Last Updated on January 4, 2021

The 'Both sides of the fence' ice breaker game activity.

Time and Cost

  • The suggested time-frame for this activity is 20 minutes to 75 minutes. It really depends on the class size and how much time you prefer to allow for each discussion.
  • This activity is free for you to use.

Number of Participants

  • This is suitable for any number of participants, divided into groups of three.

Activity Purpose

Reflection and discussion – participants will discuss both sides of an argument, focusing on the positives and negatives of each position.

Ice Breaker Instructions

Step 1

Depending on the topic you want to cover, come up with a number of dichotomies containing conflicting advice related to that topic. For best results, come up with at least 12 dichotomies.

Step 2

Introduce the topic and the conflicting dichotomies to your participants.

Explain that different guidelines can make sense in different contexts.

Step 3

Ask participants to form groups of three.

If two participants are left over, they can form a group of three with you.

If there is only one participant left over, s/he can play the part of the observer.

Step 4

Ask participants to choose one of them to be the neutral listener for the first round.

The other two will be respectively: the right and the left advocate.

Explain that the left advocate for each round will become the neutral listener for the following round.

Step 5

Explain that the neutral listener’s role is to listen attentively (and actively by maintaining eye contact, nodding and smiling) to each advocate.

The neutral listener though is not allowed to express any opinion in favour or against the argument that the advocates put forward.

Step 6

The role of each advocate is to be assigned one side of the dichotomy and give a presentation defending their assigned position, while attacking the opposite position.

The first advocate will talk for 60 seconds, after which the other advocate will speak.

The advocates have 30 seconds to prepare their short presentation beforehand

Step 7

As a trainer, you will be the timekeeper.

So, you will give advocates 30 seconds to prepare and blow a whistle at the end of the 30 seconds.

Then time 60 seconds for each presentation and blow the whistle at the end of each presentation

Step 8

After the advocates have both presented their arguments, select a neutral listener at random and ask them to summarise the key points of both presentations

Classroom lesson plans

Step 9

Continue the same process for other dichotomies.

Announce the second dichotomy and ask participants to swap roles.

So, the left advocate from the previous round will be the listener, the right advocate will become the left advocate and the listener will be the right advocate

Step 10

Repeat the same process with every dichotomy

Step 11

You can also encourage participants to come up with their own additional dichotomies.

Step 12

Conduct a class debrief at the end to summarise the discussions.

The Benefits of This Icebreaker

  • This activity promotes deep learning by encouraging discussion.
  • This is an exercise that gives participants a chance to contrast, compare and make connections within the topic at hand.

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Dr Paul Symonds

Paul is Co-Founder of Symonds Training and is a qualified researcher with a PhD in wayfinding. Paul helps the team at Symonds Training build and focus on providing high-quality training materials packages and programs for trainers, classroom teachers and HR departments.