Late Debates

Why are you late?

Why is your homework late?

Why do parents evenings always run late?


This week, how to get students talking about something we teachers tend to talk about an awful lot.

Late Debates

Yesterday, a colleague and I were waiting for someone who was late to our meeting. With nothing else to do, we came up with some statements, (and theories), about lateness. I realised they would make to great discussions starters for students of all ages:

  • You should never be late
  • Without clocks, people would never be late
  • Without humans, the concept of lateness wouldn’t exist
  • Lateness is as bad as not doing your homework
  • Lateness is a sign of disrespect
  • “Better late than never” isn’t always true.
  • We should tolerate lateness less
  • We should tolerate lateness more

…and also some theories (which, although less philosophical, are still interesting for older students and adults):

  • In general, grown ups cause more lateness than children
  • In general, children cause more lateness than grown ups
  • Lateness is more tolerated now people can gaze their at phone whilst they wait
  • Lateness has become less common now everyone has Google Maps
  • Lateness has become more common now people assume Google Maps will get them there on time

We ask questions a lot in philosophy. However, it is also just as fun to put something into question. Statements will often provoke an immediate reaction – either siding with it, or denying its accuracy. Especially when they’re about a familiar concept, like lateness.

“How to play”

There’s a range of fun thinking games you can play with statements – 3 are described below below. Whichever one you choose, run several rounds taking a statement at a time:

  • Ask each student to pair up with another, and get one in each pair to raise their hand. That person must argue FOR the statement, the other must argue AGAINST it.
  • Organise two lines facing each other. Students on either side shake hands with a partner facing them. One line argues FOR, the other argues AGAINST.
  • Divide the room in two and label one half of the room the YES side, and the other half the NO side. Get all students to move to the same side like a shoal of fish, and challenge them to come up with reasons. Repeat for the other side.

If you do ‘allocate’ students a side to argue for, give them a chance to swap sides regularly, so they get a chance to argue YES as well as NO. For extra challenge, get them to swap mid-debate!

Afterwards, allow them to show what they really think having heard both sides of the argument. It’s best to make this physical too – going back over the statements and getting them to physically show their thinking. For example: hands on head for YES, arms folded for NO.

Best wishes,



PS From Jason – I’m off on holiday in the Lakes and Scotland, which is why I’m late pressing send! A quick heads-up that in two weeks the bulletin will include a one-week-window offer to buy a class set of Sticky Questions for £45 (including VAT where charged). We normally only sell whole-school sets because printing and packaging them is a major operation. You can see more about Sticky Questions and what a hit they are with the children here:


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