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«SPONTANEOUS PROBLEM SOLVING SPONTANEOUS PROBLEMS Verbal Hands -On Hands -On Verbal VERBAL In a Verbal spontaneous problem, the team is given a ...»

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Verbal Hands -On Hands -On



In a Verbal spontaneous problem, the team is given a brainstorming-type problem to solve in a specific amount of time and scored according to he number and creativity of responses generated. The order in which members respond is usually random, and a higher point value is awarded for a creative answer than a common one.


- Name uses for a jack-o-lantern after Halloween.

- Name things that are opposites.

- In what ways are a cloud and a spoon alike?

- If I were about to be operated on, I would not like to hear ____.


In a problem that is Hands-on Verbal, team members are usually presented with an object, and asked to suggest or demonstrate its uses. The object is passed from person to person as they generate answers. Like Verbal problems, points are scored not only for the quantity of answers in a given amount of time, but also for the creativity of those answers.


- Here are two paper plates. Tell or show how they could be used, or what they remind you of.

- Take this cereal box, and tell us something we didn't already know about it.

- Create a creature out of toothpicks and marshmallows, and say something clever about it.

HANDS-ON In a Hands-on spontaneous problem, the team is given a task to perform in a short period of time. This task is non-linguistic in nature, that is, points are not awarded for what is said, but rather for what is accomplished. Teamwork figures heavily in the scoring, as do ingenuity and technical success in completing the task.


 Using only an envelope, a mailing label, and a rubber band, the team must use them to stretch the farthest distance possible.

 The team is given a length of yarn and a basketball. Without cutting the yarn, they must devise a means of carrying the basketball fifteen feet without touching the ball with their hands.

 The team is given an assortment of everyday items and told to create a vehicle that will travel between two points.


It is common for new coaches to have their teams concentrate on the solution to the Long Term problem and put the preparation for the Spontaneous competition on hold.

These same coaches are often surprised to find that, while their Long Term scores were about the same as other teams', the scores for the Spontaneous problem were vastly different. "If it hadn't been for Spontaneous," they lament, "we would have had a shot at going to the State Tournament." In fact, rather than the Long Term scores, it is most often the difference in teams' Spontaneous scores that determines -which teams move on to the next level of competition.

The abilities to solve problems as they arise, to brainstorm, and to modify the ideas of others without criticism are useful and important tools in themselves. These skills should not be taught and practiced strictly for the sake of the competition: However, as new coaches approaching the date of the Regional Tournament, we often ignore the fact that it is an important part of the Odyssey of the Mind competition. As such, we really need to prepare the kids for it.

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Think of it in this way: Imagine that a track team only practiced its running events, and not the field events. At the meet, they are expected to compete in both. How well prepared would they be if they didn't practice both types of events? And even if they were the fastest group of runners the world has ever seen, their team would not do well in the meet overall if they had neglected to practice the field events also. In Odyssey of the Mind it is wonderful to have a terrific Long Term solution - but if your kids would really like to advance to the next level of competition, they need to do well in the Spontaneous portion of the tournament also.

–  –  –

1. All team members report to the Spontaneous Holding Room, if one is being used.

2. When the team is called, all team members may go to the Spontaneous Problem Room.

3. Upon entering the Spontaneous Problem Room, a judge will tell the team members whether the problem is verbal, hands-on, or a combination.

4. The team members will be given one minute to decide which five team members will participate. (If there are only five, then all must participate.)

5. The non-participating team members may stay in special seats set aside for them in the room. If they choose to stay, they must remain quiet and serve as observers only.

6. Any interference from the non-participating team members will be penalized as


Minor Infraction = -5 points (from raw spontaneous score) This will be given for inadvertent interference that does little or nothing to actually help the team.

(This penalty may be given more than once.) Intermediate Infraction = -15 points (from raw spontaneous score) This will be given one or more times for inadvertent interference that helps the team or one time for one instance of deliberate interference. If deliberate interference substantively helps the team or occurs more than once, a major penalty will be assessed in addition to this penalty.

Major Infraction = -35 points (from raw spontaneous score) or a spontaneous score of 0. (Cannot fall below 0.) This will be given for deliberate and repeated interference or for obvious help. (This penalty may be given more than once.) These are all at the discretion of the judges.

If a coach does not choose to send all team members to spontaneous (either to the holding room or to the problem room), it is perfectly acceptable. There will be NO PENALTY for not sending more than five team members. However, if a team has only five or fewer team members, all must report.


1. To avoid congestion, only one adult may accompany the team members to the holding room.

2. If the turning cards' procedure is used, the team member responding MAY NOT turn the card until he/she finishes responding. The judges will stop any team member who does so and make him/her repeat his/her answer. Repeated offenses may result in an Unsportsmanlike Conduct Penalty.

Helpful Hints Regarding Odyssey of the Mind Spontaneous Competition The purpose of the Spontaneous problems is to challenge the students' ability to "think on their feet." It is also used as a control against outside involvement. Teams are not allowed to rely on someone else's ideas and creativity to solve their long-term problems. Teams using outside assistance will be penalized. In spontaneous problems, teams are faced with a situation where they cannot seek assistance from others. Team members must solve problems under pressure and function effectively as a team.

