The abbreviations used in the corporate world tempt us to reorder company names in amusing ways that reflect the true nature of the organization, without the gloss of marketing and client-oriented insincerity. We have therefore added a task that will engage your imaginations and challenge you, dear Grandomasters, to suggest an original, unique and profitable business, and compose a pitch intended for prospective angel investors.

 

This is both the core activity of Grandomastery and the most intricate one. We have gathered thousands of abstract nouns so two random examples can be selected for comparison. Our grandomasters are given a set of two abstractions and they have to try and find the similarities and points of tangency between them. The motivation behind this activity is based on Koestler’s principle of bisociation. Abstract ideas do not carry the baggage that concrete ideas have, namely specific and inflexible features that conflict with one another. Abstractions can, therefore, be combined and compared more easily.

Research into Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience has indicated that abstract thinking is tied to areas of the brain related to vision, while concrete thinking is tied to regions that focus on the direct actions necessary for completing a goal. As abstraction is a prerequisite for learning, we decided to make a hybrid brain teaser that requires our Grandomasters to illustrate the connections between the two randomly generated abstractions with examples from their own experience or knowledge base. An article titled “Abstraction and the Acquisition of Complex Ideas” in the International Journal of Educational Research suggested that the application of abstract knowledge causes a move from an abstract state to a concrete one, and that other ideas can be conceived of through generalisation. This means that stronger and more complex abstract reasoning skills are necessary for building complex analogies, demonstrating advanced learning or using language at the highest level. Abstract thinking opens up new pathways of intellectual and aesthetic pleasure. The random abstractions task allows us to dismantle ideas and reassemble them into new structures. The result of this process is a new knowledge structure made through creativity and lateral thinking. In a nutshell, the most important cognitive function of abstraction is the assembly of greater and more elaborate knowledge structures. Learning is growth.

 

This task demonstrates that you do not have to be familiar with a product to endorse or advertise it well. Within this task Grandomasters are assigned a random product which only their Grandominister can see. Grandomasters must ask varied and extensive questions about the object to gauge what it might be, for example: “Would it be a good birthday present for my best friend?”, “Can I defend myself from muggers using this thing?” or “Can I carry it onto the plane in my hand luggage?”. Grandomasters need to demonstrate confidence and creativity to imagine how the revolutionary item that they are advertising can solve almost all possible problems.

 

We have selected a wide range of different articles – mainly from Wikipedia – about varied and relatively unknown phenomena, paradoxes and principles. The task is to skim the article and answer the questions related to the content. The goal of the activity is similar to that of the abstraction task – to learn how to absorb and understand non-standard concepts and relate them to one’s own experiences.

 

This activity is not just yet another Geography quiz; it is designed to see how easy-going and cosmopolitan you are and whether you can not only survive, but thrive in any randomly picked country. You will need to use your imagination in order to sound firm, logical and natural even if you haven't heard of a particular country before.  

 

There are many storytelling tools and generators nowadays, yet very few of them involve emojis – the ideograms that have become a truly ubiquitous tool of modern, text-free communication. Emojis can be both abstract or archetypical, and explicitly descriptive. Grandomastery's Emojis activity is for all storytelling enthusiasts and contains a rich set of emojis (no need to worry – we removed the more obscure symbols and left only the widely-used, recognizable ones).

 

Emojis, which represent the key aspects or characters of the story, can be connected in different ways to form various types of narration, with the potential for several plot lines and flashbacks. We have also added a wide range of literary techniques, themes, moods, styles and elements to help add zest to you story – with each activity you are given a technique or theme which must be used in the composition. This activity may seem insurmountable at first, but it may be completed offline – even handwritten – and shared either on our Reddit page or directly with us. It will be given an honourable place within our collection.

 

This task is designed not only for Chinese learners, but for anyone who is even vaguely interested in wonderful language systems that use hieroglyphics and ideograms. The way two unrelated hieroglyphs can form an ideogram is similar to the conception of some English phrasal verbs, though with Chinese ideograms the product may be either a noun or a verb. The task for our Grandomasters is to explain how the random hieroglyphs can be joined to form an ideogram with a new meaning, relating the new concept to personal examples or experiences. It can be quite funny!

 

IELTS Speaking Task 2 is designed to check the cohesion and coherence of a candidate’s responses. One minute is usually given for preparation with 2 minutes allocated for the answer. We have assembled more than 1,000 cue cards and added an audio spectrogram to track if a student makes any pauses during his or her speech.

 

As educators we’ve noticed that most students find the analysis of paintings or other artwork to be dull and tedious. In this task we have tried to break this stereotype by selecting ambiguous and sometimes bizarre works of mostly contemporary art which are not only memorable but also let the  participants go beyond traditional analysis while answering the questions assigned to each painting.

 

Researchers claim that, at the subconscious level, the mind tends to focus on the positive rather than the negative. This activity centers around the "Glad Game" - also known as the Pollyanna principle - which requires participants to find something to be glad about in even the most frustrating of situations. For this task we have compiled a vast number of seemingly insurmountable issues, in addition to many of those nagging "First World problems".

 

Imagine working in a trade no one has ever heard about, imagine you are about to be interviewed by a leading magazine about what you do on a regular basis at your work, thus getting a chance to have an outside perspective of your job.

