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Lesson Plan

The Great Service-Learning Debate & Research Project

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The Great Service-Learning Debate & Research Project

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Jaime R. Wood

Jaime R. Wood

Portland, Oregon


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



In this lesson, students analyze their own schooling experiences by imagining what their education would be like if service-learning was a requirement for graduation. They engage in a preliminary classroom debateóeither agreeing with the proposed change in curriculum, opposing it, or taking a middle-ground stanceóbefore they have all of the facts. From here, students research service-learning and work in groups to prepare informed debates. At the end of this lesson, students reflect on the implications of making uninformed vs. informed arguments as well as what it takes to build a strong, successful argument.

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Persuasion Map: Students use this resource to construct supported reasons behind their arguments before debating an issue.

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When students argue in or out of the classroom, the reasons behind their points of view are often uninformed and lacking support. In other words, students aren't always aware of why they think and feel the way they do or who exactly they're arguing with. This lesson brings to light students' problematic practice of arguing while uninformed and gives them the tools to revise their argumentative methods after becoming more aware of their audience, discussing opposing viewpoints, and conducting research to better understand the subject.

In her article, "Audience Analysis and Persuasive Writing at the College Level," Kathleen Black discusses the results of giving students information about their audience when asking them to write persuasively:

...when students were given accurate audience information (audience knowledge, values, attitudes, and goals in relation to the topic), their identifications of their own arguments, appeals, or adaptations showed a larger number and a higher average level of strategic adaptation than those of students who were not given the information. They were also judged to be more persuasive than those without that information. (246)

In other words, when students are aware of their audience (and informed about the subject about which they are arguing) they become more persuasive and in doing so more able to change people's minds. This activity places the audience literally in the same room with the students, so they will have the opportunity to study and get to know them well before their final debates.

Further Reading

Black, Kathleen. "Audience Analysis and Persuasive Writing at the College Level." Research in the Teaching of English 23.3 (1989): 231-253. Print.

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