Debate Research with Non-Fiction Texts

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SWBAT will research a topic in order to perform in a debate.

Big Idea

Know your facts!

Entrance Task

5 minutes

As students enter the room: Since I have am dividing the students up by topics and have different articles to pass out, I am going to hand them their assigned topic as they come in the room. There will of course be whinning as to which I will say, “Any great debater can debate any topic, therefore you will be assinged a topic . You may have to stretch your thinking, but the best persuasive speakers can understand any topic and both points of view of a topic.”*

On the screen I will post, “As the bell rings, star a five minute free write about your claim. Write down your initial feelings about the claim you were given. Use the prompts:

  • My claim about my topic is……..
  • My reasons are……..
  • My experience with this claim is……….
  • An anecdote I have about this claim is…….
  • Example of why my claim is correct are……..
  • Situations in which my claim is correct is……


As they are writing, I am going around not only giving out the articles that they will read, but also assessing if my debate teams will work well together, I will then swiftly make changes before my lesson opener. 

*Another way to do this is have students select groups and then decide on a topic of their choice and then decide who will be pro and who will be con. Based on the organization around this and the reading materials I could find at my students’ level, I chose to pick a topic for them. Additionally, students could just do speeches based on a persuasive essay they have already written. My students really wanted to have a debate, therefore I chose this option.

Lesson Opener

10 minutes

In my lesson openers I always have a "connect" in which I connect students' thinking about yesterday's lesson to today's lesson. I then have a "teach" in which I model for students the lesson of the day and also have them try it out. When I think about my modeling, I use three categories; skill, strategy, and process. I model by stating the skill to the students, then giving them a strategy in which to use the skill, followed by the process to try out the strategy.

Connect:  I will say, “Yesterday viewed some persuasive speeches in order to think about our end product, today we are going to start researching a topic.

Teach: I will say, “In order to start thinking through our debate, I am going to practice the skill of researching my topic  and  strategy of closely reading annotating the text. The process I will use is as follows:

1) Read the text and annotate with Readers’ Marks*

2) Annotate for which pieces of evidence I could use for my claim**

3) Annotate for which pieces of evidence I could predict my opponents may use for their claim

I will show the students how I start reading the text (Year Round Schools-teacher model) annotate with Readers Marks first. I then show them how I read the text again and annotate for my claim and my opponets’ claim.

*A note about the Readers' Marks poster; these annotations are at a very basic level for students. As a school we used these marks in order for students to get into the habit of always annotating and for non reading teachers to refer to. My students do not annotate automatically, therefore, I started out basic. As they progress, I am giving them other annotations to use that are connected to their teaching point. This resource, Notice and Note gives great annotations for fiction texts and some can be used for non-fiction as well.  

*Here are examples of how I had students take notes

Active Engagememt

5 minutes

Active Engagement: I will say,”You will now start reading your text (other examples attached), I should see an annotation on the first pargraph using your readers marks.”  I will check for understanding by quickly reading at least two annotations from every level of learner (at least 3 students-one who is at standard, one is approaching standard, and one who is above standard).

Closing of Active Engagement: I will say, “Remember in order to start thinking through our debate, persuasive speakers practice the skill of researching a topic and strategy of annotating a text and taking notes. They read the text twice; first they annotate for things that are interesting or for questions they have, then read it with thier claim in mind, and their opponent’s claim.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

Independent Practice: I will say, “Now you are going to read the rest of your article and annotate. After about ten minutes of reading and using readers’ marks, I want you to read again for the pieces of evidence you could use for your claim and counter claim. I will confer with them about their reading and annotations. Additionally I am taking this time to jot down who is on what debate team using a note-taking sheet (since I gave out the topics randomly).

Partner Work: Students will be directed share their notes with the person who will be on their debate team (I will put the teams under the document camera. I will say, “Decide who will be partner A and who will be partner B. Partner A you will share the evidence you have so far. Partner B, I want you to listen if Partner A has the same or different evidence as you do. Since you will be a debate team, quickly decide how you can have different evidence to be more persuasive debaters.

Depending on time, I will have them share their predicted claims of their opponents as well as their counter claims.


5 minutes

I believe that the end of the lesson should be an assessment of the days’ learning; therefore it should be independent work. I always end class with an “exit ticket” in which students write down the response to a question.

Closing: For today students will jot down the answers to: “What is your claim, reason, and evidence so far?”