Mini Debates

Middle School and High School Teacher

Each student will be assigned, or may choose, an historical figure to research, selecting a speech given by the figure, and then write a rebuttal challenging some of its content backed by facts.

Grade Level: 10 - 12th

Subject: Social Studies

Length of Time: About 2 Class Periods

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Objectives & Outcomes

The students will be able to assess an historical figure’s point of view on a topic and challenge the reasoning and evidence.  The students will then be able to effectively communicate the new evidence to their peers.

Materials Needed

  • Name of an historical figure for each student, Internet access or extensive resources for research
  • Prepare ahead of time:  Teacher will have a list of historical figures (past or present), enough for each student in the class.  The figures should be those who have well-known speeches or writings available for students to listen to (on the Internet) or read.  For long speeches, the students may choose portions of it to refute.  Also, two video/audio recordings of speeches rebutting each other.  Teacher may also prepare a one page “research results” handout for students where students can write down info about their assigned figure.


Opening to Lesson

  • After students are seated, present the audio or video recording of the famous historical figure’s speech you previously prepared. The more controversial the better.
  • Ask students their thoughts about the speech.

Body of Lesson


  • Next, ask students to give, or their different opinions, with evidence to support their comments.
  • Now present the audio or video recording of an historical figure’s rebuttal of the first speech.

Guided Practice

  • Assign each student an historical figure to research, and distribute the “Research Results” handout.
  • Pair the students.
  • Explain to each student that they are to research the figure and locate a past speech given by the figure. (The speech must be a minimum of one minute.)
  • They will also include other information about the figure using the “Research Results” handout.
  • In addition, each student is to create 3-5 multiple choice question related to their historical figure.
  • The two students working together will then share the speeches. While reading their partner’s historical figure’s speech, the student will list things to rebut.
  • From the list the student will write their own speech to rebut the original.
  • Once all the students are completed it will be time for the presentations. (Allot at least one class period for presentations.)
  • The pair of students working together will stand in front of the class. Student one will read the original speech, student 2 will give the written rebuttal.  (Remind students to be professional.)
  • The two students will then switch roles.
  • Following each pair of student’s presentation, class discussion may follow regarding the issue(s) in the speeches.

Independent Practice

  • Every student will receive a multiple choice quiz/test using the classroom questions developed during the research of the figures.


Discussion will take place with all students and the teacher allow students to give their opinions on the historical figures presented to them and other comments about the issues.

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Assessment & Evaluation

The teacher will have students create multiple choice, or other types of questions related to the information they researched on each historical figure.  These multiple choice questions will be collated and used as a basis for an assessment and evaluation.

Modification & Differentiation

Students may work alone and present both sides of the issue.  Use all figures from the past, no longer living.  Use all current figures from the present, living.  Assign female figures to girls in the class, males to boys in the class, or vice-versa.  If relative to the timeframe, use current political figures running for office.

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