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Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Debate: Is Cheerleading a Sport?
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Additional Activities


Media Components:

Computer Resources:

  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.

  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.

  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
  • IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.
Specific Software Needed:
  • Excel for statistics and graphing poll results
  • Word for student electronic journals, and student-designed Rubrics
Bookmarked sites:
Need to make sure chat site(s) you choose pass the Board of Education filters. If not, teachers set up a discussion board on their individual school web site. Here is free software to help you with the process: Traditional Sources:

"Is Cheerleading a Sport?," The New York Times Magazine, February 11, 2001


  • Video Camcorder equipment; tripod; Monitor; VCR
  • Computer with Internet access and printer.
  • School or other website where student work can be published.
  • Ability of students to e-mail one another and the teacher.


Students would need the following supplies:

  • Student Journals (notebooks)


Introductory Activity:
Giving lesson overview and engaging student interest:

  • 1. Announce to the class that for the upcoming week they will be learning how women are perceived within the world of sports and in our society as a whole. Tell them they will learn to have informed class discussions on a controversial topic, and they will learn the rules of formal debate. They will need to form arguments based on research, express that knowledge through a research project, and gauge whether their opinions change as knowledge is gained. They should be told that they will be assessed according to these standards:
    • Comparing and contrasting differing sets of ideas, values, personalities, behaviors, and institutions.
    • Considering multiple perspectives-poll then graph those opinions.
    • Producing a reflection journal based on daily questions.
    • Learning formal debate tactics, and assess class debate through student designed rubric.
    • Using telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences.
    • Reporting research results.

      Assessment: Rubric used to assess debate results; Reflective Journal; Students' Projects
  • Divide students into small groups and ask them to debate the question: "Is Cheerleading a Sport?" Have each student record their opinions, and have one student per group report question results.

    Ask students to set up a poll on the topic. They can either set up a poll on your school's website, or post the question and ask for e-mail responses. If web access is not possible, set up a poll voting box in the school. Talk about the need to poll a cross section of people (from school athletes, to parents, etc.).


    Student Journal Question:

    • List all the reasons why you think cheerleading is or is not a sport.
    • How effective were you in persuading your group mates that you were right? Explain why you were successful or unsuccessful.

    Learning Activities:

    Day Two: learning how to debate.

    Tell students they will spend the day investigating the qualities of a good debate so that they can utilize these strategies in their own debate about cheerleading.

    Begin by asking students to freewrite about the most persuasive person they know. Ask them also to list reasons why these people are so persuasive. Review results in a class discussion, listing the methods of persuasion on the board. Discuss which methods they think are the most effective.

    Ask students to add to the list by researching five additional strategies used for debate. You may want to adjust the number of strategies researched based on student's prior knowledge of the topic. Students should use bookmarked debate sites for their research.

    After research and the lists are completed have students identify these methods as they are used in real life. They can watch televised trials, congressional hearings televised on CSPAN or visit bookmarked sites. Use the Discussion Tips handout as a another guide.

    Inform students that they will create their own rubric to evaluate their video-recorded formal class debate on day five. Use the Sample Rubric handout as a model to work from. Students will then design (as a group) their own rubric with all of the areas and categories they think are important to include.


    Student Journal Question:

    • What are the most important debate strategies that you learned about today?
    • How might you incorporate these strategies into your debate about cheerleading?
    • Given your chosen strategies, what topics can you research?

    Day Three: Topic research on the web.

    Inform students that the day will be spent gathering substantive information to back up their arguments in the debate. Begin by reviewing the homework assignment, and recording research topics and debate strategies on the board.

    You may want to expand the topic by encouraging students to explore topics such as:

    • What is the definition of a sport or athlete?
    • What kinds of sports do we have today that we didn't have in the past? What does that tell us about our society?
    • The kinds of sports women were involved in 100, 50, and 25 years ago, compared to the sports they are involved in today.
    • Which sports are sanctioned Olympic sports, and how many women are involved in them compared to men?
    • What is the history and reasons for implementing Title IX?
    • What is the history of cheerleading? What school(s) had the first cheerleaders?
    • How are cheerleaders portrayed in contemporary media? How is this similar or different than how other athletes are portrayed?
    • How have women's sports changed since the inception of Title IX?


    Student Journal Question:

    • What are the most important things you found as a result of your research?
    • Compare your current opinion about cheerleading to what you thought in the Introductory Activity of this lesson. Explain how your research has either strengthened or changed your original opinion.
    • How will you use this information to strengthen your argument?

    Day Four: Practice debating strategies, and choose formal debate teams and roles.

    Students will be organized into debate groups comprised of students with diverse opinions. To facilitate this, have students write their names on a continuum line on the board (or on a spreadsheet), showing where they stand on the issue, and then arrange the groups accordingly.

    Once in the groups, have students choose their roles for the debate tomorrow. Sample roles may include: speakers, researchers, facilitator, time keeper, reporter, video person (or teacher's role), 'judge' to keep order, recorder to take notes and make sure Rubric points are addressed.

    Note: Careful grouping is important. You may wish to enlist a group of students as your Human Resources Team. They can assist you in arranging the groups in the most productive way (see "Concept to Classroom collaboration: Small-grouping models")

    After roles are chosen, give groups the rest of the period to develop their arguments. Remind them to consult their debate rubrics as a guide for developing solid debate tactics. Tell the students that their opinion must be backed up by factual information based on research and good debate models.


    Student Journal Question:

    • Did you notice a difference in the way your group debated today compared to how things went the first time around? Discuss the differences and the why and how of those differences.
    • Describe yourself as a participant in today's discussion. Speak of yourself in the third person, as though you were observing your group on videotape. Include only observable behaviors.

    Day Five: Culminating Activity/Assessment:

      1. Select a group of students to act as debate judges, awarding points to teams that argue effectively. Judges should use the class-generated rubric as a basis for awarding points. Require judges, and all students not formally speaking in the debate to take notes on why each team was awarded points. Proceed with debate while videotaping the proceedings.

      2. Review the videotape with the class, and have them assess it as a group based on the rubric model.

      3. Review the results of the polls that were established on the first day. Ask students what (if any) conclusions they can draw about their own community's attitudes about cheerleading and girls in sports.

    Math Extension:
    Poll results:

    Spreadsheet analysis (graph): on-line or poll box, chat room log, speak with an expert log, and so on. Chart and analyze results based on age, gender, before debate (in-class population) and after debate.

    Students graph poll results, then develop a spreadsheet measuring the norm opinion. Students may develop statistics based on differences between the opinion cohorts, which differ, by gender, age, involvement in sports, and other relevant factors.

    Students graph poll results, then develop a spreadsheet measuring the norm opinion. More sophisticated statistical analysis may used, such as finding mean, mode, median, matching gender to responses, and finding other statistical trends.

    Cross-Curricular Extensions:

    Teachers who are interested in fostering class discussion based on factual information may want to learn more about Socratic Seminar techniques.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students