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Video: The Opposites Game

An English teacher asks his class: ‘What’s the opposite of a gun?’

If you’ve spent even a minute with a child, you know that asking them a single question can kindle any number of surprising counter-questions, tangents, emotions and insights. This is especially true in a classroom, where, subject to the whims of a sea of passionate and developing minds, a lesson can change course or sink in an instant. Inspired by events in his own English classroom, the US writer and teacher Brendan Constantine’s poem ‘The Opposites Game’ traces an exercise in which a teacher asks young students to identify antonyms for each word from the title of Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun’. After working through the more obvious answers – ‘your’, ‘death’ and so on – an argument begins to brew when the class reaches the final word. The question ‘What is the opposite of a gun?’ unleashes a heated debate, with the children insisting everything from a whisper to a star, sword, snowball or midwife must be the correct answer.

Written by Adam D’Arpino for Psyche.


Running time: 5 minutes

Email subscribers may click on the title of this post to watch the video.

Still shot from “The Opposites Game”

A TED-Ed Production
A film by Anna Samo & Lisa LaBracio
A poem by Brendan Constantine 
Performed by Brendan Constantine 

Brendan Constantine just completed his fifth collection of poems, “The Opposites Game.” He teaches at the Windward School in Los Angeles.

Brendan Constantine (Tess. Lotta Photography)

2 comments on “Video: The Opposites Game

  1. Lisa Zimmerman
    May 22, 2022

    I’m not crying, you’re crying.😭

    Liked by 1 person

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