Hold a Debate With Student-Created Skits

Jennifer Stahl

Editor's note: 7th-grade ELA teacher Jennifer Stahl loves to get her students up and out of their chairs as often as possible. So she has her students practice persuasive writing by creating skits. It's totally genius! Here's how she does it.


I wanted to give my students a creative way to practice persuasive writing using Scope's debates. So I have them write and perform skits to defend their arguments. I like to use this activity in place of an essay as a summative or formative assessment. The activity provides a rare opportunity for students to be creativeand they really sink their teeth into it! I'm always blown away by the originality of their skits and their well-backed arguments.

What you'll need:

  • any Scope debate, such as "Would You Get a Flip Phone?" (September 2017)
  • overhead projector
  • props; for this example, you'll need one flip phone (surely you can dig one up somewhere!) and one smartphone

Key skills:
speaking and listening, defending an argument, text evidence

2 class periods


Day 1: Read and discuss the debate

1. As a class, read and discuss the debate "Would You Get a Flip Phone?"

2. Have students complete the activity on page 11 and do the quiz (available on two levels).

3. Create a chart with two columns—one for "yes" and one for "no"—that you will use to poll students on their response to the question "Would you get a flip phone?"

4. Project the chart for the class and have each student add their name to either the "yes" or the "no" side. (Students do not have to defend their position at this point.)


Day 2: Create and perform skits

1. Project the poll from the previous day. Students will have a chance to change their position at the end of the period.

2. Divide the class into groups and assign half of the groups to defend the "yes" side and half to defend the "no" side. (Some students will be defending a position they don't personally hold.)

3. Have each group spend no more than 20 minutes writing a script to support their assigned argument. They can use Google Docs to work together. The only rules for creating the script are:

  • The skit must defend the argument the group was assigned.
  • Everyone must have a speaking role, even if only one line. (Shy students should tell their group of their comfort level.)
  • All groups must use information from the text to support their arguments.
  • The only props allowed are the two phones and classroom chairs.
  • The skit should be no more than 2 minutes long.



4. Have each group perform their skit for the class. (Students may read from their scripts.)


Here's a clip of one of the skits:


5. After all the groups have performed, have students respond to these reflection questions as a class:


6. In answering the second question, some students may reveal that they have changed their minds. Have those students come up to the projected poll and cross their name off one side and add it to the other side.

7. Tally up the final votes and compare the poll results to the results from the day before.






Jennifer Stahl is a 7th-grade ELA teacher at Forrestdale School in Rumson, New Jersey.

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