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Eliciting misconceptions: true-false statements, odd one out and sorting

Many children believe that hard materials are always strong, and that all metals are magnetic. In the video we demonstrate how we can use true-false statements, Odd One Out and sorting to elicit misconceptions.

True-false statements

True-false statements are a set of statements carefully written to match the topic you are teaching to check for prior knowledge and misconceptions. In this case, statements had been written which would allow us to see if children understood the definitions of strong and hard.

In the book ‘Active Assessment: Thinking Learning and Assessment in Science’, Naylor, Keogh and Goldsworthy suggest that this method can be extended with older children to add a third category of “It all depends on…” or “I’m not sure because…”. This allows children to give a little more reasoning to their answers, and helps you to find unanticipated misconceptions.

True-false statements are quick to administer and can tell us a lot, making them a valuable form of assessment. They can be used individually or as a group, where children will discuss answers and quickly realise the statements which have disagreement or uncertainty. This can then be used to inform lesson planning so that these disagreements and uncertainties can be cleared up through enquiry and class discussion.

Odd One Out

In Odd One Out activities children explore the similarities and differences in a set of pictures or physical objects. In the video we saw the Explorify Odd One Out activity Pull Together being used to start exploring the topic of magnets and magnetic materials.

You can use Odd One Out activities in different ways. Children could be asked to:

  • Choose one Odd One Out and explain their reasoning.
  • Find a reason for each picture or object to be the Odd One Out and to once again explain their reasons.
  • Choose similarities for two or all of the pictures or objects.

Source: based on ideas from PSTT Bright Ideas.

To successfully run this activity you must first ensure that the children know what each of the pictures or objects are. Ensure that time is given to this quick discussion at the start of the activity.

As there are no right or wrong answers, children feel confident to share their ideas. This makes Odd One Out activities particularly useful for eliciting children’s understanding and are regularly used as an assessment tool at the beginning and/or at the end of a topic.


Sorting is another quick and powerful tool for assessing children’s knowledge and understanding.

In the video you saw how we used sorting as a great follow on activity after the Explorify Pull Together Odd One Out activity. It helped us to understand if children thought that all metals were magnetic.


Take a look at the Odd One Out activities on the Explorify website. It is free to sign up to. Let us know which one you particularly liked and why.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Chemistry

National STEM Learning Centre