• Fun and Student-Centered Speaking/Listening Activity: Truth or Lie

owl and hat

The owl and the hat

One of my students, Sebastian, told our Conversation class this experience: “I was on a hike in the Hundred Acre Woods (a forest near campus).  It was a beautiful morning.  The sun was shining through the tree branches.  Suddenly, I heard a wooshing sound near my head.  Something attacked my head.  And then my hat was gone.  I looked up and notice an owl flying away with my hat.

Then Sebastian left the room, and Kenji came in and told this experience:  “One day, I was walking in the Hundred Acre Woods.  I had a small backpack with my lunch in it.  I was wearing a jacket and a baseball hat.  All of a sudden, I heard a sound near my head, and before I could look up, an owl took my hat and flew away with it.”

Which of these students, Sebastian or Kenji actually had this experience?  Finding this out is the goal of this “Truth or Lie” game.  The students love it.

This activity seems to be most effective with low-intermediate to advanced students.  It involves speaking (monologs), listening, asking and answering questions and discussion.

Here are the steps:

1) The teacher tells the students to think of an interesting or frightening or funny or exciting experience that they once had.  Students are given a few minutes to think.  They are told not to tell anyone yet.

2) The teacher “finds” two students (Student A and Student B) to tell the story.  They can volunteer or the teacher can directly ask them or even choose two at random.

3) The teacher explains to the class that the two students will soon leave the classroom.  In the hallway, they will tell each other their stories and then decide which one of their stories they will both tell the class.  They should practice telling the story as if it actually happened to both of them.  Both of their goals is to make the class believe that s/he was to one who had the experience.

4) First one student (Student A) comes in the room, but the other stays in the hall.  Student A tells the story.  Then the students can ask question (interrogate Students A) to try to get a sense if Student A is tell the truth that the story really happened to him/her.

5) Student A leaves the room and Student B comes in.  Student B tells the story and the students ask questions (interrogate Students B).

6) Student A returns to the room and joins B up front.  The students then tell which one they think is telling the truth/lying and why they think that.

7) The students vote on who they think is telling the truth.  The truth-teller steps forward.

To give examples of the “interrogation questions,” here are some that students asked:

-What season was it?
-Can you describe that hat were you wearing?
-Why were you walking in the woods?
-Why do you think the owl did that?  Usually owls fly at night?
-Who was with you?

To give examples of the discussion, here are what some students said:

-I think Kenji is telling the truth.   He immediately describe the hat as a Seattle Seahawks    one, but Sebastian hesitated and said it was a red hat.
-I think Sebastian is telling the truth.  His eyes brightened up when he told how the owl          attached him.
I’ve used this in several different teaching contexts and found the students very engaged.  One nice point is that it’s all students centered.  And surprisingly, it seems that the majority of time, they are fooled, which always creates a lot of laughter.

By the way, Sebastian was telling the truth.

David Kehe

2 thoughts on “• Fun and Student-Centered Speaking/Listening Activity: Truth or Lie

  1. Anonymous

    Hi, thank you for sharing this very communicative activity. As a teacher, I’d like to know about what the teacher’s role in this activity except a facilitator. What do you usually do to wrap it up in the end.


    1. commonsenseesl Post author

      Thank you for the question. Here is the first thing that comes to my mind: if you were a student in this class, what would you want the teacher to do at the end of the activity? I imagine most students would be happy to just move on to the next activity. And there is nothing wrong with doing that. However, it could add credibility to the teacher and course to let the students know that this was not merely a fun activity. To wrap it up, the teacher could briefly explain how the skills that they had just practice (summarizing a story, focusing on someone talking for a period of time, asking for clarifications and even using some critical thinking) are all skills that they will need beyond the classroom.

      If your course includes some writing-skill development aspect, you could have the students write a summary of the stories that they had just heard, and they could explain who they thought was telling the truth or lie and why. In other words, the activity could serve as good fodder for a writing task.

      I imagine other readers are wondering the same thing as you about the teacher’s role and wrapping it up. I’d be interested in hearing how you and others would approach this.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s