This is a quick game for intermediate level students and above. I made it as a mingle for new students to get to know each other but over time it has shown that it’s a good exercise for practising the narrative tenses.

To download the handout click here.


The game starts with you telling your students a short story about yourself. The story can be true or made up. When you’ve finished ask your students, “Was that story true or was it a lie?” They discuss in pairs, then in feedback with the class they can ask you questions about the story before they decide. As they guess, ask for their reasoning. Once they’ve all guessed reveal if it was true, or not, and give a little more background detail to the story.

The game

exampleEach student is given a card like the one on the right. (the handout can be downloaded by clicking here)

There are six different cards with a total of 18 different story titles. Give students time to think up their stories and write some notes. At higher levels they should be prepared for follow up questions. The next part is a mingle: They stand up and find a partner, they exchange stories and guess if their partner’s story is true or a lie. Upper intermediate students and above should ask two or three follow up questions before they guess. (Students who prepare quickly can start the activity early but check that they have made some notes and are ready to tell their story.)

While students mingle, monitor for error correction at the end.

Follow up

After every student has spoken to at least four people they return to their seats. Write one or more of the questions on the board for students to discuss:

  • Whose story was the best/most interesting?
  • Who fooled you with their lie?
  • Who told a true story that you thought was a lie?
  • Who do you think is the best liar in the class?

Lie TruthI like this activity because it gives students a reason to listen carefully to each other. Too often in a speaking exercise some students lose interest in what other people are saying. In this game they have to pay attention to listen for clues, so they can guess correctly. This also means that students have an active audience when they speak, which is more encouraging than a bored, expressionless partner.

Possible adaptations depend on whether the focus is on fluency, pronunciation or accuracy. It can be the foundation of a writing exercise, where students have to correctly use the present perfect (or whatever aspect you are focusing on). It can also be used as a ‘get to know you’ activity for new students in an advanced class without much need for preparation or note taking.

This is an optional step, before you play the game, for lower level groups or if your lesson has a specific grammar focus. After you’ve told your story once ask your students, “Was that story in the past, present or the future?” They should recognise that it took place in the past. You then ask them to listen to your story again, writing down every verb they hear in the past simple (substitute past continuous or past perfect if that is the focus of the lesson). Retell your story then students compare their notes in pairs and in class feedback you write them on the board, eliciting correct spellings, infinitives and if the verb is regular or irregular.

When you play the game you can keep score, by giving students points every time they guess correctly, but that isn’t necessary to give the game a competitive edge.

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