For the short window of time we were not running off to church, fixing a leaky pipe in our basement, and getting our house in order for the week, we played an old favorite that takes little to no prep at all–One of These Things is Not Like the Other.
- One of These Things: After we had made some sense of the wreck that was our living room this morning, I pulled out the ‘mixed toys’ bin and placed four objects on the ottoman in front of my kiddos. I started simple and pulled out four little plastic toys and said, Okay, my smart little friends, here I have a cow, a sheep, a donkey, and a fish. Which one does not belong with the others?
Maddy blurted out, The fish! The fish! It’s the fish! I asked her to tell me why, and she said, The other guys live on a farm, and the fish lives in water. That’s why the fish is different. Okay, so she clearly got it. Then Owen said, And the fish doesn’t have feet. The other guys walk on feet. I praised them both for using their brains, told them they were both right.
I took out four more toys. All right, here I have a doll, a donkey, a duck, and a car. Listen to how the words sound as I say them: dddoll, dddonkey, ddduck, and cccar. Which one of these things does not belong?
They stopped for a minute to think, and I added, Think about the beginning sounds of each of these words.
Then Maddy decided that it was the car because it started with a ‘c’ and the other things started with a ‘d’. Maddy understood the difference but Owen was insistent on focusing on physical differences (which made the group I picked tough). I tried another sound difference using a snake, a square, a spoon, and a bug. Again, Maddy easily distinguished the sound difference but Owen was searching for something else: You eat with a spoon and can’t eat with the other guys! Hey, it wasn’t what I was thinking, but he was right.
After I did another set, Maddy wanted to pick the objects, and that was fine with me; she actually played the teacher twice, then Owen wanted to try. When we (Brent, Cora, and I) got stumped on how the objects connected, they would say, Think about (whatever). . . to give us a clue as to what they were thinking. Some groupings were stretches, some were very clever, and some needed some tweaking, but we all agreed it was a fun way to pass a tiny bit of the morning together.
This is an easy game that can be played so many different ways–with random toys (like we did), with magnetic letters, with words on cards, with things out in your backyard. It goes back to the whole sorting and categorizing idea that I go back to so many times because it is just that important and can fit learning into almost any situation:
Categorizing is the fundamental way that humans make sense of the world. It allows us to find order and similarities among various objects, events, ideas, and words that we encounter.
Bear, D.R., Invirnezzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnson, F. (2003). Words Their Way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction, 3rd edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Publishers.