Fire & Ice

5th - 8th graders: In this lesson students will each be assigned a Harlem Renaissance historical figure.  They will research their figure and educate their classmates on who they studied.  Each student will provide visual materials and present their findings.  Students will record their research in an essay as well.

  • Costume (optional)


  • Affirmative arguments - side of the argument that supports the claims of the resolution

  • Negative arguments - side of the argument that negates or denies the claims of the resolution

  • Resolution - A specific statement or question up for debate. Resolutions usually appear as statements of policy, fact or value

  • Cross examination - Question and answer sessions between debaters

  • Argumentation - A statement, or claim, followed by a justification, or warrant. Justifications are responses to challenges, often linked by the word “because.” Example: The sun helps people, because the sun activates photosynthesis in plants, which produce oxygen so people can breathe

  • Evidence - Supporting materials for arguments


  • Reflections of the Harlem Renaissance gallery exhibit

  • Gallery Talk

  • Exhibit Featured Harlem Renaissance Historical Figures


  • 5th-8th grade: 

    • Social Studies - 8 History Strand; Colonization to Independence: The practice of race-based slavery led to the forced migration of Africans to the American colonies and contributed to colonial economic development. Their knowledge, skills and traditions were essential to the development of the colonies.

    • RH.6-8.9 Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

    • W.7.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

In a debate-styled setting students learn to assert their ideas with the support of historical facts and research details.  This practice provides students to delve into history and embody the times through thought-provoking insights and logical reasoning.  The performative nature of this lesson promotes confidence and elevates the student voice.  The individual heroes of the Harlem Renaissance come to life as students explore their unique stories of bravery, purpose and adversity.


Ohio Education Standards

9th-12th graders: In this lesson, students will be split into two teams; Fire & Ice.  Team Fire will represent the great Harlem Renaissance influencers while Team Ice will represent their barriers.  In a debate-like event, each team will propose arguments in support of (Team Fire) and opposing (Team Ice) the progression of these great heroes. Conversations with icons from the Harlem Renaissance.  Assign an icon to half the students, and assign a political, social or cultural barrier to the rest of the students; pairing an iconic figure with a barrier they would have faced.  The “Fire” will explain who they are and their significance to American history.  The “Ice” will present reasons why they oppose the ideas and elevation of each individual.  This lesson provides students with the opportunity to fully investigate the social and political issues of the 1920s for Black people while learning about influential figures.  In the end, students will discover, despite the odds, Fire was still able to remain persistent and overcome the barriers of Ice. Students will record a written reflection of the event and provide written responses to support the evidence they gathered.

  • 9th-12th grade: 

    • Social Studies - TOPIC: PROSPERITY, DEPRESSION AND THE NEW DEAL (1919-1941)                                                                                                           The post-World War I period was characterized by economic, social and political turmoil. Post- war prosperity brought about changes to American popular culture. However, economic disruptions growing out the war years led to worldwide depression. The United States attempted to deal with the Great Depression through economic programs created by the federal government.

    • WHST.9-10.1 Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.

    • Social Studies - TOPIC: HISTORICAL THINKING AND SKILLS              Students apply skills by utilizing a variety of resources to construct theses and support or refute contentions made by others. Alternative explanations of historical events are analyzed and questions of historical inevitability are explored.

Procedure (9th-12th grade)

  1. Team up: Split the class into two groups; one group are the Fire or Harlem Renaissance figures and Ice or the social and political barriers.

  2. Choose a Side: Each group will receive a claim presented by the teacher.  For example, An African American arts explosion will harm American culture.

  3. Sift the Info:  Through internet search engines and databases, every student will collect supporting materials for their team’s position.

  4. Outline the Plan: The students will devise a plan of how to organize their research to deliver their evidence effectively by identifying 3-5 key affirmative arguments and 3-5 negative arguments.

  5. What to Say:  Each team will draft a list of questions designed to use during the debate.

  6. Game Time:  In a courtroom or panel set up, each team will argue their case.  The two team panels will take turns cross examining one another.  Team Fire will represent the individuals who led the Harlem Renaissance Movement while Team Ice will represent the social and political issues attempting to block their progression.

  7. Reflect:  Once complete, all students will select one key argument and use their research to draft an essay that supports their claim.  This essay will also include reflections from the activity and reveal what was learned.


  • Audience: Students perform the debate in front of an audience or invite participation from other students or faculty to examine their evidence and/or score each team’s evidence.

  • One Person Case:  Students focus the debate on one figure from the Harlem Renaissance and build a case around one individual.

  • Individual Study:  All Students select a figure to study and present their research to the class and or dress in costuming or perform actions related to their figure.  For example, playing with clay while talking about Augusta Savage.

  • Impact Today:  Students use media to showcase the impact the Harlem Renaissance icons have had on current society.


  • Mind Map: Have the students put the main idea of the topic and circle it in the middle of the page. Then have them put the main ideas in their own circles around the central circle. The main ideas should be placed closer to the circle the more important they are to the topic, and further away if they are less important. This is a good way to visualize for the students, and easy to review their ideas and connections being made.