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About Debate

Debate follows a specific form and set of rules to which you will be introduced next year. Basically there are four speeches, each with cross examinations, followed by a "summing up" at the end: The speeches will be in the following order:

Debate Form, an Outline:

First Affirmative 7 minutes

Negative Cross Examination 3 minutes

First Negative 7 minutes

Affirmative Cross Examination 3 minutes

Second Affirmative 7 minutes

Negative Cross Examination 3 minutes

Second Negative 7 minutes

Affirmative Cross Examination 3 minutes

*****Five Minute Break*****

First Negative Rebuttal 3 minutes

First Affirmative Rebuttal 3 minutes

Second Negative Rebuttal 3 minutes

Second Affirmative Rebuttal 3 minutes

This Year's Topic

The debate topic for 2000 will be the following:

1) Resolved: the United States' government should substantially change its foreign policy towards the Arabian* Gulf.

Goals of the Debate Team

1) Students will learn the research and argumentation skills necessary to prove or disprove a thesis or premise.

* Almost every assignment in college and virtually every important decision in a career require a "case" being made for something and evidence being used to back it. A good debater is prepared to think quickly, logically, soundly, and to speak convincingly.

2) Students will learn the value of teamwork and commitment to others.

* Caring for others is not just a skill, it's an important part of life. Caring means not letting others down who are counting on you and supporting others who need you and working towards a common goal.

3) Students will learn the value of sportsmanship.

* BBS would like to have the reputation of being good losers and of holding up no matter what happens in competition. In life, you lose far more often than you win, and grace is important.


5) Students will strive to achieve victory.



Debate Form

A Debate has a classical form, almost like a ballet, that is followed. It is not just an "argument." In general, the Affirmative team is constructed the "pyramid" of logic. If any level of the pyramid is upset, the whole comes tumbling down (i.e., the negative wins) because the system itself (in our case, the Federal Government) is already assumed to be working on the problem.




An introduction before or after Part A. in any speech is optional.


(The speech may begin with an introduction.)

A. The First Affirmative first defines the terms of the resolution:

"Resolved: The United States government should reduce worldwide pollution through its trade and/or aid policies."

This usually consists of defining every word, including "and," with dictionary quotations.


B. Next, the First Affirmative speaker defines at least one "harm" caused by the status quo. The Harms should be "significant," meaning whatever is defined above.*

1. The speaker gives card evidence that this harm exists.

2. The speaker gives evidence that each other harm exists.

C. Next, the first speaker gives his "Needs," things that must be done to improve the situation.

1. The speaker gives card evidence to support this.

2. More card evidence is given for each need.

(*Usually significancy is assumed by the Affirmative unless challenged, but the Affirmative should have a defense prepared).


(C. OPTIONAL, the speaker may explain the "Inherent Block," the reason why the system cannot solve the problem itself. Inherent Blocks may be of two categories:

(1. Attitudinal: meaning people are just not mentally up to solving the problem. Card evidence is given for this.

(2. Systemic: meaning the system is just so flawed that it cannot solve the problem. Card evidence is given.

(*Usually the Inherency is assumed by the Affirmative unless challenged, but the Affirmative should have a defense prepared. Kinnick ALWAYS attacks Inherency.)


D. The first speaker briefly outlines the "Plan."

1. The plan must satisfy the Needs.

2. The Needs must satisfy the Harms.

3. Mention (briefly) must be made of funding.

(Usually little or no evidence is given on the plan in this speech unless there's plenty of time yet to go into it.)


(E. Topicality is a rare area of challenge. This is essentially a statement that the Affirmative is trying to solve something other than the problem or using means outside its disposal. Kinnick ALWAYS challenges Topicality).


FIRST CROSS EXAMINATION: The First Negative or Second Negative asks questions to First Affirmative. Note that any deficiencies in logic or planning must followed up in subsequent speeches, or they are ignored by the judge.


FIRST NEGATIVE SPEAKER: Generally, the First Negative speaker has two duties: One, he must find holes in the First Affirmative's argument; Two, he must defend the "status quo."

