Taxes on the Colonies


Type and Purpose of Learning

Debate is a form of language learning and performance arts learning. This play-based learning allows students a chance to develop persuasive skills both in writing and speaking as they investigate language. Additionally, they learn to express feelings and opinions, become aware of the many purposes for which language is used and come to appreciate language both as an important medium for communicating ideas and information and as a source of enjoyment. Through performing arts learning, students use more complex forms of language, express their feelings and work co-operatively with others to understand their point of view, expressing ideas in a creative and meaningful way.

A group of Grade 7 students are facing each other in a debate on the motion, “All forms of protests by the colonists must stop.”

On one side of the room, MD, MH and JK are for the motion while on the other side, MR, TN and NH oppose it. MD begins, “The taxes are important to pay for the roads and bridges which are being constructed to develop the towns where you live and where the new immigrants will live.” TN quickly stand up to rebut MD, “Too much money is being taken away from us, we do not even have enough food to eat, our debts are getting higher and the seigneurs are demanding that we pay ahuge amount of money for the land each month and therefore, the only thing we can do is protest!” MD and TN are usually shy in the classroom and need prompting to participate in discussion. They usually like to work together so that they can support each other. Hence, I am amazed to observe them on the opposite sides of the debate today! They are articulate, loud, expressive and animated as each shares her opinion on the historical issue.

The rest of the classroom participate as the audience and take their seats in front of the speakers with whom they agree. They are a rambunctious crowd today, quick to cheer on their respective speakers, “Taxes for development, taxes for progress!” “Down with the taxes, boycott buying sugar and molasses!”

NT has been selected as the “Madam Chairman.” She is having difficulty settling the audience. She uses her fist on the desk and shouts, “Order, order!”

MH has a loud voice and is not shy to use it! “The British have been very kind and generous. They have let us keep our culture, our French language, our Catholic faith and in return, ask you to pay a small tax — pay the tax and stop the protest!” NH gets up quickly on his feet, “Small tax, you say, we pay for sugar, tea, paper and paint!”

And, thus, the play in the form of a debate continues…

Lesson Plan

Assessment/Reflections for Future Lessons

Assessment is ongoing through observations, questions and conferencing before and during the writing process. The teacher walks around and uses the following prompts and questions to assist students:

  • Did you include evidence to support your position?
  • Did you use persuasive words?
  • Did you summarize your viewpoint?
  • At the end of the writing time, the teacher asks the class, “How did looking at your issue from both sides make a difference in your persuasive piece?”

Summative assessment is conducted through Student Self-Assessment for Persuasive Writing Checklist and Debate Rubric.

Curriculum Expectation


(Ref: Ontario Ministry of Education. The Ontario Curriculum, Social Studies, Grades 1-6; History and Geography, Grades 7-8, 2013 (revised)

  • Analyze, synthesize and evaluate historical information from a different point of view;
  • Analyze and describe conflicting points of view about a historical event (e.g., the expulsion of the Acadians), giving examples of fact and opinion.


(Ref: Ontario Ministry of Education. The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Language, 2006 (revised)

Oral Communication

  • 3 Communicate orally in a clear, coherent manner.


  • 9 Identify the point of view presented in texts.


  • 5 Identify their point of view and other possible points of view.

Introduction (MINDS ON)

In a quick warm-up activity, students in small groups address the issue: “Should there be a dress code in school?” Each group decides on their position and develops arguments for and against supported by evidence and examples. In a debate, each group selects a speaker to share their perspective. A final vote is taken to find out which side was more persuasive.

Teacher-Directed Lesson

  1. Go over the Characteristics of Persuasive Writing on the chart paper to use as an anchor chart to be posted in the classroom:
  • A title of the debate that tells the reader what is being argued.
  • Ideas that are well sequenced and logical.
  • Main ideas organized into paragraphs.
  • Techniques, such as rhetorical questions, statistics, facts, to make argument more strong and credible.
  • Supportive facts and persuasive words and phrases.
  • Ideas stated in a unique and surprising way.
  • An ending recommendation or conclusion that ties ideas together.
  1. Teacher to model Persuasive Writing with the whole class:
  • Select a good example of persuasive writing, for example, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! By Jon Scieszka (New York:Viking, 1989).
  • Read the text aloud, inviting students to note things that make this kind of writing different.
  • Point out the “characteristics of persuasive writing” using the anchor chart developed earlier.
  1. Drafting the arguments for the debate using a Graphic Organizer:
  • Use the organizer to explicitly model how to examine both sides of an issue and how to write from both perspectives. Research for ideas using the history texts and the internet.
  • Explain how using this both sides strategy will help them to be effectively prepared for a rebuttal.

