Debating through the Lens of Interpretive Communication

Erin Brandt

  • Disciplinary Literacy Skill: IAWL.4.IPL3: Use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the cultures studied
  • Critical Literacy Skill(s): Interrogating multiple viewpoints
  • Instructional Resources Needed:
    • Interpretive Communication and the 5 C’s (Iowa City Schools)
    • Quote from ‘Mein Kampf’: “I know that fewer people are won over by the written word than by the spoken word and that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to the great speakers and not to great writers.”
    • TPS Handout

Step by Step Instructions

  1. I will have the students read the following quote: “I know that fewer people are won over by the written word than by the spoken word and that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to the great speakers and not to great writers.”
  2. Then students will be given time to write down some thoughts on the quote and their own opinion (see 5Cs handout).
  3. Once they have finished writing their thoughts, I will divide them into small groups and they will talk about their thoughts. They will answer questions about if they agree or disagree with the statement, why they feel that way, and if they think of any examples of arguments for or against the power of speech over writing in their own lives.
  4. After this, I will break the class up into a group that agrees and one that disagrees. Then they are given time to each articulate why they chose their side. I let students switch sides if they want. I ask each side if they could be convinced to take the other side.
  5. Once debating is over, I reveal that the quote was taken from Mein Kampf, and have them discuss how this ideology worked in favor of people like Hitler during his reign, and what it meant for the nazis and for the people hurt by their being in power.

Note: In this scenario, interpretive communication works by asking students to derive meaning from the quote based on what they know, what is happening around them in their own lives, and what the context of the quote itself is. In this case it is a scaffolded approach to interpretive communication where they give initial thoughts, discuss its meaning with a partner, then must defend their stance. Once everyone has had a chance to be heard, they are given the opportunity to change their minds. Then they are given further context, and are asked to reconcile their stance with the way it was put into action in the past, who it hurt and who it helped. In doing all this, students get a chance to show their understanding of the idea and the way it caused harm in its original context, share their opinions on the subject, apply it to current and historical contexts, and demonstrate their knowledge of the consequences of the ideology of the given quote. In this way students are asked to interrogate their viewpoints, the viewpoints of their peers, the viewpoints of people that allowed this ideology to take power, and those who were harmed by this ideology.

Video Demonstration


Iowa City Schools. World Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. Retrieved from

Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945. Mein Kampf. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999.

About the author

My name is Erin Brandt. I’m from Central Iowa. I’m studying education, because I have a lot of passion for my content area, world languages and cultures. I love languages, and have studied several, including Spanish, German, French, Russian, Latin and Chinese, and I am currently trying to learn Korean and Japanese. I’m most particularly interested in teaching German, as my family is German, and I feel closely connected to the language. I hope to learn a lot about being a great teacher while teaching, and that I can use these skills to inspire my students while working towards a career in higher education.