A. As should follow, the First Negative can attack any of the major sections outlined above, meaning:

1. Definitions;

2. Harms;

3. Needs;

4. Significance;

5. Inherent Blocks;

6. Plan, including funding:

These attacks can focus on any of the following approaches or a combination:

a. lack of logical sense (it doesn't fit together);

b. lack of evidence or possession of counter-evidence;

c. misquotations or misinterpretations;

d. counter-interpretations of the same evidence;

e. counter Harms (the solution works, but it creates worse problems than it solves);

-Evidence cards, of course, are needed.

B. The First Negative also can (though doesn't necessarily have to) defend the "status quo," proving that the status quo will eventually solve the problem.

1. Evidence cards need to be produced to show this.

2. If the Negative NEVER defends the status quo, but demolishes the Affirmative at any level, the Negative wins.


SECOND CROSS-EXAMINATION: The First Affirmative or Second Affirmative has the task of question the First Negative speaker. Again, anything interesting uncovered must be followed up in a following speech.


SECOND AFFIRMATIVE: The Second Affirmative has two basic tasks: patching up the previous arguments and detailing the plan. Usually, the stronger speaker is the Second Affirmative as this task is more difficult.

A. Any parts of the previous structure that have been challenged in the First Negative speech have to be repaired. So if all the Harms have been challenged, the Second Affirmative has to defend (though remember only one harm and need are enough to win).

B. The second affirmative must give more details on the plan. The following areas are most important:

1. Solvency: This usually involved money. The Second Affirmative has to show that the money can be found without causing additional new problems (very important in an era of a gigantic national debt).

Debate Form

a. Again, cards are needed.

2. Workability: The plan must be workable. Often, finding a working model in real life is helpful.

a. Again, cards are needed.

3. The plan is usually explained in "planks" (though the word isn't important) and in this order.

a. "Plank one"

-evidence cards

c. "Plank two," which builds on "Plank one"

-evidence cards.



THIRD CROSS-EXAMINATION: Whichever Negative speaker has not spoken gets a chance to do cross-examination which is the same as it is explained above.


SECOND NEGATIVE: The Second Negative follows up on the First Negative. His task is similar, defend the status quo (as explained above and cut and pasted below), and

A. As should follow, the Second Negative can attack any of the major sections outlined above, meaning:

1. Definitions

2. Harms

3. Needs

4. Significance

5. Inherent Blocks

6. Plan, including funding

7. Solvency.

8. Workability.

9. Planks a....


These attacks can focus on any of the following approaches or a combination:

a. lack of logical sense (it doesn't fit together);

b. lack of evidence or possession of counter-evidence;

c. misquotations or misinterpretations;

d. counter-interpretations of the evidence;

e. counter Harms (the solution works but it creates worse problems than it solves);

B. The Second Negative also can (though doesn't necessarily have to) defend the "status quo," proving that the status quo will eventually solve the problem.

1. Evidence cards need to be produced to show this.

C. Generally, the second negative, also "concentrates the Debate" on several key issues (more or less because the other issues are lost). THIS IS THE LAST SPEECH IN WHICH NEW ARGUMENTS MAY BE INTRODUCED.




F Mi n Br

i v u ea

e t e k


FIRST NEGATIVE REBUTTAL: The purpose of all the rebuttals is basically to reiterate earlier arguments in the Debate. By now, the Debate usually hangs on one or two issues (i.e. the plan, Inherency, etc.) and the rebuttal concentrates on a winning argument on one or two issues.

NEW EVIDENCE, but NOT NEW ARGUMENTS, may be introduced.


FIRST AFFIRMATIVE REBUTTAL: This follows the same format as the first negative rebuttal. Again, Affirmative must build an entire pyramid, so every major area of attack MUST be defended in one rebuttal or another. NEW EVIDENCE, but NOT NEW ARGUMENTS, may be introduced.


SECOND NEGATIVE REBUTTAL: This is the negative's last chance to put at least one hole into the pyramid. This is also a time to summarize any (probable) victories the negative has made to remind the judge. NEW EVIDENCE, but NOT NEW ARGUMENTS, may be introduced.


SECOND AFFIRMATIVE REBUTTAL: This is the affirmative's last chance. Every hole must be filled or negative wins, and there must be a plan that improves on the status quo. NEW EVIDENCE, but NOT NEW ARGUMENTS, may be introduced.

