Argument Stand-Off and “Got to’s” Revisited

This week, an argument game that gets everyone talking about questions of escalating importance. If it’s a nice day, play it outside! Also a topical twist on a tested enquiry about “got-to’s”.

Argument Stand-Off

Each participant needs a mini-whiteboard with pen and eraser. Stand in a circle and turn to face a partner, then one person in each pair puts up their hand. “Hands-ups” people take one step towards the centre of the circle, then turn and face their partners, so you have an inner and outer circle paired up together.

Whiteboards at the ready, they now turn to face away from one another. You announce a category, and each writes what they think is the best/most important member of that category on their whiteboards. Keep it quick, and when they’re done, count down “3,2,1, show…” they spin round and show their responses, continuing to hold them in front of them, and then defend their choice in debate with their partner.

If two people have the same, the person on the inside has to switch and argue that their category isn’t the best example. You can start with light, easy categories and then shift between more serious things and quirky, creative challenges. You can also get the inner or outer circle to rotate after each category to change partners.

Sports, most famous people ever, greatest villain, greatest hero, most important quality in a friend, least useful invention, the most certain thing in the world, best excuse for being late, best animal to use as a table, most unusual way to get rich, most wrong idea from the old days, most wrong idea from our times, something people think makes them happy but doesn’t, something people don’t realise makes them happy but does… 

Note that if your class have a proper level of mischief in them, some will take delight in writing/drawing something rude on their whiteboard to flash at their opponent so be ready to nip that in the bud! 

“Got to’s” Revisited

A few years ago we sent out an enquiry exploring the phrase, “got to” and its various meanings. Prompted by the forthcoming shift in the UK from covid measures moving from “got to” to a sort of nice-of-you-to-but-you-don’t-have-to. I’ve been reworking it with my online classes. We start by gathering lots of phrases including the words “got to” in the chat (you can do the same on whiteboards) and then I share the attached stimulus about the man with health problems making a Herculean effort to vote, and ask what they think “got to” meant for him. We then try to establish a “got to hierarchy” from the ultimate, strongest got-tos to the weakest. Where would “Gotta catch ’em all” fit in such a hierarchy?

It comes out different each time, but the levels often include the laws of physics, things you do automatically, survival, physical and mental health got-tos, legal and moral, job got-tos, compulsions, helpful got-tos, parental, traditional, religious, got-tos we set ourselves and unimportant virtual world got-tos. 

You can take this in two directions: is it better to have more “got-tos” or have more that is left up to individuals to decide for themselves. Or you can explore the issue of how people “get their go tos mixed up” and place things that ought to be at a lower level much higher up. (Lance Armstrong, people whose ambitions lead them to do bad things, addictions, peer pressure and so on). 

As teachers, a profession notorious for having “got-tos” imposed on us from above, and adding lots more for ourselves, thinking about our own “got-tos” and doing a bit of pruning is a very good exercise!

Best wishes,


P.S. The live training sessions for Sticky Questions will now be on Thursday 9th and Tuesday 14th September at 4.30 p.m. (pick one). All sets of Sticky Questions will be despatched during the school holidays ready for the autumn term. Orders placed to the end of July will be eligible for the free training session (live or on-demand versions). So twist the arm of your head or PTA and get your order in! 

Leave a Comment

Shopping Cart

We Make Resources So You 
Don't Have To!

We support over 17,000 teachers deepen their pupils' thinking through our weekly bulletin.

You'll receive freshly-made, topical resources to use straight away with your classes.

We only use your email to send you resources. We do not and would never share your information with a third party.

Scroll to Top