The value of responses changes often. In some problems, they may be scored one (1) point for a common response and three (3) points for a creative response. In other cases one point may be awarded for common responses and five points given for creative responses. Yet, in other problems, zero may be scored for common responses, and one point for a creative response.

Some spontaneous problems involve hands-on or non-linguistic activities. Some long-term problems may be designated non-verbal for non-English speaking participants.

Scoring Spontaneous As teams continue to work together, they will increase their speed considerably.

Make up a scoresheet prior to the problem. This may be done simply by taking a piece of paper and dividing it in half with a "common" section and a "creative" section. As responses are given, indicate a mark in the appropriate section. After the time has run out, complete the score by awarding the appropriate points for the common and creative responses. Occasionally problems are given for fluency only and the total number is the score recorded. Allow students to evaluate their team members to help them recognize more creative responses.

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1. Listen carefully so you don't have to ask questions and waste valuable time.

2. Speak loudly and clearly. If a judge asks for a team member to repeat an answer it may take away from the score by using too much time.

3. Don't repeat former answers. This wastes time if the judge stops the team member.

4. Never argue with a judge. Time is limited... the team member may win the point but lose too much time in the process to make a difference.

5. Don't wait until your turn to begin thinking. Have three or four answers in your mind.

6. Don't speak out of turn. The judge will stop the team member and it wastes time.

7. Don't be slow.

8. Questions about instructions should be avoided if possible.

9. Don't elaborate answers unnecessarily. This can use too much time.

10. Don't panic. Try to keep responses flowing and pass the turn on to the next team member. Even if you can only think of a common response, give it. Your team members may have a creative response to give.

11. Unless prohibited by the judge's instructions, if an example is given by a judge a team member may use it. (It won't receive a very high score.)

12. Notice how long a minute of thinking time really is.

13. Enter the competition site with calm and confidence. A well-practiced team is very obvious to the judges.

14. Try to practice as many ways of answering as possible. Assign numbers, throw dice, turn cards, go in order... etc. Think of other ways team members might be assigned their turns.

15. If a problem is a "hands-on" type, try to budget your time. Allow enough time to think about various alternatives to solving the problem. Avoid long discussions or arguments over who is "in charge" or whose idea will be used.


Brainstorming is a group problem-solving technique named by advertising executive Alex Osborne. Before beginning to brainstorm with your team, it is important to review

Osborne's ground rules:

Rule 1: Withhold judgment of ideas An essential problem-solving skill is the ability to conceptualize freely.

Conceptualization is the process that creates ideas. Nothing smothers the free flow of ideas like a sharp critical remark or harsh laughter from another person. Osborne wanted ideas expressed. He believed that a judgmental attitude would cause group members to be more concerned with defending ideas than with generating them.

Rule 2: Encourage wild ideas It is easier to tame a wild idea than to think of one. Asking for wild ideas encourages group members to be imaginative. Placing a premium on that which initially seems far out encourages group members to expand their thinking.

Rule 3: Quantity counts The more creative ideas a person or a group has to choose from, the better. It makes sense that if the number of ideas to be considered is greater, the chance of finding a really good idea is also greater.

Rule 4: Piggyback on the ideas of others Participants are encouraged to build up or modify the ideas put forth by other team members of the group. (Creative people tend to be good listeners.) Alerting people to the possibility of combining previous ideas can open vast resources for most people.

Coaches Tips:

 Teach children to be good listeners. They will be better at problem solving if they listen to each other and to the directions..

 Discuss the problem again when time is up. Evaluate responses as to which responses were creative.

 Use a tape recorder to help you evaluate responses and pacing. Try snapping fingers and decrease time between snaps.

 Begin by working in pairs and recording the answers. Let each pair keep a record of the total number of responses. Take examples from their lists and brainstorm other ideas that could have developed from a single response.

When the kids reach the point where their first impressions are exhausted, teach them to adapt, combine and rearrange thoughts and thus to conceive new ideas. Use the Scamper Checklist, developed by Bob Eberle, to improve this technique.


Whentheteamhasrunoutofresponses,workwiththemonrearranging,adapting,and combiningtheirthoughtstocreatenewideas.

–  –  –

2. Don't duplicate a former answer. This wastes time when the judge has to stop the team.

3. Don't argue. It wastes time. Even if you win the argument, you may have used too much time.

4. Don't wait until your turn to begin thinking. Have three or four answers ready to go.

5. Don't speak out of turn. The judges will stop you and not score the response.

6. Don't ask questions about instructions unless they are necessary to understand the problem. This comes off thinking time.

7. Don't elaborate on the answers unless elaboration alters the category (common or creative) of the answer.

8. Don't try to think of a creative response when you already know a common one. Even if you can only think of a common response, give it. Your team members may have creative responses.

Hints for Verbal Spontaneous Problems When you are stuck, look around you for ideas, i.e., Michael's shirt has an "alligator 11 on it, 1.

the judge's hat looks like a "raccoon," the blackboard is green like my "snake," etc.

2. Do not waste time trying to come up with the cleverest answer, use a common response if that's what you have ready. The time spent in trying to be clever is rarely worth it with the extra points received, i.e., if one spent five minutes to come up with a three -point answer, that's at least 27 points less than the 30 points the team could easily have made with common responses, "Strategy."

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