, since otherwise the wood that made that paper might have been chucked by a woodchuck instead.

I very much recommend this topic (and this type of topic) when teaching debate to elementary students. They find it much more entertaining than “serious” debate but learn the language and critical thinking skills just as effectively, I think.
picture[daily log: walking, 4.5 km]

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