--------------- ----------------------------

The Affirmative Pyramid


Solvency ($)-

Plan Plank 2----

Plan Plank 1---------


-----Significance of remedy-------

-------Needs for changes in system------

------------Harms of Status Quo-----------------


(note that each level will need evidence)

Negative Methods of Attack:

1. Logical Flaws

a. lack of logical sense (it doesn't fit together);

b. lack of evidence or possession of counter-evidence;

c. misquotations or misinterpretations;

d. counter-interpretations of the evidence'

2. counter Harms (the solution works but it creates worse problems than it solves)

-Evidence cards, of course, are needed.

3. Defending the status quo as better than the solution.



The Insidious COUNTER PLAN

A Counterplan is a Negative Team's method of attacking an affirmative team's plan without attacking it directly.

A counterplan team ACCEPTS affirmative's analysis of the problem, does not deny the acceptability of the resolution.

The counterplan team, however, comes up with a NON-TOPICAL plan that CANNOT EXIST SIDE BY SIDE WITH THE AFFIRMATIVE PLAN. This means, for example, that the Negative decides that the problem exists, but that the Federal Government is not the one to solve the problem, instead the States should solve the problem.

In other words, the Negative "steals" the bottom layers of the Affirmative's pyramid (sometimes even the Harms and Needs), but builds another pyramid on top, so we have two pyramids under construction

A Counter Plan Pyramid.


Solvency ($)*-

Plan Plank 2*----

Plan Plank 1*---------


-----Significance of remedy*-------

-------Needs for changes in system**------

------------Harms of Status Quo(a)-----------------


(note that each level will need evidence)

* new

** optionally accepted by the negative or new

(a)accepted from the Affirmative Team.

In this situation, the roles above become the same for both teams. With no even bothering to defend the status quo, each side concentrates on proving the benefits of its own pyramid and attacking those of its enemy's. It's quite possible that both pyramids will be standing at the end. The judge, then, must decide which pyramid BETTER SOLVES THE PROBLEM.

Note: All schools have tentative decided to BAN counterplans for this season.




Debate Vocabulary

The following words are necessary to understand policy debates.

Resolution: a statement that the affirmative is trying to prove and the negative to disprove

Definitions: meanings of key terms in a resolution

Affirmative: the side of a debate that is arguing to change the current system, the status quo.

Negative: the side of a debate that is arguing that the status quo, the current system, is working well enough or better than what the affirmative is proposing. The negative then defends the status quo.

Constructive Speech: A speech by either side that states a position and gives reason and evidence for that position.

Cross Examination ("Cross X"): an opportunity for a speaker from one side to question a speaker from the other regarding the constructive speech he has just finished.

Rebuttal: a speech after all of the constructive speeches and cross examinations during which a debater tries to summarize the key points in favor of his argument and important weaknesses of his opponents argument

Status Quo: literally "the way things are." in a policy debate, the current system and all of its components

Harm: a harm is a problem with the status quo

Needs: something that should change from the current situation of the status quo and, through change, eliminate or at least reduce the bad effects of a harm

Significance: importance. In debate, the affirmative generally must prove that is suggested changes to the status quo have some importance

Inherency (or inherent block): the forces stopping a good idea from earlier adoption. Typically inherency can be considered in this way: If the affirmative's ideas are so good, how come the many professionals working in government haven't already adopted that plan.

Topicality: the relevance of the affirmative's plan to the issue under discussion

Plan: the steps the affirmative asserts would eventually help reduce the harms and solve their needs

Planks: the particular parts of a plan. A plan may have only one plank.

Solvency: the ability of the affirmative's plan to improve upon the harms their identified

Working Model: a real-world example that shows the affirmative's plan would actually work

Funding: the money raised to work the affirmative's plan

Fiat: an Italian word for "will." Fiat refers to the affirmative's ability to simply prove that their plan SHOULD be adopted, not that it would. Generally, Fiat is used to answer charges that a particular party in power may oppose a plan



How to Write a Debate Plans for a Policy Debate

A. Introduction

One way to think of writing a debate plan is as a problem solution essay. Essentially, then, you must do things. First, identify a problem. Second, find a solution for that problem. Everything about this essay, just as in a term paper, also requires evidence from reliable sources. The debate plan, then, divides into a problem and a solution. More or less, the problem itself concerns the first speaker, and the solution, the plan, concerns the second speaker.

American style debate differs from that of other countries primarily because it requires the offering of a solution. In Indian and British style debate, typically, the two sides simply argue as to whether a problem exists. One side argues that it does while the other argues that it does not exist.

