Debate for a Day

Have changes in technology changed the way people play? Are electronic games beneficial or detrimental to learning? Does Barbie symbolize what it means to be an American woman? Do comic books encourage violence? While researching and debating questions like these, students develop important skills. Following a brief discussion about the art of debate, students actively use primary-source documents and hands-on experiences to develop arguments either for or against selected propositions. Students work in teams to gather and present information that supports their case

Lesson extensions for before or after your visit

The following activities are designed for your class to enjoy before or after your museum visit. Familiarizing students with the lesson concepts can enrich your museum experience.

Basic debate vocabulary

Have students define and review the following words: debate, proposition, dispute, rebuttal, assertion, reasoning, moderator, evidence, opposition. Have pairs of students work together to draw a picture depicting the meaning of one of the words. Discuss as a class what is depicted in each picture. Hang the drawings on the walls in the classroom. 

Tongue twisters

Tongue twisters are a fun way for students to practice articulation and clear speaking. Have students repeat the following phrases out loud until they can say each phrase clearly.

  • Lemon Liniment
  • Much whirling water makes the mill wheel work well
  • Double bubble gum bubbles double
  • Unique New York
  • Fill the sieve with thistles; then sift the thistles through the sieve

May I have this conversation?

Invite two students to begin a discussion on a topic of their choosing. The rest of the class listens to the discussion, and one by one “taps” into the discussion if they have something new to contribute. Similar to asking, “May I have this dance?” a student departs the twosome when a new student taps in. Monitor participation so that one or two dominant personalities do not monopolize the conversation.

Watch the drama

Watching excerpts of excellent acting and arguing allows students to model effective debate skills. Examples of excellent movies that highlight debate and public speaking include To Kill a Mockingbird, Separate but Equal, Ten Angry Men, and Amistad

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