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Role Play Debate


Debate Lesson Plan

Return to It's Up for Debate!


Arts & Humanities
  • Language Arts
Social Studies
  • Civics
  • Current Events



  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12
  • Advanced


Brief Description

Students assume the roles of various stakeholders in a debate. Debate topics included.



Students will
  • consider/discuss a variety of issues up for debate.
  • list various people with a stake in the debate.
  • play the role of one of the stakeholders in a debate of an issue of high interest.
  • assess their own and/or their peers' performances in a debate.


debate, issues, controversy, stakeholder, role play

Materials Needed

  • index cards
  • topics/questions of high interest to students (see Debate Topics)

Lesson Plan

In the Lincoln-Douglas debate format, students play the typical debate roles of Lead Debater, Questioner, Responder, and so on. But many debate topics lend themselves to a different form of debate -- the role play debate.

In a role play debate, students examine different points of view or perspectives related to an issue. For example,

  • a debate about the question Should students be required to wear uniforms to school? might yield a variety of opinions. Those might include opinions expressed by a student (or perhaps two students -- one representing each side of the issue), a parent, a school principal, a police officer, a teacher, the owner of a clothing store, the owner of a Laundromat, and others.
  • a debate about the question Should bar owners be responsible for patrons who drive drunk? might include stakeholders such as a local citizen on each side of the issue, a bar owner, a liquor store owner, the president of a local Alcoholics Anonymous group, a police officer, the mother of a child killed by a drunk driver, a psychologist, and others.

Whatever the issue up for debate in your classroom, decide in advance -- or ask students to help you identify -- the stakeholders in the debate. Then gather index cards -- one card for each student. Write the roles of the stakeholders on the index cards, one stakeholder per card. Be sure you have at least three index cards for each stakeholder role.

Let students randomly draw an index card. Then have students get together with classmates holding the same stakeholder cards. Those small groups of students are responsible for putting themselves in the position of their assigned stakeholder and formulating the arguments they will present in a classroom debate on the topic.

When it is time to debate, each stakeholder presents his or her point of view. After the presentations, the entire class can join in by asking questions of the individual stakeholders. In the end, students decide which side of the debate -- the Affirmative or Negative -- presented the strongest case.

Extension Activity
If students are comfortable with the role-play debate format, you might present a handful of questions for debate. Students decide which stakeholders should be represented in a debate of each question. Then each student is assigned a question. Students assigned the same question gather together. Each decides (or draws a card to determine) which stakeholder they will represent. Students research the question from the perspective of their assigned stakeholder. The groups hold their own debates for practice. Then each small group presents its debate to the class. Students decide which stakeholders presented the strongest arguments.

Click here for additional resources related to debate rules, rubrics for assessing student performance in debates, lists of topics/questions for classroom debate, and additional lesson plans and strategies.


Students use one of the debate rubrics to assess their own and/or their classmates' debating skills.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

Find more Debate Resources or click to return to this week's Lesson Planning article, It's Up for Debate!