CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Political Leaders' Debate

History, English Language Arts, Political Science
2 to 3 lessons
To demonstrate understanding of political issues of federal election campaigns in Canada’s history.
Students role-play a federal political leaders’ debate from a past federal election.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring


Have students share any experiences they have had in watching a political debate. Have them discuss why it is important for politicians to debate their ideas and policies with their opponents and what impact a politician's image might have in a debate. If possible, watch a recent political debate and invite students to brainstorm comments about anything they notice (including staging, behaviour, image, content of debate, and so on).

As a class, create or review guidelines and rules for an in-class debate.

Outline the Opportunity

Students will role-play a leaders' debate that might have taken place before a federal election in Canada in the past 60 years.

Have students form groups and direct them to the topic Campaigning for Canada on the CBC Digital Archives website. There, they should select an election campaign of interest and prepare a summary of the main issues, leaders, parties, and results. Have one group member present the summary to the rest of the class as an introduction and in order to provide background for the debate it is going to present.

Each group chooses members to role-play the main political party leaders who participated in that campaign, and each group presents its debate to the class. Each representative will prepare an introductory speech outlining the party's positions on the main issues in the election. They should then engage in a debate or exchange of opinions on these issues. Other members of the group or class can pose questions, ask them to expand on their views, or challenge them on the issues. Once the question-and-answer or exchange phase of the debate is over, each party leader delivers a concluding speech, restating his/her views and why the audience should support his/her party in the election.

Revisit and Reflect

After students present the debates to the class, hold a debriefing activity. Have students share their views about how successfully each group portrayed its party leader and policies. Ask them what they learned about the issues, leaders, and parties involved in the election from the activity.


Students can prepare and present a political speech that might have been made by a federal party leader during one of the election campaigns highlighted in this activity.


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