Fight Club: A Battle Of Ideas

I am David’s unused file cabinet. I am David’s old ideas.

I have lots of ideas. File cabinets of ideas. I worked HARD on those ideas. I read. I wrote. I taught. I refined. I shared. I valued those ideas. I owned those ideas, and they owned me.

Here’s your soundtrack for this blog post. Go ahead and click play, I’ll wait. 

At least weekend’s FallCUE conference I shared my first keynote. I called teachers to teach with adventure in their heart. To teach and allow students to engage in uncertainty. In that keynote I shared this picture.


It’s hard to break away from your past. Inside each of us is a past that we value. We value it because we created it. We normally do not enjoy fighting with ourself.

I quieted the audience with this slide, which I compared to the files housed in the Moscow Chess Club. Files that document thousands of past successful chess moves. I guess TPT is now a sacred cow. Or at least a sacred cash cow. (By quieted I mean there was an uncomfortable silence when people realized I was questioning the practice of this site.)

Sacred Cow

The problem with file cabinets, online resources, and more is that they not only get out of date, but they run the risk of being tired and cliché. Everyone has access to the same exact idea. So how do we move “out of book” and introduce the novelty to our lesson, I mean adventure plan?

By moving beyond the normal resources, beyond books written for teachers by teachers. One of my favorite non-teaching books is Eat Me by Kenny Shopsin.


Kenny has a whole book full of ideas, but my favorite is the idea of the unlimited pancake. Kenny uses one pancake batter and then adds different funky ingredients so that you can have an almost unlimited supply of choices in his classroom, restaurant.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 10.06.17 PM#choice

You could do the same thing with a program like ThingLink. You could use ThingLink as a presentation tool, an AP English Language analysis tool, a sock-golf learning course, or a Quotomontage tool, the number of choices is up to you.

Here’s another example. Last summer I went to the library and was riffing through the music section when this book caught my eye.

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The Best of Punk Magazine

There was a ton of great content in here, but there was this awesome goofy section where two workers/writers for Punk Magazine, fought out some abstract ideas. Imagine if you will.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 10.59.06 PM

What if you had: 

  • Two literary critics fight over the analysis of a novel?
  • Two scientific theories fight it out?
  • Two economic theories fight it out?
  • Two philosophical theories fight it out?
  • Capitalism and Socialism fight it out?
  • A fight over which theme was the most important in a play?

And it looked like this:

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 10.59.22 PM

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Maybe you even use this as a claim/counter-claim writing exercise

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Your students could dress up in various costumes. Your students could use iPhone, Android, or the Chrome app PicMonkey to add thought bubbles and other fun stuff to the pictures. Imagine them making a YouTube video of the fight or just inserting the images into a Google Slide deck and presenting it to the class. Imagine creating posters around the room, or comic books.

Middle School Principal Sean Fallon, was slightly concerned that the Fight Club concept might be a bit much for middle school, but you could adapt it by having kids bring in old action figures and take pictures of the action figures in different poses, or even use stop-motion with a voice over. Maybe some middle school teachers could help me think up a more appropriate title for the activity in the comments below.

Don’t beat yourself up if you find this difficult to do. It’s not easy letting go of a past created by you. I struggle with this all the time.

“At the time, my life seemed too complete, and maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves.” –Fight Club



2016 Directions: 

  1. Find a partner and choose a one of the controversial subjects from the whiteboard. Each person must choose a side. Here are some of the topics.


2. Research and write down (in a Google doc eventually) three short paragraphs that support your idea. Data and research are strongly encouraged, but if you just want to use logic or deductive reasoning at this point, that’s fine. Give them time in class or two days at home to get this done. The paragraphs should be from 2-5 sentences long.

3. Show them this blog post and the examples. They can also create fighting images like:

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4. Then have them take out a paper and fold it into six rectangles forming a storyboard. On one side of the paper have them plan out the image that will introduce their characters. On the other side have them storyboard a six image fight. Each image will have one argument and go back and forth between the two sides.

5. Then have the students go outside and take pictures. Tell them you’ll give them extra credit if they can make one of the images into an animated GIF by either creating a short video, uploading it to YouTube  and then take the YT clip and turn it into an animated GIF using the site Giphy. Or maybe use Phhhoto, or some other GIF creation tool.

6. Once they have created the six pictures they need to insert the arguments. Use a tool like PicMonkey, Google Drawing, or even Google Slides to insert thought bubbles with the short paragraphs above each image. Students may have to shorten the paragraphs to make them fit and it’s funnier if you use big vocabulary words, specific facts, or obscure references to philosophy, science, or other examples of higher learning. Once they are done with the images and the thought bubbles have them create a final Google Slide presentation with all of the images in their right sequence. If the images are square they can change the page setup in the Google Slide to 8×8 inches or something else that is square rather than the normal widescreen or 4:3 ratio.

5 thoughts on “Fight Club: A Battle Of Ideas

  1. I just did something really similar with my class. There’s a non-fiction series by Palotta called “who would win?” ____vs_____ in history we are studying early humans and the kids did presentations like Otzi. Vs Selam or homo sapien vs homo erectus (they chose the contenders) it was a pretty awesome project. I could share the link.


  2. So many thoughts here.

    First, David, I love reading your blog posts. As a blogger myself, you always inspire me in my writing. Nothing you write is shallow … it always feels like something you’ve been thinking through for weeks, months or longer. I actually played the YouTube video in the background as I read the post — great touch. And I never know what I’m going to get in your posts. So thank you for sharing your voice and personality with us.

    Second, the idea of moving out of book and introducing novelty is key. It’s like that saying about teaching for 30 years or teaching the same year 30 times. I think we as teachers often are afraid to take risks and try something new and different … especially if we’ve never seen anyone try it and don’t know if it’s really a good idea or not. When I’ve tried something bold and different, even if it blew up in my face, my students often were appreciative that I’d try something different.

    The punk comic strip book makes me think of Mike Petty’s photo comic strips, a Google Apps idea that I’m in love with right now. (

    My only disappointment: the phrase “I am David’s raging bile duct” didn’t make it in the post. 🙂

    Again, thanks. Please keep blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

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