Americans, however, have a saying: "Put your money where your mouth is." Similarly they say, "If you're so smart, how would you....", or even "Talk is cheap." All of these sayings relate to a certain mindset for which Americans have achieved fame: "pragmatism" which values workable solutions over endless discussion. Also, it reflects the general belief that most average Americans can quickly identify important problems, poverty, drugs, etc. and that rather than wasting time debating if they constitute problems, better use the time discussing different solution. To state a typical case, in the health care Debate, probably 80% of the discussion of the presidential candidates revolved around solutions.


B. First Speaker Issues: Definitions, Harms, Needs, Significance, Topicality, and Inherency

1. Getting the "problem"

It appears, at first glance, that the debate resolution gives the affirmative the problem. It states: "Resolved that...." However, "resolved" doesn't mean "agreed," it means something closer to "Proved." The proving of the resolution, then, lies with the affirmative side. Also, while the resolution gives a statement of the general area under discussion, no reasonable affirmative would possibly solve the entire problem and cover the entire area under discussion. Instead, an affirmative will typically take only a piece of the entire topic and formulate a plan to work on part of that.

This means the affirmative begins by choosing a particular sub-area for discussion. Often times, these areas simply occur automatically. With a topic such as pollution, for example, everyone knows that this divides into sub-areas such as air pollution, water pollution, etc. For a subject such as "American policy with the Arab Gulf," nearly everyone recognizes that problems exist with Iraq and Iran. Probably debaters should choose a general area of interest to research and then, possibly, divide the subject even further for the actual plan. Once, debaters identify the "problem" they will discuss within the resolution, they can proceed to the next step.

2. Identifying the Harms

Harms constitute the bad effects caused by the problem chosen in step 1. These harms must have measurable negative effects. This means research must show that these effects actually exist. Evidence could include such things as figures and numbers, especially in economic and scientific situations. Often, however, the evidence consists of statements by learned experts that such a harm exists. Ideally, a plan should include several different and distinct harms. Not only does this confirm your belief in the problem, it also makes the negative do more work to defeat your harms.

Each harm needs evidence. Generally, the more the better. While the first speaker will not have time to read all evidence from a well-written plan in his/her speech, having more can only help. After all, during rebuttals, a debater can always read more, and it comes in handy during Cross-X.

Occasionally, a debate team will have genuine trouble in finding harms. The problem will somehow seem hard to readily put to numbers. In this instance, sometimes it helps to think of the problem as already solved by your plan. In what ways, would this situation differ from the current one? The difference, you could identify as your harms. For example, if you think Saudi Arabia's not having admission to the WTO causes harms, think of how their admission would help. The consequences of not currently admitting them, such as lack of trade coordination, higher tariffs, less trade, then, become the harms.

3. Identifying the Needs

Every harm in a debate plan should directly create a need. A need means the gap between the current situation and the one your plan will create. Hence, if a harm includes "poor relations with Iran increases terrorism," a need might follow: "We need a policy that encourages Iran to stop sponsoring terrorist organizations."

Needs do not necessarily need evidence since the harm actually supplies the evidence, but a good plan often has evidence for the needs as well. Often this consists of statements that directly support the need by scholars or other influential people.

4. Significance

Nearly every resolution contains the word "significance," and those that don't imply significance. To put it simply, a debate plan must address a part of the resolution that causes serious harms. Further, the plan must solve or reduce more than a minimal amount of the identified problem. An affirmative must produce some evidence as to the significance of its problem. Sometimes restating part of the evidence for the harms will suffice. Incidentally, scientific significance generally starts with "5%" and above though this definition may or may not fit a particular issue.

As one might imagine, often the best and "tightest" plans involve the solution of only a minor part of the entire issue stated in the resolution. In such cases, affirmative debaters must make a real case for the importance of their issue. For example, six years ago, another school debated a pollution reduction plan that only involved replacing a half-dozen coal-fired reactors with solar power plants. Needless to say, though the plan showed genuine thought, negative attacks centered on the insignificance of the solution attempted, especially as the resolved spoke of "World pollution."

Note that a problem that a negative proves "insignificant" generally becomes "non-topical" also since most resolutions contain the word significance

5. Topicality and Definitions

A topical problem relates to the resolution which the first affirmative defines. Topicality, then, becomes a function of the definitions given by the first affirmative. These definitions need careful choosing.

