Three Similarities and a Difference

Four dogs

Purpose: This activity gives students speaking and listening practice, as well as allowing them to discover their commonalities and unique qualities. Since some students may be uncomfortable telling falsehoods, something that is required if you play Three Truths and a False, why not try this variation?

Prep Time: For intermediate level and up, little prep is required. For beginning level, you’ll need 5-10 minutes to create a short list of questions.

Materials: paper and pencil or pen; beginning level questions

Prep: Think about how you want to explain or model the activity. Decide if you want students to focus on a specific theme, like jobs, or if any theme is okay. The first time around, the theme will be the learners themselves. For beginning students, write out 6 questions that they can ask their partners so they can more quickly find similarities without getting bogged down by the language practice. For example:

What is your favorite color?

What is your favorite food?

Do you have children?

How do you come to school every day?

How many languages do you speak?

Do you have a job?

Where are you from?

Where do you live?

Practice the questions together before continuing.


I do it/creating context:

1. Pre-teach or review the words similarity and difference (or same and different for beginners).

2. Provide examples and elicit examples from students.

We do it:

1. Choose several examples to do as a group. For example, how are a car and a plane similar? What is one difference? How is working in a restaurant like working in a hospital? Find three similarities. How is it different?

2. Ask a student to partner with you and do the activity again, this time looking for your own commonalities and unique qualities.

You do it:

1. Students choose partners and do the activity. Encourage them to work with someone who speaks a different first language.

2. Repeat the activity several times, so students have the opportunity to interact with more than one classmate.

3. Ask students to report what they’ve learned about each other.

Adaptations: For beginning literacy level, try giving partners two pictures which are similar, but have some differences. Pre-teach or review “same” and “different”. Plan on providing lots of examples of “same” and “different”, using objects. Now look at a picture together. Model how to circle things that are the same and put an “X” on things that are different. You may need to demonstrate with several pictures before asking students to work on their own. Make sure the pictures are very basic.

Alternatively, use objects. Ask learners to sort or categorize objects based on what they have in common. One object should not “fit”. For example, place three objects of the same color or shape in front of the students, along with one that is a different color or shape. Model the activity, using few words, moving the items around, and separating the items that are the same from the one that is different.

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