Playing Devil’s Advocate:  A Game for Practicing Argument Skills in Secondary ELA

An essential skill for secondary English Language Arts is the practice of argumentation.  Some writers view all modes of writing as arguments; thus, rhetorical skills are key to crafting persuasive messages for targeted audiences.  One way to practice argumentation skills is through a game called “I Couldn’t Disagree More.”  In this game, students play the devil’s advocate and disagree with debatable thematic claims.

Here’s how it works:

1.  The class is divided into groups, and the teacher reads a debatable thematic claim such as Greed is the root of evil.  The teacher or the class can generate the list of thematic claims, OR click on the FREE list of thematic claims below.

2.  Students in the group (and the whole class) have one minute to write a 1-2 sentence response disagreeing with the statement.  Students are to begin with “I couldn’t disagree more because…”  Not all students may be able to think of a response.

3.  The group that has the turn gets to share their counterarguments first.  For every statement that contains a rational reason backed by a logical literary example, the team earns a point.

a.  Student Example #1:  I couldn’t disagree more because rejection from society leads to acts of violence as in the case of Grendel when he attacks the Danes.  He wants to belong to group, but they shun him.

b.  Student Example #2:  I couldn’t disagree more because power is what truly motivates people as in the case of Macbeth who wanted the power of the throne, not necessarily monetary gain.

c.  Student Example #3:  I couldn’t disagree more because evil acts are caused by insanity as in the case of Macbeth who kills the king but hallucinates while doing so, showing that he is not in his sane state of mind.

4.  After the group shares their statements, the teacher opens up the debatable claim to the whole class, and students in other groups can share their counterarguments if and only if they wrote something different.  Other groups can earn points if they share different statements that meet the criteria.  The turn then rotates to the next group, and the teacher selects a different thematic claim.  

5.  The group with the most points wins the game!!

If you’re looking for another way to target argumentation skills, try out this game to allow your students to stretch their rhetoric muscles!



Meredith is the founder and creator of teachwriting.org and Bespoke ELA.  She has taught high school English for 10+ years in Dallas, Chicago, and New York City and holds a M.A. in Literature from Northwestern University.  She has always had a connection to the written word-- through songwriting, screenplay writing, and essay writing-- and she enjoys the process of teaching students how to express their ideas.  Meredith enjoys life with her husband, daughter, and sweet pups.