Lesson Plan

Evidence-Supported Mini-Debates

Students will engage in a mini-debate with another student about an issue of importance.
Suzy L.
Technology coordinator
Cherokee County Schools
Canton, United States
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My Grades 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Arts, World Languages, English Language Learning, Health & Wellness
  1. Students will be able to support their opinions with research-based evidence.
  2. Students will be able to connect real-world issues to literature.
English Language Arts
Social Studies
Grades 8 – 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook: Digital Whiteboard Brainstorming

Using the "AWW" digital whiteboard linked here, students will partner up and brainstorm lists of controversial issues that are okay to discuss at school.   The students will decide on an issue that interests both of them, but they will not choose sides at this time.

*The final list may involve some administrative approval if needed.

2 Direct Instruction: Modeling Debate Research

Using the ProCon website, the teacher will model gathering data about a controversial issue and recording the data for both sides of the issue on a graphic organizer.  A couple sample organizers are attached below.  Students will need to find a pre-determined number of articles to support the side they choose for their particular issue, but that's in the next step.   The teacher may just model with one "pro" article and one "con" article.



3 Independent Practice: Partner Research

In partners, students will work together using the ProCon site to research their issue of choice.  They will then choose sides for their debate, which will happen in a later step.

*As with any good debate, the partners will need to each do some separate research that they can surprise their partner with, in an attempt to outdo their partner in the debate.  Maybe the teacher could have them do one research article for each side together and then each find another article that the other partner doesn't read.

4 Direct Instruction: Rules of Debate and Debate Modeling

Activity: Debating

The teacher will share the rules of the mini-debate with the class.  Some suggestions include:

  • Desks are lined up in two rows, face-to-face, allowing the partners to go head-to-head.
  • Participants may use research notes, as well as blank paper to make notes during the debate.
  • Each partnership will have three minutes to debate:  
    • Partner 1--1 minute opening
    • Partner 2--30 second rebuttal
    • Partner 2--1 minute opening
    • Partner 1--30 second rebuttal
    • Partner 1--30 second closing
    • Partner 2--30 second closing

Before the debate starts, the teacher will model a debate by challenging a brave student.  Neither one will have notes--this will simply be a battle of wits for the practice:)


5 Assessment: Debate and Voting

  • In keeping with the lightning pace of the debate, observing students will immediately vote for the winner of the debate using learning devices or cards.  Check out plickers.com for one voting idea, or use polleverywhere.com  (linked below).  
  • The teacher display the results for the debaters as soon as everyone has voted.
  • The winner might get five points added to her debate grade.