Adapting games – Truth be told with second conditionals

Truth be told is a game that encourages players to be creative. It’s similar to games like Dixit, Absolute Boulderdash and Pictionary which create a context for players to be interesting and entertaining. We can adapt these games by slightly changing the focus and introducing a language structure. In this example I will be showing how Truth be told can be used to practice second conditionals.

Update: The handout has been updated to include first, second and third conditionals and can be downloaded here for Powerpoint or here as a PDF.

This is a simple game that can be used with a wide variety of language. I’ve chosen second conditionals as an example as they are particularly suitable for the nature of the game, which involves taking one half of a sentence and thinking of a way to complete it. The game is played in groups of 4 to 6, but I would play one round with the whole class first as a quick introduction. Showing is far easier than telling and after the first round students will understand what they have to do.

2nd conditional pic

Instructions

Each group is given a set of cards and a stack of small sheets of paper. The sheets of paper should be big enough for students to write a legible sentence. The first player draws the first card and reads it out loud to the group.

“If I were friends with the president, …”

The first time you play you should elicit that the next part will start with “I would…”

The other players should think about what the first player’s answer will be. Each player then takes a small sheet of paper and writes the next part of the sentence with that person in mind. The first player also writes his own answer on a sheet of paper. Once everyone has finished writing, the first player collects all of the answers, including their own, and shuffles them. Then the first player reads each of the sentences in full:

“If I were friends with the president, I would get a comfortable government job.”

“If I were friends with the president, I would tell him to resign.”

“If I were friends with the president, I would meet a lot of interesting people.”

“If I were friends with the president, I would give him some of my ideas.”

Now, the other players each have to guess which answer they think is the real one that the first player wrote. Once everyone’s made their choice the first player reveals which one was their answer and why. This part can be in an open discussion and you’ll rarely need to worry about keeping score. The next player takes a card and the game continues until every player has had a turn.

After the first round students will understand the game far better than if you try to explain it beforehand. They will also understand that a big part of the game is in fooling other people into guessing your answer.

Further adaptation

Some students, especially competitive teenagers, may prefer to choose the correct answer in secret so that you can keep track of each player’s answers and award points for correct guesses. Students make their guesses by writing down their choice. They can get two points for a correct guess with the correct grammar structure, or one point for an incorrect answer with the correct grammar structure. This means they should be focused on listening to each other and on the grammar structure, because they are being awarded for accuracy. This is less communicative but you can talk about their choices after the points have been awarded.

Instead of using the pre-made cards, you could elicit some possible clauses from your class and then make a set of cards with them. You could also make questions from whatever phrases or vocabulary you’ve been learning in class. Another set I’ve made is based on animal idioms for an advanced class: “A time I should have let sleeping dogs lie is…” “Someone in my family whose bark is worse than their bite is…”

Overall the range of answers and the creativity of my students has impressed me and the game has been very well received.

Update: The handout has been updated to include first, second and third conditionals and can be downloaded here for Powerpoint or here as a PDF.

Truth be told is a game by Buffalo Games and can be found here.

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