Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning


K20 Center, Liz Hecox | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


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This strategy is designed to help students understand the forces that "tug" at opposing sides of various issues and problems.



Students explore an argument and identify reasons in support of each side of the issue or problem. This activity encourages students to think carefully about the multiple "tugs" and to place them on the "rope" based on the strength of each reason. After all of the "tugs" are placed, each student will evaluate the information, take a stance on the issue, and support their stance with sound reasoning. 


  1. Identify and frame the two opposing sides of the issue.

  2. Label each side of the tug-of-war rope with these opposing sides.

  3. Generate as many "tugs," or reasons, that pull you toward supporting each side of the dilemma. Write these on sticky notes.

  4. Determine the strength of each "tug" (reason) and place it on the tug-of-war rope. Put the strongest tugs at the farthest ends of the rope and the weaker tugs toward the center.

  5. Write any "What if . . . ?" questions that arise on sticky notes and place them above the tug-of-war rope.

  6. Discuss the completed tug-of-war. Which side had the strongest tugs?

  7. Ask students to take a stance and give reasons to justify their choice.

Ritchhart, R., Church,  M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making thinking visible. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.