Though definitions form the very beginning of the first affirmative speech, debaters should write those definitions after thinking about harms, needs, and significance. To put this simply, affirmative debaters need to find definition that (a) make their job easy as possible and (b) make topicality not an issue.

The first concern involves simple choice of definitions. A lot of the words, such as "significance" and "should" appear in almost every resolution. Affirmatives should choose the weakest definitions of those words available. The weaker the words chosen, the less the affirmative must prove to win its case.

The second concern involves resolutions that only border on the area under discussion. If, for example, a debate on pollution found an affirmative debating how to end poverty, not only would that not address the "resolved," this would also give the affirmative an unfair advantage since the negative wouldn't have done any research on that question. In some cases, however, topicality can become an issue even for well-written plans. For example, on the China question, one well-written plan dealt with Taiwan. The question naturally occurs: Does China include Taiwan? Of course the debaters on the affirmative carefully chose a definition that included Taiwan as part of China.

A first affirmative, then, generally deals with topicality by carefully writing definitions. An affirmative debating a plan in which topicality probably will become an issue, however, should have several cards of evidence ready, in reserve, to defend against affirmative attack.

6. Inherency or Inherent Block

Inherency asks the question: If this problem exists, why hasn't it already found a solution? For example, an affirmative might declare that girl gangs constitute a serious problem. The negative, then, will charge: "If the problem is so serious, why haven't the best minds in government already solved it?" This may seem like a minor question, but consider the alternatives: (a) the government has an inherent block that prevents the solution or (b) this isn't such a serious problem after all. A wise negative, of course, wants to prove the second of these two alternatives.

The inherent block falls into one of two categories: systemic or attitudinal. "Systemic" blocks mean that the government cannot, as currently constructed, solve the problem. The affirmative's plan, then, must somehow change these arrangements. For example, the affirmative plan might create a new agency that deals with the problem in question. "Attitudinal" blocks stem from problems with the people themselves. For example, the affirmative might offer a plan that simply offers ideas alien to the party in power. In this case, via "Fiat," the affirmative wouldn't need to prove that the government would change. The inherence block may include both "systemic" and "attitudinal" factors.

The affirmative needn't include inherency in its first speech or at all. Typically, the affirmative will prepare an argument on inherency with 1-2 cards of evidence proving that its block exists. Then, the first speaker will hold these cards in reserve and only read them upon challenge.

A Flowchart for Writing First Affirmative:

Consider the Resolution---->

Find a portion of that for debating---------->

Identify provable harms------> Find Evidence of those harms

Determine Needs--------> Possibly find evidence of those needs

Determine Significance-----> Find evidence of significance

Write Definitions--------> Find terms

If necessary prepare arguments on topicality

Determine Significance----> Find Evidence



C. Second Speaker Issue: The Plan, including Funding, Solvency, and Working Model

1. Planks

A plan consists of several "planks" that the government will enact in the process of solving the plan. These planks may include such things as funding agencies, passing bills in Congress, writing laws, etc. For example, on the issue of Russia, a plank may specify: "The US government will send 100 FBI agents to coordinate with the Russian Secret Police." A plan must have at least one plank.

Plans generally consist of variations on two kinds which one might term "sequential" or "cafeteria." A sequential plan consists planks that depend on one another. This offers the obvious disadvantage that if one plank fails, so does the entire plan. A "cafeteria" plan offers a number of planks that operate independently, each one working towards a problem solution. A plan, of course, may include elements of both, 1-3 planks that tie together, and 4-5 that operate independently.

Debaters generally write out cards that detail the entire plan and evidence that it would work.

2. Funding

At least one plank must address the issue of funding. In government, one faces the reality that any solution adopted must take its funding from elsewhere in the government or from new taxation. This means that affirmative must not only offer a way of raising needed funds, but also show the current use of those funds doesn't merit continuation or that the new tax will not harm the economy. Funding should also show, not only where the money comes from, but how the plan spends that money.

Ideally, funding should have some sort of logical relationship to the plan. For example, if a plan proposes opening economic relations with Iran, funding might well come from a tax on Iranian imports that would benefit from the plans adoption. Creating a new agency might well mean taking funding from a discontinued, ineffective one.

