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August 2021 - Year 23 - Issue 4

ISSN 1755-9715

Odd vs Even

Khanh-Duc has an MA in TESOL and has been teaching English since 1995. Currently in the Department of English as the University of Siegen, she teaches a range of language courses which she assesses creatively, often encouraging more learner autonomy at the same time. She is always on the lookout for activities that encourage greater student participation. She is Events Coordinator for her local teaching association as well as the IATEFL Teacher Training and Education SIG and is TESOL/NGL 2021 Teacher of the Year.



Since the pandemic moved classes online in March 2020, educators have had to find creative ways to continue to engage their students. Publishers and teacher trainers alike have focused on first, the initial need to train teachers how to teach online, and later on, introduce them to activities that are well-suited for an online environment. However, this does not mean that we need new tricks to engage our students in this new medium – sometimes, some of the old classics can be adapted to the online classroom. Here is an adaptation of a speaking activity re-designed for teaching online.


Odd versus Even

This activity was originally published in Dialogue Activities by Nick Bilbrough (CUP 2007) and is best suited for large classes.

In your Zoom room, count your students out loud from 1. Ask them to remember what number they have been given. Explain the following rules of play.

  1. There are two teams: the odds and the evens.
  2. The task is to keep a coherent dialogue going between the two sides.
  3. Odd numbers can only count out even numbers and vice versa.



Nr. 1:   Are you excited about today’s class, nr. 4?

Nr. 4:   I am. What do you think we’ll do in class today, nr. 7?

Nr. 7:   I think the first thing we’ll do is homework. Did you do your homework, nr. 2?

Nr. 2:   …



Set a target for penalties. In my class, I used a five-pointed star for each team and the dialogue ends when a team completes their star. That team has lost. The game ends.

Any mistake the teams make is a penalty. Draw one line of the star for each mistake a team makes as below:

When they do any of the following, they incur a penalty:

  1. Calling out a number of someone on their own team
  2. Calling out a number which has already been called
  3. Taking too long in replying (set a time limit for this, for instance, 30 seconds)
  4. Changing the topic

After a penalty, students can start again with a new number and a new topic.



Instead of the five-pointed star as the goal, you can choose anything else that works well for you. The original activity uses points that are counted down. Each team begins with 20 points and a point is deducted for each mistake. The team with the most points at the end wins.



In online classes, it takes students longer to pick out another student from the group to answer questions in whole class activities. Students without their cameras on may be overlooked, shyer and quieter students may also not be called on to contribute. If you want to keep a conversation going, and at the same time, have everyone contribute, this activity is ideal. Student choices will be strategic rather than personal, and the penalty rules ensures that the conversation does die in the middle of the activity.



The principle of the activity, odds vs. even, and the penalty rule can be extended to any other type of whole class discussion or language activity. It is a good nominating technique. Once all numbers have been called on, you can begin another cycle.


Please check the Pilgrims f2f courses at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Pilgrims online courses at Pilgrims website.

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