the opposites game

What’s the opposite of “cold”? What’s the opposite of “expensive”? What’s the opposite of “buy”?  What’s the opposite of  “boy”? Many adjectives and verbs, and even some nouns, have clear opposites but what’s the opposite of “gun”? 

American poet and teacher Brendan Constantine challenged his students to write word by word the exact opposite of a line of poetry by Emily Dickinson: “My life had stood a loaded gun”.

And this is how the activity unfolded until the students hit the word “gun”. What’s the opposite of “gun”?


Play the video and find out:

I think this makes a great activity for the English language classroom. It can be adaptable to all levels depending on the nature of the texts chosen and it doesn’t require much preparation. It pushes the students into thinking hard about the vocabulary they know. It’s fun. It’s creative. It’s simple. It’s materials free.  It’s something different. It’s not answer binary. The answer can be anything you want, as long as you can justify it. 

We can choose extracts from reading passages, for instance, and ask the students to write exact opposites. Take this passage from a Beginner textbook.
Outcomes Beginner, National Geographic Learning. Free unit sample from publisher here

I’m going to try to write the exact opposite of the first paragraph. What is your exact opposite?

You are from Wellington in New Zealand. and in ten seconds you will leave Melbourne in Australia. You write words for elderly movies. You hardly ever play in the living room at work and my wife plays here other times (not really). She doesn’t like fashion. Your house is a bit big. When she plays in the office, I go to the kitchen and play outside. It’s horrible.

One could also use movie/song/videogame titles as content source for opposites. Why not make cards with the following for the students to write opposites? 

– I Want to Hold Your Hand
– Sugar Sugar
– The Boy Is Mine
– Paint It Black
– She Loves You
– Play the Funky Music

– Mario Bros
– God of War
– Space Invaders
– Street Fighter
– Half-Life
– Dark Souls

– Singing in the Rain
– Some Like It Hot
– Taxi Driver
– Black Panther
– Us
– Dead Man’s Shoes

Or… how about providing a list of opposites for the students to guess the movie titles? Can you guess these movie titles?

– Miniwoman
– The Bad, The Good and The Beautiful
– The Noise of the Wolves
– The Godmother
– No Town for Young Women
– The Lady of the Squares

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