Occasionally, a debate team will conclude their plan needs "no funding," but every plan needs some funding. Very "cheap plans" may include things such as passing a bill in Congress.

For funding, debaters usually write out a card that explains the funding. Evidence must detail all of the information for sources. Debaters also need exact figures on how the plan spends these funds.

3. Working Model

A working model consists of a similar program at work in a comparable situation. Often debaters look at programs in specific states or other countries to find evidence of success. Ideally, a plan should incorporate at least some ideas tried before.

This doesn't mean, however, that a plan should simply put more funding into an existing program. A negative, quite logically, would plead that such a plan "is already status quo." Further, it would lead to many negative attacks on significance and inherency. The second affirmative, then, assembles evidence showing that a similar case found success but at the same time show the newness of its own proposals.

The second affirmative then needs to assemble the evidence cards for the example.

4. Solvency

In a way, solvency relates to all of the issues above. A plan should "solve" the problems identified in the harms, it should satisfy the identified needs in a significant manner. Evidence of solvency could well include evidence for the working model.

Fundamentally, though, proving solvency includes both logical considerations and evidence. Ideally, debaters can find at least some experts or figures suggesting that their proposed plan works. As a second best, they can show the logic which suggests that it would work.

5. "Reading the Plan"

The second speaker does the major amount of work on the plan, both in terms of pre-debate preparation and in terms of time spent during his speeches. The debate rules, however, require the first speaker to read the plan. Generally, the first speaker read the plan as quickly as possible, with few details, near the end of his speech.

A Flow Chart for Writing Second Speaker Issues: The Plan

Consider means of solving the harms---->

Write plank 1------> detail

Write plank (x)------> detail(s)

Determine funding-------> research evidence and make figures

Find a working model-------> assemble evidence

Determine solvency-------> assemble evidence and arguments

D. Marks of a Well-Written Plan

1. It makes sense.

2. It contains lots of evidence from reliable sources.

3. If read together with the harms and needs, it would take far more than 15 minutes.

4. It really SHOULD be adopted.

5. It makes the authors feel proud of having written it.




Writing a Negative "Plan"

A. Introduction

The negative really doesn't write a "plan." However, the negative can do a lot of pre-debate work that would make the audience almost believe that the negative has written a plan at least through half of the first speech.

B. Defending the Status Quo

1. Negative Strategy

The first part of any negative speech consists of a defense of the "status quo." The second half, which includes attacks on the first affirmative, debaters write at the event. The status quo includes all elements of the current policy and their positive and negative effects. Of course, the negative will want to concentrate on all positive aspects in the speech though not necessarily in the research.

Unlike the affirmative, the negative doesn't know the exact area that will form the body of the debate. This doesn't, however, mean that the negative can't defend the status quo since, as stated above, the status quo contains all areas, including some the affirmative's plan won't attack. In fact, a clever negative will have enough research assembled to make the affirmative's attack seem trivial, insignificant in comparison with the many positive aspects of the entire current situation.

2. Defining the Status Quo

The first part of a first negative speech should briefly define the status quo. This would consist in a few generally statements about the current policy backed by appropriate quotes. Unless the resolution has some serious English flaws, this shouldn't take more than a minute.

3. The Positive Aspects of the Status Quo: "the parade of evidence"

The negative should then assemble a list of prominent positive points about the status quo. Each should have evidence to show its effectiveness. After about four minutes of this "parade of evidence," the negative should have given the judge the impression that (1) the status quo includes many positive aspects (2) in comparison, the affirmative has only pointed out one tiny area for possible improvement.

To do this, obviously, the negative must think about some prominent achievements of the status quo. Thankfully, the negative can reuse these feature and evidence over and over again against any affirmative.

4. The Case Itself

Sometimes, the negative will happen to have evidence on the specific area under attack. In this case, the negative should present this as part of its "parade." It often happens that a school when debating another school for the second time will go to the trouble of finding specific evidence about the harms that school contends. This can devastate the affirmative. Unfortunately, the affirmative does have the choice of attack open, and more than once a school studiously prepared to debate a specific negative only to discover the affirmative changed plans between matches.

A Flow Chart for Writing the Negative Half-Speech

Consider the topic as a whole

Identify prominent features------> define in a card

Identify important positives------> Write four of five cards showing these achievements