Lesson Plan Ideas Using ProCon.org and Tied to NCSS and NCTE/IRA Standards



  1. Distinguishing Fact from Opinion - Give students a list of 20 different statements from ProCon.org of which some are clearly factual, some are clearly opinion, and some that are difficult to categorize. Have students mark each statement as "O" for opinion or "F" for fact. Guide a discussion with students sharing and explaining their answers. Have students consider the reasons why distinctions between fact and opinion may be problematic.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 5, NCTE/IRA 7, NCTE/IRA 12

  2. Weighing the Evidence - Examine two well-supported statements that argue the same issue from different perspectives, one pro and one con. Have students list all the relevant information and supporting evidence that would have to be provided to them before they would agree that the claim has been adequately supported.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 5, NCTE/IRA 7, NCTE/IRA 12

  3. In This Writer's Opinion - Have students write editorials or letters to the editor to be submitted to local newspapers. Students choose a controversial topic from ProCon.org and conduct research on the website to get a range of relevant facts, opinions, and perspectives. The students then write their editorials or letters using persuasive arguments with effective reasoning and evidence while anticipating criticisms of their opinions.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 5, NCTE/IRA 7, NCTE/IRA 12

  4. Select-and-Fill-in (SAFI) Concept Maps - Create hierarchical or tree-like maps starting with a ProCon.org issue and have students add their own subissues and questions as "concepts" linked together. Guide a discussion of the resulting maps and create one master map for the ProCon.org issue.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 5, NCTE/IRA 7, NCTE/IRA 12

  5. Engage Peers outside the Classroom - Have students research issues and share what they learned with other students inside the school. Examples of ways to engage peers include: writing pro and con articles to be published side-by-side for the school newspaper; preparing public address announcements; creating pamphlets for on-campus distribution; and preparing a presentation for a school assembly.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 5, NCTE/IRA 7, NCTE/IRA 12

  6. Essay Writing - Have students write essays advocating a pro or con position on an important social issue.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 5, NCTE/IRA 7, NCTE/IRA 12

  7. Extemporaneous Speech - Have students give speeches espousing either a pro or con position on an important social issue. Students should have minutes to prepare.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 3, NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 8, NCTE/IRA 11, NCTE/IRA 12

  8. Group Discussion Web - Have students form small groups to decide their cumulative pro or con perspective on an issue. Then have a small group merge with another small group to form a larger group and cumulatively select their group's pro or con position. Repeat the process until the entire classroom has a single pro or con position.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 3, NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 5, NCTE/IRA 6, NCTE/IRA 12

  9. Informal Debate with "Devil's Advocate" - Have an informal debate with students on an issue. The instructor will play "devil's advocate" by shifting from one side of the argument to the other. This may be an especially useful exercise if a significant majority of students share the same views on an issue, or if one side appears weaker. The instructor can serve as a model for good debate tactics.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 3, NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 6, NCTE/IRA 8, NCTE/IRA 12

  10. Lincoln-Douglas Debate - Have student groups formulate pro or con arguments on an important issue using ProCon.org. Then have students present a written summary of their arguments and identify areas where the opposing group may find weaknesses in their arguments. Have students perform the debate.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 1, NCTE/IRA 3, NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 6, NCTE/IRA 8, NCTE/IRA 11, NCTE/IRA 12, NSS-C.9-12.5

  11. Online Discussion - Have students discuss an issue in an online message board. Encourage students to directly respond to each other's statements. The instructor should moderate the online discussion and help move along the debate.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 5, NCTE/IRA 7, NCTE/IRA 12

  12. Rehearsed Speech - Have students give a speech advocating a pro or con position on an important social issue. Students should have days to prepare.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 3, NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 8, NCTE/IRA 11, NCTE/IRA 12

  13. Role-Play Debate - Have students role-play pro or con figures in important social issues and then debate classmates on those issues.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 3, NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 5, NCTE/IRA 6, NCTE/IRA 12, NSS-C.9-12.2, NSS-C.9-12.5

  14. Role Reversal and Compromise - After students have researched a topic, place them in teams to debate a topic. Halfway through the debate, reverse the teams' roles and have them present the arguments they just debated against. Then have the teams abandon advocacy and write a compromise report to synthesize both pro and con arguments.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 3, NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 6, NCTE/IRA 8, NCTE/IRA 12

  15. Writing a Letter to a Political Figure - Have students research both the pros and cons of an issue. Once they choose a position, have them write a persuasive letter to their elected representatives or a government official.

    Standards Met: NCTE/IRA 4, NCTE/IRA 5, NCTE/IRA 7, NCTE/IRA 12




    ---Related Links---

    - Teachers' Corner main page for ProCon.org educator resources

    - Free Lesson Planning with ProCon.org - lesson plan ideas, educational standards, and Common Core information

    - Teaching Critical Thinking - critical thinking videos and seminar, plus a curated collection of books and studies about the importance of critical thinking

    - Critical Thinking Quotes - illustrated quotes about critical thinking from famous minds

    - How Educators Use ProCon.org - see how thousands of educators incorporate ProCon.org into their curricula, and take the survey so we can add your insights to the list