Teaching “The Great Debaters”

“The Great Debaters” is an inspiring story of courage, creativity and resolve. Debate begins with a resolution. It starts with a point to prove. It is a form of battle, fought with words.

A great quote from the movie is: “Now is always the right time to do the right thing.” One of the most important lessons in The Great Debaters is found in one of its memorable lines:

“We do what we got to do, so we can do what we want to do.” 

Pre-study activities:

  1. I plan to use The Question Formulation Technique here. In short it goes like this: When students know how to ask their own questions, they take greater ownership of their learning, deepen comprehension, and make new connections and discoveries on their own. Source: Harvard Education Letter. 
  2. This activity is started by the Teacher designing a question focus. Here are several to start off the activity:  How to master the art of debating, how it was to grow up as an African American in the south during the 1930s.  an unjust law is no law at all, “Jim crow laws, Harvard University, lynching, the great depression, a debate team, could blacks participate in anything they wanted to then?
  3. Give out post-it notes to the class or use wallwisher and work in groups of 4.
    a:) Produce Your Questions (Ask as many questions as you can. Do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer the questions. Write down every question exactly as it is stated.  Change any statement into a question.
    b:) Improve Your Questions, Categorize the questions as closed- or open-ended.
    C:) Prioritize the Questions • Choose your three most important questions. Why did you choose these three as the most important?

Watch the movie!

After- movie activities and discussion topics:

  1. Did the movie answer any of your questions?
  2. Use one or two of your questions to write a post on your blog.
  3. Look here for more info: .Great debaters study guide


  1. It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. Maybe you can write next articles referring to this article. I wish to read even more things about it!

  2. Reblogged this on Fraser Valley Debate Club and commented:
    This month at MRCS MUN we are using The Great Debaters to study the personal and social impacts of debate, and taking a look at some rhetorical techniques, including rheto-logical fallacies.
    Here is a post from a fellow teacher that I found useful in preparing my lessons.

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