Several years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season. I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually (except for 2019) every November and December. These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child. For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, including my ongoing 2022 list, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students and one for Books for Gifted Children or Anyone who Loves to Learn.
I’ve already referenced this article by @LindsayAnnLearn once in the last few weeks when I posted about her “Bring Your Own Book” game. Let’s just say that I found a lot of gift ideas on her list, and “I Dissent” is one of them. Inspired by the great RBG herself, this game is an entertaining way to give participants practice in the art of arguing, although the stakes are much lower than cases brought before the Supreme Court. In fact, you don’t need to worry about any hot button topics like politics and religion. Instead, be prepared to debate whether it’s okay to wear socks with sandals or if playing video games should be considered a sport.
“I Dissent” states that it’s for ages 14+ on the game instructions, but I looked through all of the topic cards and didn’t see any that I wouldn’t use with my elementary students. There might be some vocabulary you will need to explain, such as the word, “irrational,” or something children won’t care about (“the 90’s were better than the 80’s,” for example), but I doubt you’re going to get any parent phone calls for cards like, “dogs would make better drivers than cats.”
The number of players could easily be adjusted to include a whole classroom or a small family of 3. Technically there are enough sets of “Voting Cards” for 9 people, but playing in teams wouldn’t be a problem. Basically, each player/team gets a set of “Voting Cards” with the numbers 1, 2, or 3, and two opinion cards (“Agree” and “Disagree”). A topic card is turned over and whoever is the “Chief Justice” for that round chooses how long players can argue the topic. When that time is up, players choose an opinion card and how many votes they are willing to give up for that opinion. The opinion that wins that round is the one that scores the most votes, NOT the opinion that appears the most. You can only use each of your 8 votes once, so you need to be judicious — pun intended — with your choices. Winners of each round get to keep their “Vote Cards” from the round face up in front of them to count towards the end of the game, while losers of the round return the used “Vote Cards” to the box.
You continue playing 7 more rounds with each person/team getting a chance to be “Chief Justice.” There are also “Dissent Cards” that can be put into the mix, but I’ll let get your own game to learn those slightly complicated rules. At the end, you tally up all of the scores on the “Vote Cards” in front of you to determine the winner.
Once you get the hang of the game, it’s easy enough to make up your own controversial topics to debate, and this could definitely get interesting with a variety of inputs from any age. As Lindsay mentioned, you could also bring in curriculum with home-made topics. And you can add a persuasive writing assignment to tie things together afterward.
I like this game because I really do feel that, as a society we have been regressing in our ability to conduct civilized debates. “I Dissent” can appeal to different age groups and still be hilarious and fun while we guide children toward arguing respectfully. If you want to extend that lesson, try a “Socratic Smackdown” or two once you feel like the conversations are ready for more complexity!