Word Association - ESL Logic Problems

Word problems are a great way for students to improve their English. One of the best types of word problems is the always popular, "Which word doesn't belong?"

The teacher writes 4 words on the board and the students need to decide which word is different. This is a common logical problem, and they are often called word associations. The best part about playing these games with ESL students is that the teacher can choose any topic. Here are some examples:

Word Form
play, talk, happy, run
(verb, verb, adjective, verb)

Verb Tense
broken, written, took, shaken
(participle, participle, simple past, participle)

Irregular Verbs
play, jump, sing, dance
(regular, irregular, irregular, irregular)

Of course, normal logical problems can also be used:

whale, salmon, goldfish, tuna
(The whale is a mammal)

The great part about this game is that often there is more than one right answer. Students are forced to speak and explain their choices. For example, the goldfish may be the odd word because it is the only pet.

I normally write 10-20 groups of words and have the students work in groups to find the answers. I find there is a lot of good conversation as they discuss which word is different from the others.

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