Lincoln Douglas Debate Template

What is a Lincoln Douglas debate?

A one to one debate in which both sides of an argument are stated. Each student represents a specific role. Teacher facilitates debate based on a structured set-up

When to use this activity?

  • During a unit on a controversial topic
  • To encourage collaborative learning
  • At the end of a unit as a culminating activity

How do I implement the Lincoln Douglas Debate Format?

Activity Components                    Description

Select an article from the News or Library regarding an important issue or topic.

Split your students into groups of 6*

Assign each student a role:

  • Moderator - poses the debatable point/question
  • Lead Debater/Constructor -- presents the main points/arguments for his or her team's stand on the topic of the debate
  • Questioner/Cross-Examiner -- poses questions about the opposing team's arguments to its Question Responder
  • Question Responder -- takes over the role of the Lead Debater/Constructor as he or she responds to questions posed by the opposing team's
  • Rebutter -- responds on behalf of his or her team to as many of the questions raised in the cross-examination as possible.
  • Summarizer -- closes the debate by summarizing the main points of his or her team's arguments, especially attempts by the opposition to shoot holes in their arguments
*You can adapt this size based on class size.  Likely, you will want to have a total of four groups staging a debate on two different topics.
Student Pre-Work  

Students read selected text and craft a response based on the posed  statement or question.

Students review their assigned roles and how they relate to the overall debate.

Once in small groups, students will craft a plan for the debate. Each role determining what they are going to present.


Follow this format for the debate:

  • Moderators for each groups will launch the debate [1 min]
  • Lead Debaters will each present opening arguments [6 mins]
  • Questions - [ 5 mins]
  • Cross Examiner: Poses questions of one team
  • Responder: Responds to questions
  • Rebutter: Respond back for the other team
  • Summarizer: Closing arguments [5 mins]*

Either using an exit ticket or oral format have students reflect upon the process of the debate. Examples of questions that can be used.

Exit Ticket Questions:

  • What was your role in the group?
  • Why did your or didn’t you like the role?
  • Did you agree with your team’s stance?
  • Explain why or why not using evidence from the text.

Open Discussion Questions:

  • What went well?
  • What should be improved?
  • What changes should we make moving forward?

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