Spontaneous is that part of the competition that team members really gets to shine and share those creative thinking skills that coaches get to see though the long-term problem process. Solving spontaneous problems team members get to “think on their feet” and quickly “think outside of the box.” These problems are “TOP SECRET” and only the team members that enter the room get to know the secret. What’s better for students than knowing something their parents don’t know? Teams participating in the same long-term problem and division will solve the same spontaneous problem, so, to ensure fairness, it is critical the no one discusses the problem outside of the room until all teams have competed. The nature of the spontaneous problems varies, with each having its own set of specific rules that are read to the team in the competition room. Teams will have to solve only one type of spontaneous problem in a competition. So teams should be prepared for any of the three types of spontaneous problems. Teams should practice for the three common types of spontaneous problems as listed below. However, the team should also be prepared for the unexpected; this is Odyssey of the Mind.

Verbal spontaneous
  • ​These problems require verbal responses. They may incorporate improvisation or dramatization. Teams are scored for common and creative responses.

Hands-on spontaneous
  • problems require teams to physically create a tangible solution. Each hands-on problem has its own specific scoring categories.

  • spontaneous problems require teams to create a tangible solution and include some type of verbal component, for example, creating a story about the solution. Teams are scored for both the tangible solution and the verbal presentation.

Although all seven team members may enter the room, only five team members may participate in the spontaneous portion of the competition. Every team should assess the skills of its members and come to an agreement before hand about who will compete and who
will sit out. For spontaneous, be sure to practice, practice, and practice. Here are some tips from Odyssey of the Mind for practicing spontaneous:

  1. Teach team members to listen. They should not “think ahead” and presume what the problem requires; they should listen carefully until the judge finishes reading the entire problem.
  2. Brainstorm verbal responses. Ask the students what made them respond the way they did, then develop that skill further.
  3. Improvise non-traditional uses for various items.
  4. Familiarize team members with various materials and their uses.
  5. Practice building structures out of common materials such as toothpicks, paper cups

Remember, there are a lot of sites on the Internet for spontaneous problems.  Our Links page has a few listed.  Enjoy and have fun but Practice, Practice, Practice!