Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

League of Nations Fishbowl Debate
Roger Leaming
AP and Honors Am History
Time Frame:
overnight assignment; 15 to 20 minutes of class time plus continued debate on a blog page
Treaty Of Versailles
League Of Nations

Grade Levels:
10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Fishbowl/Open Debate over the question, The United States should have ratified the Treaty of Versailles and Joined the League of Nations


Students will have to research the treaty, the arguments in the U.S. about the treaty and the League, and they will have to formulate sound reasons for their stance.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:


2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions


Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points of the Era of World War (1914-1945).

1. (A) analyzes the causes and immediate consequences of WWI (e.g., imperialism rivalries: Triple Entente, Triple Alliance, nationalism, arms race in England, France, and Germany; Treaty of Versailles, reparations, War Guilt Clause).

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in world history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Full description of activity or assignment.

Students will be given a homework (reading) assignment the night before the debate that will ask them to research the Treaty of Versailles, the League of Nations, and the debate surrounding both in the United States

Students will be given a paper with the debate question listed at the top of the paper and then split into two columns, "Pro" and "Con". They will have to list five (5) reasons under each of those columns (they will be turned in the next morning before school; teacher will quickly check each paper and hand back to the student before the debate begins) the debate will begin with two students facing each other at the front of the room, seated in chairs the teacher will begin the debate by flipping a coin to see which student starts; once decided, then the first student will begin with either a pro or con statement in relation to the question; the other student will respond with an opposite statement in counter to what the first student stated; the teacher must decide which made the more salient point; that student remains, while a new student takes the other's place; the student remaining must continue in the same vein as their first question (either pro or con) and the new student must counter in that vein; once againthe teacher decides who stays; etc.

Students may go up more than once; they can bring in any factual information about the question the teacher must make sure there is no monopolization by one student

Students will turn in a short written summary of the arguments stating which side won and what argument was most influential in convincing them in deciding that, plus what it was about that argument that persuaded them to choose it (due the next class period)

A good way to make sure of the fairness of the scoring process is to film the debate; it can also be used by the students if they wish to review it [after school] to fulfill their homework assignment

The next class period should contain a debriefing session on the debate; the teacher should make sure the students understand what the entire lesson was about

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • 1 point is given if the students argument is simply opinion based
  • 2 points if a students argument is a response to other students
  • 3 points if a student brings in outside information (that not contained in the text)
  • 10 points for the written homework containing the five (5) pro and five (5) con arguments pertaining to the question
  • 10 points for the written homework containing their summary of the debate (it must contain a summary of the arguments for both sides [3 points maximum for each side], plus the argument that was most convincing [1 point for choosing which side won and 1 point for stating the argument they found the most convincing], and why that argument was so persuasive [2 points maximum].
  • 27-30 points = A
  • 24-26 points = B
  • 21-23 points = C
  • 18-20 points = D
  • Below 18 = F