Dialectics for Teachers
Here are some ideas for teaching dialectics:
1. Quantitative change leads to qualitative change:
2. Everything is made of opposites:
Pump up a balloon with a bicycle tire pump until it pops.
- Cut a rubber band, then stretch it until it breaks.
- Stack blocks until they fall--the tipping point.
- Hold your arms out until you can't hold them any more.
- Open your eyes without blinking, until you have to blink.
- Hold your breath until you have to let it out and take a new breath.
Can your students think of anything that
isn't made of opposites? Remember that
any object has to have a force holding its parts together; otherwise they fly apart
(2nd law of thermodynamics). Also, any process only moves forward if a force
causes it to move (Newton's laws of motion). Also, concepts are not things, so they
aren't "made of opposites", but they do need opposites to be understood--e.g. good/bad,
fast/slow, etc. If your students come up with a good question here, please
send it to
firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read the
suggestions that have been sent in to Dialectics for Kids as well as the
responses by going to
What Isn't Made of Opposites?
3. Change moves in spirals (negation of negation):
4. Knowing both sides of any thing or process:
- Take a wheel, and mark where it touches the ground. Make the wheel move forward
one revolution. The mark is back to its original position, but the wheel has
- Stand with weight on your left foot. Take two steps--first right, then left. Now your
weight is back on your left foot, but you have moved forward.
- Ask students to try to spell a tricky word--say "collectible". Count how
many got it right. Then put the word on the board so everyone can see how
to spell it correctly. Then erase it and ask them to spell it again. Now see
how many get it right. The same exercise can be repeated with any test or
quiz, say 10 true/false questions.
- Ask students what they were doing exactly one year ago, i.e. the time since
the earth went one time around the sun. Is anything different? Are some things the same?
Here's a lesson plan I used with a 4th Grade class in January, 2008:
Lesson Plan for 4th Graders
- Play a card game--say 21 or poker, consider how easy it would be if you knew
what cards the other player is holding. Or, if you are playing liar's poker,
consider how easy it would be if you knew the card on your forehead.
- Consider any sport--your chances of winning depend not only on the strength of
your team, but also the strength of the opposing team. No matter how good your
school team is, they couldn't beat a team of top professionals. Try some competition
such as tug-of-war or arm wrestling to show the concept of opposing forces.
- Look at the news--read the election polls or results. Which candidates got the
most votes? Discuss why one candidate was stronger than another.
- Consider history--who won wars and why were they stronger? Why did the
U.S. win in World War II and lose in Vietnam?
Good luck and have fun in teaching this important concept!
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