 

There was a time when we made magnets for our students. It was rather time consuming but still a fun activity. The words of four proverbs – which may be unknown to the students - are jumbled up, and the key task is to make up new ones that are both grammatically correct and entertaining. The opportunity to practice their grammar and linguistic flexibility allows students to display their expertise in language and vocabulary structures.

 

ESL students often wish to learn those rules and techniques relating to word formation which may enable them to become skilful morphologists. The most common hurdle has always been the difficulty in identifying the relationship between words based on the same root. Grandomastery has developed an activity which helps learners familiarise themselves with word formation patterns. The task uses thought-provoking statements to introduce key words, with an accompanying table containing further examples from the word family. This may help ESL learners improve their word formation skills, which are often put to the test in English language examinations.

 

The selection of poetry offered in this task is far from been well-known or mundane – the pieces are short and sweet and are presented to you just as they were printed in books decades ago, with yellowish pages and old-style fonts that preserve the sense of authenticity. The trick is to narrate these poems in the manner prescribed by the task – to imitate an accent or imagine yourself in a situation which makes your voice or style alter.

 

Even a prudent and sensible person may find themselves in interesting situations, but our psychology works in such a way that embarrassing memories may be repressed. In this task you are reminded of what happened and are asked to explain your motives and actions. It is a fun activity because the script is completely unpredictable – we made sure of that.

 

Imagine a situation in which you have always been working in one field, and you find yourself sitting at a job interview trying to explain why you have decided to apply for a role that is radically different from your previous experience. Or is it really so different?

 

Sometimes they look like parodies of real proverbs. Sometimes they have very little meaning – “The cat may look at a cat”. You can ponder over how to interpret it, as the point of the task is to provide funny, witty, and feasible explanations.  The humorous effect can be created using bisociation. According to Arthur Koestler, a funny text is split between two different semantic levels. In the beginning, the hearer or reader is aware of only one of them. The second level appears so suddenly as the punch line that it causes laughter. This sudden shift to the second level is the point. Random Proverbs are generated with Markov Chains.

 

This section is made up of thousands of questions from all over the world. The Vocabulary Selection Stage has taken us years to put together. It started during the Web 1.0 period and hasn’t stopped since then. The randomness of our questions could be compared with IELTS Speaking Task 3, which requires both examiner and examinee to hop rapidly from one topic to another. When we discovered that our first application, “ESL Random Questions”, was being used by certified IELTS trainers, we decided to expand it and add thousands more carefully selected questions.

 

Have you noticed that most people prefer to use intensifiers such as “really” or “absolutely” rather than comparisons? It is not only because “as white as snow” or “as busy as a bee” are clichéd and unimpressive, but also because coming up with a memorable and unique simile usually takes more time than the situation calls for. Random Simile will give you an opportunity to think about some new, funny similes to boost the energy and creativity of your speech.

 

The concept of this task is certainly not new, but we have brought it to another level. Thousands of key terms have been added from sources such as Google Trends and Instagram to make the task more relevant and enjoyable. We have tried to achieve maximum randomness during the selection of keywords.  The fun part of the task is that our Grandomasters cannot see the next until the Grandominister opens it – what may come next is a mystery for both. So, for example, if the Grandomaster is making a spontaneous speech about “Girls” and is presented with the new chain element “Musician”, he has to make up something on the spot to connect the two keywords.

 

After the recent changes in TOEFL examinations, only one independent speaking task has remained. While oral assessments previously followed traditional formats and were based on such scenarios that are usually covered by TOEFL preparation materials, Speaking Task 1 may involve a significant number of unpredictable questions. Students are granted 45 seconds for making their answer after just 15 seconds of preparation. A spectrogram with an in-built timer has therefore been introduced for the convenience of both students and trainers. It will allow students to practise their responses to a wide range of speaking task questions, helping them reduce pauses in their speech and increase the fluency and cohesion of their answers.

 

Tongue twisters are amusing, and can be a fun type of articulation practise, even helping us speak more clearly in common situations. Since the articulation of words is coordinated by the nervous system, sounds that use the same or similar muscles (as in the case of tongue twisters) can be rather confusing for our brains. These muscle exercises lead to clearer pronunciation and more cohesive speech patterns.

 

Spectrogram – A game intended to minimize the pauses made by participants while they narrate monologues. There are five levels of difficulty that correspond with the duration of the pause permitted. When the pause in speech is too long, the “Game Over” dialogue appears. This game has proved to be extremely useful to students wanting to practise IELTS and TOEFL speaking tasks on their own.

Other Terms

Grandoministry – Our organisation, providing a practically unlimited number of activities that are designed to engage your brain and shake up your creativity.

Grandomaster – Any participant engaging with our grandoministerial challenges.

Grandominister – Facilitator, guide, presenter, and trainer, all in one.

Grandomastery – The art of creating new content.

Grandomarshals – Administrators and content creators.

Bioscociation – As defined by Arthur Koestler, this refers to the juxtaposition of two terms that are each self-consistent but normally incompatible with one another. It leads to an unstable equilibrium, where the balance of both emotion and thought is disturbed.