Using Lies in the EFL Classroom

I’ve been thinking recently about how good teachers foster “noticing” in their students. Good teachers somehow get students to notice the “deeper” stuff about language – the nuance and information that just isn’t on the surface and easily translatable or apparent.

This really can’t be done directly. One might think so and I’ll respect that opinion but explicitly teaching grammar rules and morphological analysis or even being overt with error correction may work in some instances but overall, the research reports it is a pretty poor use of class time unless students have a very specific problem to address (ie. They don’t hear themselves pronouncing “r” as “l”, for example).

One good way to be implicit but still get students noticing is to use lies! Yes, LIES! (maybe I’m thinking about this because of my recent blog post – “The 7 Deadly Sins of Great Teachers“Have students tell lies and students guess which isn’t true. The most common example is the 3 Truths , 1 lie game. Students write 4 sentences about themselves. One must be a lie. For beginners the prompts can be something like:

A) I have ………………

B) I can ……………… very well

C) I like ____________ing

D) I don’t have _____________.

But you can make up your own to practice what you’ve been doing in your own classroom. Students must speak slowly and clearly and after, the other students guess which one is the lie. Even “debate” which one is the lie.

This is a great exercise because students begin to notice the emotional aspect of language and how we change our voices when speaking a lie. This is a high pragmatic skill that students should become aware of. One better way to practice this is by you the teacher telling a story. The students write down and guess the lies which are in your story. Can be really fun! Or tell a common story like the 3 pigs and tell a few lies/errors. Get them to figure it out!

BELOW – Here is a nice 3 wishes game with a warm up “LIE” game….

I also highly recommend Mario Rinvolucri’s recent article in The English Teaching Professional on this subject! A good read and he offers (as he so often does), really practical activities you can do with students (although many are for higher levels and you’ll have to adapt).

So- get lying! and stop Lying down!


Lying activities Mario Rinvolucri.pdf

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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