Age of Imperialism Lesson Plan - Debate Activity

Grade Levels
Product Rating
File Type
Compressed Zip File
Be sure that you have an application to open this file type before downloading and/or purchasing.
How to unzip files.
1.45 MB   |   4 documents, each 1-3 pages long. Powerpoint has 7 slides. 2 page chart of questions pages


This lesson plan is focused on the rationales for imperialism and its effects. The lesson begins with a brief PowerPoint to set up the topic and give students their directions for the debate.

For the activity, the class is divided into 5 teams. The first team serves as leaders of a nation. Their job is to decide whether their nation should pursue imperialism or not. Each member of this team is assigned one of the 4 debate teams to question and raise arguments with. They are then given the document that the debate team they are going up against is using along with a document for the other side. They are to use this information to create questions and arguments to use during the debate.

The 4 debate teams are each given a document either for or against imperialism (2 documents for each side). The debate teams use this information to write a speech arguing for their side. I also give my students butcher paper and have them make a poster to visually illustrate their main arguments.

Once the teams are ready, the debate begins. Each team takes its turn to present their speech and explain their poster. After their speech, the nation-leader assigned to question them poses their arguments and they debate the topic.

*Note - the powerpoint does specify to the students that while we know today that imperialism is wrong, recreating the ideas and debates of the time period allows us to better understand the justifications for Imperialism.

During the debates, students are given a 2 page chart with questions to fill out during the presentations so that they have a record of the main ideas of each topic. An answer key to the chart is provided.

There are 4 different documents. Two documents will be used by the imperialist side and two documents will be used by the anti-imperialist side. The documents are all between 1-3 pages long and cover the following topics: The White Man's Burden, Social Darwinism, The Abuses of Colonial Rule, and The Platform of the Anti-Imperialist League.

Pro Imperialism Doc 1: The White Man's Burden
a. Explains the concept of the White Man's Burden
b. How the "Dual Mandate" was used to justify imperialism
c. Ways that imperialism would benefit the lives of natives with Western science and technology
d. How Christianity would be brought to native shores and that justified imperialism
e. Rudyard Kipling's Poem, "The White Man's Burden" and advertisements for Pears Soap end the document to illustrate the attitude imperialists had towards natives and the White Man's Burden.

Pro Imperialism Doc 2 - Social Darwinism:
a. Explains Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection
b. How imperialists applied natural selection to civilizations to create Social Darwinism
c. How Social Darwinism justified imperialism

Anti-Imperialism Doc 1 - The Abuses of Colonial Rule
a. How the African Congo suffered under the rule of King Leopold II and the rubber trade.
b. Imperialist discrimination and segregation.
c. European use of forced labor in colonies
d. American rule and betrayal of the Philippines
e. photos of victims of Congo's rubber trade

Anti-Imperialism Doc 2 - Platform of the Anti-Imperialist League
a. Students use this excerpt from the official platform of America's Anti-Imperialist League to help them craft their own speech.
Total Pages
4 documents, each 1-3 pages long. Powerpoint has 7 slides. 2 page chart of questions
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
90 Minutes

Average Ratings

Overall Quality:
3 ratings
Please log in to post a question.
Digital Download
User Rating: 3.9/4.0
Digital Download
Age of Imperialism Lesson Plan - Debate Activity
Age of Imperialism Lesson Plan - Debate Activity
Age of Imperialism Lesson Plan - Debate Activity
Age of Imperialism Lesson Plan - Debate Activity
Teachers Pay Teachers

Teachers Pay Teachers is an online marketplace where teachers buy and sell original educational materials.

Learn More

Keep in Touch!

Sign up