“Odd one out” is a fun game commonly played by language teachers, whether first or second+. You may have played it under a different name, or without naming it at all! The basic concept is that students are given a list of three to four items, and they must identify the “odd one out”–the item that doesn’t fit in with the others. Often, teachers then require students to defend their answers. In the list, “banana, pear, apple, frog”, a student might say “The frog is the odd one out because it is not a fruit”.
This is all fine and dandy if you want to be BORING! (No offense–the game can still provide effective repetitions.) But isn’t it more fun when you provide students with a list of items that doesn’t contain an obvious outsider? For example, take the list “Alaska, Texas, Norway, Egypt”. Hmm…well, Texas and Egypt are hot, Alaska and Norway are cold, Alaska and Texas are states and in North America, Norway and Egypt are countries…you see? It’s more difficult to pull out ONE item that has something different than the other three. It requires students to use critical thinking stills and their imagination! When you require students to defend their answers, they will amaze you with the creative things that they come up with. In this example, they might say something as far-fetched as “Egypt is the odd one out because the first letters of Alaska, Norway, Texas spell “ANT”, and there is no “E” in ant. There is no “correct” explanation, and so as long as the students can find some way to connect three of them and exclude the fourth, it works!
I love using this game in Spanish, because it also gives you an opportunity to teach students an idiomatic expression: “Está como un sapo de otro pozo” (It’s like a toad from another well), which is the equivalent of “fish out of water” or “odd one out”. I’ve prepared a 15-slide PDF in Spanish that you can use to play this game in class for the first time. (If anyone wants it in a different language, just download the Spanish version and then email the translations of the four vocabulary terms on each slide to me at email@example.com so that I can format them appropriately.) Download the slideshow here (free). **Even though the expression is commonly used with estar, these slides use ser because they are asking about the permanent qualities of the items. Confusing…yes…if anyone can think of a good way to provide repetitions of the common expression in spite of the use of es in these questions…I’d love to hear your ideas! Comment below!)
No prep required
I took a lot of time to create the slideshow, but this game is easy to play without spending any time on preparation. This makes it perfect for P.A.T.–Preferred Activity Time! Simply have each student write down one word or phrase on a card (read: piece of scrap paper), then pile them all together and draw out four at a time to present to the class. It’s great to play this way because you will end up with four words that have nothing to do with each other–verbs, adjectives, nouns, adverbs…everything! To make the game last longer, have students create several cards so that you have a larger set. If you want to use the game to review a particular topic, novel, or story, simply put parameters on the activity: “Write any word from the novel Esperanza“, for example.
Keeping it comprehensible
I strive to not do anything in my classes without making it comprehensible. I fail at times, sure, but that is my goal. If I provide students with comprehensible input, I know that their fluency is improving. When the input becomes incomprehensible or the output is unmonitored, engagement drops, confusion enters, and fluency growth pauses. Here are some tips for keeping this game comprehensible!
- Put students in teams of 3-4. This will ease the anxiety created by having to think critically AND express their thoughts in the target language. It will also limit the number of answers that you receive, so that you have time to honor each group’s response in class by hearing it, circling it, and personalizing it!
- Recast complicated and incorrect language when you repeat it back to the class. If a group says, “Egypt is the odd one out because the first numbers of Alaska, Norway, and Texas write ANT”, you might recast it as, “Egypt is the odd one out because we use the first letters of Alaska, Norway, and Texas to write ANT”. The research on the efficacy of recasting as an error correction strategy is mixed at best, but using it in this context is highly beneficial. Not only does it give you the opportunity to take confusing/complicated language and simplify it for your students, but you now have a comprehensible statement to circle and repeat many times, correctly, for the entire class.
- Write unfamiliar words on the board in two colors; black for the target language and blue for the English translation. Make sure that students know that they will not be assessed on these words, so don’t get stressed out by the big list that forms on the board! If it gets too long, erase words that pertained to other slides and begin again.
- Circle everything! Use the strategy called Circling (click here for an explanation) to provide many repetitions of the vocabulary words, the expression ‘un sapo de otro pozo’, and the students’ responses. Through circling, you will also clarify meaning (since even pictures can be ambiguous) and create opportunities to informally assess your students’ listening comprehension through comprehension checks.
- Check for comprehension. In order to ensure that the input remains comprehensible, you must keep a constant thumb on the pulse of your students’ comprehension. Use comprehension checks like these to do just that!
- Personalize the content. If you’re talking about football, take the time to find out who plays football and if those players agree with whatever conclusion their classmates came up with! Find out how the school team is doing. It does not matter if you stray from game play for a short while–any time that you spend talking with your students about themselves in the target language is time very well spent!