Use ProCon.org to help students strengthen their persuasive writing by identifying and responding to counterarguments.
Watch the documentary Best of Enemies, or excerpts from this award-winning film, and then consider and discuss important questions about political conventions, pundits, television debate, and where our nation’s political discourse may have gotten its often nasty tone. [Note: This high-resolution PDF file is over 16 MB and may take a few seconds to load. A lower-resolution PDF file (13 MB) is also available.]
Have students write a “call to action” letter about an issue that includes their positions on the issue, why individuals should act, and at least three things they should do to help the cause.
Engage students in the critical thinking seminar ProCon.org facilitates each year with the Junior State of America (JSA).
Use the point-by-point arguments on ProCon.org to help students develop higher order thinking skills by learning to distinguish fact from opinion.
Find lesson plans to use with ProCon.org’s election coverage or to adapt to an election of your choice.
In this activity, students will become familiar with strategies they can use in their academic and personal lives by practicing evaluating sources for authority, accuracy, currency, relevance, and objectivity.
Use ProCon.org to help students build background knowledge and examine a novel’s controversial issue(s).
Students will use a ProCon.org topic of their choice to prep for a mock speech to Congress.
The 2007 film shows viewers the triumphant rise of the 1935 Wiley College debate team from little-known team to national champion with a victory over the Harvard University debate team. Based on a true story, the film offers glimpses into the Jim Crow South and the Great Depression, while telling an intimate story of how a team of black college students overcame their own fears, as well as societal racism, violence, and oppression, to use their words to defeat a formidable opponent. ProCon.org partnered with the Reagan Library for a panel discussion featuring the film’s writer, Bob Eisele, and two of the film’s stars, Denzel Whitaker and Jermaine Williams.
Use ProCon.org and reflective structured dialogue to explore controversial topics that may make participants feel defensive initially in a constructive discussion format that promotes listening, speaking respectfully, and appreciating other viewpoints.
Use ProCon.org headline articles to help students learn how to effectively highlight their assigned readings by practicing how to distill main ideas from an informational text.
Use the Background section from a ProCon.org issue to practice identifying main ideas in informational text, and distinguish between explicit and implicit statements.
In this activity, students will learn how to develop an inquiry-based mindset in their academic, personal, and professional lives. Students will use ProCon topic pages to engage with multiple perspectives, address assumptions, ask questions, and dig deeper in order to make evidence-based decisions.
Use a ProCon.org micro site to help students evaluate debate claims and examine their own reasoning.
Use thesis statements from ProCon.org to help students get a better feel for what a thesis statement is and how it relates to the paragraph that follows it.
Use charts and graphs on ProCon.org to engage students in a visual literacy exercise.
Philosophical chairs in its simplest form is a pro/con debate in which students select a side and physically move to the space in the classroom that has been designated pro or con. Students debate from those physical positions while being given the flexibility to change sides (physically and argumentatively) and adapt arguments during the philosophical chairs debate. The format provides room for more open-mindedness and consideration of the other side than a fixed-side debate.
This activity will introduce students to techniques to research and prepare effective statements for a pro/con debate.
Use one of the primary sources available at ProCon.org to help students practice their analysis of higher level primary sources.
Pro and Con Quote Analysis & Argument Creation
Assign, or have students select, one ProCon.org topic (the “dilemma”) for examination. Individually or in small groups, students should then choose three pro quotes and three con quotes that represent the topic’s main arguments from the ProCon.org site. For each quote, students should note the quote’s source, determine two of the quote’s main ideas, and rate the quote on a scale of 1 to 10 using the attached worksheet provided by W. Kip Morales, an English Teacher at Smidt Tech High School.
Once the students have analyzed the pro and con quotes from ProCon.org, each student or group should write their own opinion on the topic with evidence to support their claims, an analysis of the evidence (the “link”), a counterclaim to their argument, and, finally, a rebuttal to the counterclaim.
Mr. Morales uses this exercise with his 9th and 10th grade students, though the plan can be scaled for younger students.
Use ProCon.org as a research platform to kick off a long-term class project on an issue relevant to the community.
For a unit on the 1980s, the electoral process, or the presidency, use ProCon.org’s resources on President Ronald Reagan.
Use ProCon.org videos to practice listening skills, note-taking, and identifying links between cause and effect(s) in persuasive speech.
This lesson plan from Sophia Morris uses ProCon.org as a required source for students to write persuasive position papers with a partner.
This lesson plan from Syracuse City School District has students “leverage reading research skills to gain information — and form an evidence-based opinion — about a class topic,” which will then be used to write persuasive essays and serve as a foundation for class debate.
Use the ProCon.org homepage to help students build research skills such as skimming and summarizing.
Students analyze a ProCon.org micro site, looking specifically for the use of rhetorical devices.
This lesson plan from Heather Herman and Lindsey Cermak of the Minnesota Literacy Council has students consider the question “What does success look like?” by identifying the best-supported argument, analyzing visual information, and completing a pre-writing assignment.
PBS’ lesson plan asks students to “explore how United States immigration policy affects families with mixed citizenship status” using the PBS documentary Sin Pais (Without Country).
Southern Poverty Law Center’s lesson plan has students learn to debate “with grace and dignity,” disagree with grace, and “make friends across ideological boundaries,” by discussing a controversial topic chosen by the teacher or class.
The goal of this lesson plan from Keith Neth (Millard Public Schools) is to help students understand the variety of voting technology used in the United States in the past 200 years.
As a way to assess understanding of both pro and con arguments about an issue, and also to practice clear, concise writing, have students create a fictional Twitter debate, tweeting from pro, con, and neutral perspectives.
This multi-part National Endowment for the Arts lesson plan uses Julie Otsuka’s novel, When the Emperor Was Divine, to consider many issues including immigration and racial profiling.
Students take on the role of politician to identify stakeholders on a controversial policy issue and craft a series of statements that address each group.
We offer these lesson plan ideas to help teachers cover important skills across many subjects. Some of our lesson plan ideas were developed in partnership with Dr. Faith Rogow, award-winning curriculum developer (InsightersEducation.com) and co-founder of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). Other of our lesson plans were created by third parties who are identified below on their respective plans.