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Decision Brackets: Giving reasons for your choices

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Decision Bracketsis an activity inspired from the world of sports and works like a decision tree but in reverse. It is intended to generate discussion and help students form their own opinions.

But instead of a list of competing teams hoping to reach the final as you would expect in bracket, you have a list of key words, choices or opinions.

This video diagram should provide a quick introduction to the activity.

Video run time is 22 seconds long. 

Click on Decision Bracket Video if you want to download the video to help demonstrate the activity.

This kind of activity can be used for:

  1. Talking about preferences (Responses)
    • Do you prefer…?
    • Which do you like more – … or…?
    • Would you rather…?
  2. Practicing the comparative and the superlative. (Responses)
    • Which is better – … or…? / Which is worse – … or…?
    • Which do you like the most? / Which do you like the least?
  3. Making a predictions (Responses)
    • Do you think … or… is going to happen next?
    • Which is more likely to happen next – … or…? / Which is less likely to happen next – … or…?
  4. Exploring opinions (Responses)
    • Which do agree with the most? / Which do you agree with the least?
    • Which do disagree with the most? / Which do you disagree with the least?

The Activity


This activity requires little to no preparation, but you can run it in a number of different ways.

If you are using it to talk about preferences or to practice the comparative and the superlative. You only list a list of words or situations.

If you are using this activity to make predictions then you may need to prepare a story or video with a series of prediction choices.

If you are using this activity to discuss topics and opinions, then you may need to prepare a series of example opinions.

To get started, either download and print the Decision Bracket worksheet to use in class, or use a piece of scrap paper.

Alternatively, you do everything on a blackboard and whiteboard if you want to go paperless, but paper is useful because it allows students to work in smaller groups and write down ideas and reasons which they can then use in the reporting stage.

Decision Bracket Worksheet
Click on the image to download the decision bracket worksheet

Running the Activity

Step One: The choices

There are eight boxes on the left hand side of the handout. These will the choices your students will have to choose between.

The first thing to do is fill is these boxes.

Editing the template: You can do open the Decision Bracket template and type the choices directly into the worksheet. The advantages of this is that the activity is prepared and takes less time. Useful if intended as a short activity.

Eliciting the choices: You can get the students to work in pairs or small groups and brainstorm word pairings. For example, summer or winter, tea or coffee, the city of the countryside.

Then elicit the students’ answers and write them on the board. This allows you to make sure that the pairings will fit your question pattern and to explain why some can’t be used.

Dictations: This is useful if you and using predictions or opinions. S-S dictations, running dictations, information gathering exercises can all be used as a way of preparing the handout for the activity.

Whatever method you use, the students should have completed the eight boxes on the left hand side of the paper.

Step Two: Model the activity

Present the useful language and stems that you will be using with the students.

Use a version of the bracket on the black/white board or use an OHP if you have one available to demonstrate the activity to the whole class.

Calling two students to the front to practice the stems and to help model the activity works well. This way the teacher only guides the activity rather than directly participating in it.

It’s unlikely you students will want to spend a lot of time writing down the same answers, especially if you are dealing with predictions or opinions that are more sentence based.

There is no problem with the students writing down the number, as long as they don’t substitute the choices for the numbers, so they are no longer forming the correct questions. Questions like “Do you like 1 or 2?” should be avoided.

Encourage the students to ask “why?” or other follow up questions to get information from their partner. They should write this down next to their answers.

Step Three: Let it run!

Once the students know what to do the activity should run fairly smoothly.

Divide the students in pairs and ask them to work through the choices by asking each other questions and follow up questions. They should write down their partners answer and reasons.

During this stage you can prepare the board with useful phrases that the students may need for the reporting stage before monitoring the activity to listen for errors and to check that the students are forming complete sentences and using follow up questions.


Ask the students to change pairs and look for a new partner.

Introduce the useful phrases that students may need to talk about what their partner said.

  1. Talking about preferences
    • Chris prefers…
    • Chris likes … more than…
    • Chris would rather…
  2. Practicing the comparative and the superlative.
    • Chris thinks… is better than… / Steve thinks… is worse than…
    • Chris likes the most. / Steve likes the least.
  3. Making a predictions
    • Chris thought … is going to happen next.
    • Chris thought that … is more likely to happen next. / Chris thought that … is less likely to happen next.
  4. Exploring opinions
    • Chris agrees with … the most. / Chris agrees with … the least.
    • Chris disagrees with … the most. / Chris disagrees with … the least.

Encourage the students to use additional questions or phrases to keep the conversation going.

  • I agree with Chris / I disagree with Chris.
  • That’s interesting. I think…
  • I thought … but I changed my mind.
  • Why?
  • Why does Chris think that?
  • Is there a reason why Chris thinks that?
  • What do you think?

The Debate Variation

The decision bracket can be used to encourage debate.

While the students were completing the first half of their decision bracket, they should have noted down several of their partner’s ideas and reasons.

Ask the students to swap papers with their partner, so that they are holding the paper with their own answers on it.

Tell the students to find a new partner and ask them to discuss their two final answers until they can reach a consensus and agree on an answer between them.

Competition Bracket

You may even consider giving half the students a decision bracket that goes from left to right, and the other half a decision bracket that goes from right to left. That way when they are ready for a debate they can place their diagrams together and it look similar to the table above.

How would you run this activity? What variations can you think of? How else could we use sports brackets as a graphic organizer? Please leave a comment if you have any ideas you would like to share.

Alternatively you can send me a message on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Thanks for reading and take care!

1Decision Brackets was based on an idea by Owen Kozlowski, a teacher trainer. The idea was developed to include predictions and opinions which could then be debated.

You may also like to read:

The Three Circles Activity – Another way to graphically organize ideas and opinions.

The Football Game – Another sports-themed game that encourages students to discuss idea. Could this game be turned into a tournament with a sports bracket?

Tearable Sentences – A useful dictation activity that can be used to help students prepare their brackets.

You may also like to read this article about Decision Trees.

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