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Mock Debate and Vote
Target Age Group: 6th-8th grade students

Project Duration: 1-2 days, Script Running Time: 15-25 minutes

Objectives: Students will learn how debate is conducted on the House Floor, how to structure and present arguments for debate, and how votes are tallied.

Vocabulary/Concepts: Parliamentary procedure, resolution, amendment, bill, voting

Materials: Printer, scissors, resolution, debate script, voting cards, voting box (optional)

Notes: Substitute a class-created resolution for more relevant material

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1) Assign Class Various Roles:

Most of the class should function as general Members of Congress and participate in the voting. Each student should have a copy of the script, the mock resolution, and print-outs of the Member voting cards so that they may follow along and vote on the resolution. 7 main characters are needed for the debate:

Presiding Officer
Bill/Tally Clerk
Floor Manager Pro
Member Pro
Floor Manager Con
Member Con
Member Offering Amendment

2) Distribute Debate Materials
Students should familiarize themselves with the script and the resolution to understand the procedures used on the House Floor, the order of business, and the resolution up for debate and vote. Voting cards should also be prepared. Please download and distribute the following materials (PDF format. Print on 8.5x11 unless otherwise indicated):

3) Assign Pro and Con Members Writing Tasks
The characters with Pro or Con in their titles are responsible for presenting arguments for the debate. Those with Pro in their titles are in favor of the resolution and should write a 1-2 minute speech expressing those views. Those with Con in their titles are against the resolution and should write a 1-2 minute speech expressing those views. If you have a large class, you may wish to assign the brainstorming/writing duties to small groups (functioning much like party caucuses or conferences). However, the majority of class should make up the general Member audience. Suggested talking points for Pro and Con resolution appear below:

  • Benefits young persons’ physical and mental development.
  • Will enhance teenagers’ ability to process information, listen to lectures by teachers.
  • Will improve learning and standardized tests scores and make the U.S. more competitive with other industrialized countries.
  • Will solve the problem of latch-key kids’ and after-school daycare because the school day will coincide better with parents’ work schedules.
  • Will save money over the long term by cutting down on the failure rate and need for summer school or repeating grades.
  • Personal story: “I know my children can barely get themselves out of bed in the morning. . .” or “I can remember as a child falling asleep during my early morning classes. . .”, etc.
  • Kids are more productive in the early morning hours.
  • Will adversely affect working parents who need to be at work hours before their kids go to school—raises childcare issues.
  • Will hurt teenagers economically by reducing their ability to work after-school jobs because the day will run much later.
  • After-school sports and club activities will be adversely affected.
  • Cost of restructuring the day will cost millions better spent on more teachers and better teacher pay.
  • Personal story: “As a mother/father of three who needs a very structured morning routine. . .” or “When I was in 8th grade, I delivered papers every morning and had no problem getting to school on time. I was ready to learn everyday. . .”, etc.
4) Assign Member Offering Amendment Writing Task
The Member Offering Amendment character should review the resolution throughly and propose a change (amendment) to the text. The amendment should be accompanied by a 1-2 minute speech that provides reasons for the amendment. If you have a large class, you may wish to assign the brainstorming/writing duties to a small group. However, the majority of class should make up the general Member audience. Suggested amendments appear below:

Ideas for Amendments:
  • Start the school day 2 hours earlier instead
  • Cut the school day in half, but extend the school week to 7 days
  • Agree with the proposal in the resolution, but includea clause for "No School on Fridays"
5) Call Meeting of the House to Order
Once the writing tasks are complete, the House should be called to order. Main characters should assemble at the front of the classroom. The Presiding Officer and the Bill/Tally Clerk should face the class. The Pro Members should take their places together on one side of the classroom and the Con Members should gather on the other side. The Member Offering Amendment can be on either side. The general Member population (remainder of class), should take their seats in the general classroom.

6) Follow Script to Conduct Meeting of the House
Follow the debate script and insert Pro and Con speaches where indicated. The script also indicates where votes should be taken and tallied.

7) Adjourn Meeting of the House. Discussion.

Once the meeting of the House has been adjourned by the Presiding Officer in the script, conduct a class discussion of the vocabulary and concepts covered in this lesson.

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