Snap Debates: Using Evidence to Support Opinions*

It is no secret that I enjoy two things, debating and snapping**. Prior to an observation last year, I decided to merge there two loves together (after being inspired by this video about Stanford’s Reading Like a Historian). Oh, please take the time to watch the above video! Don’t worry, I’ll wait right here.

My class was discussing European Imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries. We had spent time discussing the five main motivations behind imperialism – Religion (converting and ending the slave trade), Economic (desire for raw materials and new markets), Political (gaining power, win prestige for country), Exploratory (desire to explore the unknown, medical searches), and Ideological (belief in superiority of the white race, to “civilize” people in other parts of the world). The goals of the activity was review these concepts and use examples of imperialism as case studies.

Lesson Flow

  1. In their notebooks, students answered  – “Which is the most influential motive behind imperialism? Why? Defend your answer with examples.”
  2. Students moved to the group that corresponds to the motive you indicated.
  3. At least one person from each group explained why their motive was the most influential using Snap Debate Format A (see below).
  4. After the first round, if students beliefs changed they moved to their new group.
  5. Planning Time. Students took 3-5 minutes to plan for the second round using either Format A or B (see below).
  6. At least two people per group explain why their’s is the most influential (and why the others are not).
  7. Finale. At the end of the second round, an eyes-closed hands up determined the ultimate winner.
  8. Exit Slip. “Did your initial idea change or strengthen? How?” and “Besides you, who did you find the most influential? Why?”

Snap Debate Format A

  • *SNAP*
  • Brief overview/reason why your motive is most influential
  • Evidence/example to support reason given
  • Restatement of reason
  • *SNAP*

Snap Debate Format B

  • Reason why other motive is dependent on/less superior to yours
  • Evidence/Example to support reason given
  • Restatement of reason


While at first the snap debate structure felt forced, students eventually did well with their introductions and conclusions. (Yes, this was partially designed to reinforce the writing process.)

Overall, this lesson got students thinking and responding to each other. For the initial round, I did challenge a few students to argue from another point-of-view as I wanted all five motives to have representation (and one was under-represented). I was most impressed in general at the different groups collaboration during planning periods. Even as the economic group grew during the second round, the group organically split into two working units.

One of my classes ended up taking out packets of primary documents that I had provided them previously in the unit and used pieces of it as evidence. As this led to very strong arguments, in the future I will remind students to use everything at their disposal.

For those who were voted most influential, I gave them bonus points, wrote their names on my board, and tweeted out their excellence.

*I had originally posted this on my Tumblr account where I post less formally.
** Among others. I do enjoy quite a bit.

About Michael K. Milton

I teach students Social Studies at Burlington High School. When I became a teacher, I believed that students would frequently give me apples. This has not happened (not even a Red Delicious ~ a name which is a misnomer). However, my school has given me a MacBook Pro and an iPad in an effort to right this wrong (I assume). I'm very lucky to work in a 1:1 school.
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1 Response to Snap Debates: Using Evidence to Support Opinions*

  1. Pingback: Going Meta: Cataloguing My Past Two Years of Blogging | Michael K. Milton ~ @42ThinkDeep

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