Student Tasks (WORKING ON IT)

  1. Revising the draft to make the arguments stronger:
  • Challenge students to find the most significant arguments and elaborate on these.
  • Peer edit — ask, “Do the arguments convince the reader?”
  • Complete student self-assessment for persuasive writing.

Share and Connect

Final Presentation — The Debate

  1. Go over the Debate Rubric.
  2. Explain to the students that some of them will be debating a position opposite to their beliefs. This is an important skill for them to learn.
  3. Begin the debate with the pro side speaking first. Allow five to seven minutes of uninterrupted time to explain their position. All members on the pro side must participate equally.
  4. Repeat Step 3 for the con side.
  5. Give both sides about three minutes to confer and prepare for their rebuttal.
  6. Begin the rebuttals with the con side and give them three minutes to speak. All members must participate equally.
  7. Repeat Step 6 for the pro side.
  8. Take a vote on the issue and have a discussion on, “How did looking at this issue from both sides make a difference in choosing a side?”


Due to a large number of English Language Learners (ELL), the following strategies can be used when necessary:

  • Simplify vocabulary.
  • Highlight key ideas and instructions.
  • Give clear instructions and repeat, if necessary.
  • Use key visuals such as graphic organizers.
  • Allow sufficient response time.
  • Check often for comprehension.


Some students may not be comfortable participating in the debate in front of the class and should be allowed to focus on the writing rather than presenting the debate. Also, allow students choice in presentation through drama, reader’s theatre, diary or rap.

Other Applications (Extensions)

  • Have students conduct debates on topics of their own choice — personal, school, family, politics or community.
  • Watch Rick Mercer rants on YouTube and have students compose their own rants in small groups or pairs.

Impact Quotes (Impact Analysis)

After the debate, students were asked to reflect in their groups on, “How did looking at this issue from both sides make a difference in choosing a side?” Some of their comments follow:

“The parent survey on taxes was interesting for me. I learned a lot about the different taxes we have to pay and what would happen if we did not pay taxes.”

“For me, I think the British were right in collecting the taxes because otherwise how would they build this new country. At first I was not on their side but after the debate, I was persuaded to vote for the British.”

“You must be joking; of course the colonists were brave to protest and should have been allowed to do so. It was not fair how the British kept putting taxes on them, these people were poor and should not pay all these taxes!”

“My dad said that we pay too much taxes in Canada. When I grow up, I will have to protest these taxes, but I do know that it builds roads and pays for education and health but still now I know how the poor people in Canada must feel about taxes.”

Research Quotes

*Play based learning can range from informal play to more structured and purposeful play activities that engage the child to learn certain skills (Diamond, 2009).

*Jacqueline Kelly in her article, Playing in the Junior and Intermediate Classroom, says: “Play is capable of providing a space within which junior and intermediate learners, free from authoritative reign, attempt to solve problems on their own and create a cognitive framework that will inform future problem solving endeavours.”

Establishing a Safe Place to Learn

A classroom community has been developed using activities from an inclusive learning community in the beginning of the year. This investment has resulted in the classroom being a safe environment conducive to learning.

Canada Revisited 7 by Clark et al (Arnold Publishing, 1999)

Canadian History 7 by Colin M. Bain (Pearson Canada, 2008)

Their Stories, Our History by Aitken et al (Nelson Canada, 2006)

A Guide to Effective Literacy Instruction, Volume Six, Writing (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2008)

Websites for debates

Taxes on the Colonies: Debate Rubric

Taxes on the Colonies: Student Self-Assessment for Persuasive Writing

Curriculum: -

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