Lesson Plan #: AELP-DEB0201
Submitted by: Mark A. Schneberger
School/University/Affiliation: Oklahoma City Community College
Date: November 20, 2001
Grade Level: 9, 10, 11, 12, Higher Education, Adult/Continuing Education
- Language Arts/Debate
- Language Arts/Writing
Duration: 50 minutes
Description: This lesson can be used to teach the beginning stages of argument to high school or college level English composition classes. Students use their writing skills to describe how their group’s Snickers are a better buy than another group’s Kit Kats, while the other group describes how its Kit Kats are a better buy than Snickers. Students use examples of price, advertising appeal, ease of consumption, appearance, dangers, nutrition facts, feel, smell, and taste to support their topic.
Goals: Students will be able to develop a thesis statement and write paragraphs using appropriate forms, conventions, and styles to communicate ideas and information to an audience (for the purposes of persuasion and argumentation).
- a 20-piece bag (approx.) of Snickers Fun Size candy bars
- a 20-piece bag (approx.) of Kit Kat Fun Size candy bars
- chalkboard or dry erase board and chalk/marker
- writing utensils and paper
[If your college disapproves of bringing in outside food items (those not sold at the often overpriced commissary), substitute homemade nut-filled cookies and chocolate chip cookies for the candy bars. If using cookies, modify the thesis statement to fit.] Procedure:
Inform students that they are to begin a unit about argumentation. Find out how many students like to argue and how many do not. Tell them that they are going to argue about something very important today — candy bars! Inform students that the class is going to be split down the middle, and students on one side will receive Kit Kats while students on the other side will receive Snickers. [ Author’s Note: You may allow students to choose sides, but you must have (closely) equal representation on each side. Also, tell students not to eat the candy bars.]
Lay a candy bar on each student’s desk, or pass the bags around and allow the students to choose their own. Tell the students that they need to imagine that there are only two brands of candy bars in the world — the ones being discussed. Tell them that their candy bar is the best value, and it is their job to come up with as many logical reasons why their candy bars are the best value. Tell them not to consider that the other group is working on doing the same project for another brand. Rather, have them just focus on the question, Why is my candy bar the best value? Encourage them to work together to make a list of the top 10 points for why their candy bars are the best.
After they have come up with their lists, have each group elect a representative to write their 10 reasons on the board. The result will be a split board with Kit Kat best-buy points on one side and Snickers best-buy points on the other side. Next, have students vote on which of their side’s three reasons best represent why their respective candy bars are the better value. Erase all the others. This will result in a split board with three strong points for each side. Then, tell the groups that they are to individually, or in teams of two or three, write a thesis statement which expresses the idea that their candy bar is the best value. Then they are to craft two short paragraphs of three or more sentences (the paragraphs must be linked with transitional expressions) for each point they’ve chosen for their side. While students are working, assist each group and view their progress. The result will be a thesis statement and two paragraphs which support it. Allow students to eat their candy bars if they choose at this time. (Sugar may help them write faster!)
After the paragraphing is complete, tell the students how important it is when arguing to be fair and to demonstrate that others may have differing opinions. Then, direct them to individually, or in teams of two or three, assume the position of the other side and identify what they consider to be that side’s strongest point about why they have the best value bar. Kit Kat groups will write a paragraph supporting Snickers and vice versa. Encourage students to spend a few minutes in discussion with members of the opposing groups, so they can adequately explain and support their points. Kit Kat members will solicit information from Snickers members and vice versa. While they are working, assist each group and view their progress. The result will be one paragraph, linked to the first two, which demonstrates the opposing position. If students request an opposing side’s candy bar, allow them to have one (if there are ones left) to eat.
Finally, explain to students that their job after identifying a strong differing opinion is to directly and convincingly challenge it. Using what they know about candy bars, nutrition, packaging, and logic, they must try to construct one short paragraph (including transitional element) to disprove the other side. Kit Kats will challenge Snickers’ strongest point and vice versa. While students are working, assist each group and view their progress. The result will be one challenge paragraph linked to the previous three paragraphs. Encourage students to share their completed paragraphs.
Assessment: Collect students’ paragraphs to assess completeness and students’ ability to logically demonstrate argumentation in writing.
Special Comments: If you have further questions about this lesson plan, which uses food as a base for understanding, please do not hesitate to contact: Mark A. Schneberger, Adjunct Professor of English, Oklahoma City Community College.