Overview: Enjoy an intercultural twist on a unit idea that’s been used for years. Active listening skills, critical thinking and collaboration are all part of engaging in a debate in-person or virtually. Use this activity plan to build communication styles and perspectives into the debrief after your class’s debate.

To access the video recording of the webinar detailing this lesson, please click here.

Adapted from a lesson presented by Sarah Lindstrom, Head Teacher in Glastonbury Public Schools 

Materials Needed: 

  • A controversial, yet appropriate debate topic related to your content area (See examples) 
  • Some pre-planned reading materials related to the debate topic that highlights both sides of the topic 
  • A blank planning template for students to gather their research and arguments

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will work in small groups to research information needed to support their side of the debate. 
  • Students will reflect on the importance of listening to the facts and details presented by others. 

Learning Objectives: 

By the end of the activity, students will be able to… 

  • Defend one side of an issue using information from class materials and personal research. 
  • Listen critically to his/her classmates to effectively produce an appropriate argument or counterargument. 
  • Follow the basic template and guidelines for a successful debate on a particular topic. 
  • Communicate respectfully about a topic and demonstrate understanding of both sides. 


  1. Select the debate topic from the appropriate content area.
  2. Share reading materials and research with students that presents various sides of the debate topic.
  3. Record the initial thoughts and reactions of students on the debate topic.


  1. Assign or allow students to select one side of the debate.
  2. Give students time to research their side and input arguments and evidence into the planning template. The group should divide the argument into subtopics with each student accountable for their own subtopic.
  3. Share the format of a debate (if this is new to students), share expectations for decorum and interaction, share the rules of debate and share the assessment rubric with students.
  4. Listen and assess students as they present.
  5. Provide feedback about content, delivery style and overall performance to students.

Follow-up Discussion/Reflection Questions for Students: 

Discussion brings this lesson all together by comparing and contrasting the lists of information. 

  1. What role does ‘active listening’ play in having a debate?
  2. How might different communication styles impact the way that speakers engage in a debate?
  3. What does it mean to be right or wrong on an issue?
  4. Why must we be careful using just one source of information?
  5. What are the indicators that a source is ‘trustworthy’ or ‘untrustworthy’?
  6. To what other situations can you apply this same process or skills? 

Extension in Content Area:

Career & Tech Ed: Should CTE be a required subject area in high school? 

English Language Arts: Who is the villain of Romeo and Juliet

Math: Should the US move to the metric system? 

Physical Education: Should gender play a role in which sports we play? 

Science: What is the best source of renewable energy? 

Social Studies: Was the colonization of America positive or negative? 

World Language: Is a dress code better/worse for public school students? 

For more lesson plan ideas, please visit the AFS-USA Teacher’s Toolbox

For questions, comments or suggestions, please email us at [email protected].

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