Elementary Writing Game:
True Story

Let's get to know each other write now!

Get your students writing about themselves in no time :)

ESL Personal Information Game: True Story.

AGE: Adults/Teenagers
SYNOPSIS: Personal information writing activity where students write about themselves and then have other students decide which story is about whom.
LANGUAGE FOCUS: Writing and personal information.
EXAM FOCUS: Accuracy and fluency with Present Simple questions.
TIME: 45-90 minutes
INTERACTION: Solo, pair and group work.
[callout3] The aim of this activity is for students to correctly identify student-created stories with the student who wrote them at the beginning of a new course.[/callout3]

True Story Writing Procedure:

1. Copy and cut up a set of personal information Vocabulary Cards before class. Each student will need a piece of paper cut into thirds for their stories as well as 3 Name Cards for each student.

2. BEFORE starting the main activity:

(a) as a class brainstorm as many personality adjectives as you can for 3 minutes (e.g. happy, sad, angry, etc...). Now have students write their names on the face of 3 name cards. On the back of the same name cards, have them write down one adjective from the board that best suits them. The teacher then collects the name cards and redistributes them to the class so no one has their own name card. Now, students need to find the people on their name cards and find out why they wrote that particular adjective about themselves.

"Are you Maria?" 

"Yes, I am."

"Why are you 'happy'?"

"Because my husband is really rich." ;D

VARIATION: Hand out the cards so one card has a name facing the student, and the other two show the adjective. Now the student must find the student whose name is written on the card, as well as finding any other people in the class that match that adjective. At the end of the warmer, students can present on one of their adjectives and the people who identify with that.

(b) hand out a slip of paper, telling the students they must write down a question they would like someone to ask them - in order to get to know each other better. After 2-3 minutes, collect the pieces of paper and then redistribute to the class - making sure no one receives their original question. The class then mingles asking and answering each other's questions - ultimately trying to identify the person who wrote their question and why.

(c) hand out a piece of paper and a set of four Vocabulary Cards to a pair of students. One student should use their Vocabulary Cards to start the first half of a sentence about themselves. After this has been done, each student swaps their pieces of paper and tries to predict how their partner would complete the sentence they started. After they have finished their partner's sentence they check how close they were and why.

VARIATION: At the end, students can then interview other members of the class to see how many people would answer their sentences in a similar way.

3. Introduce the main activity by reading:

Each of you needs to write a paragraph about yourself on these 3 topics: 1) My Childhood, 2) At School and 3) At Work. You need to write two true stories, and one false story.  Use as many of the Vocabulary Cards as you can in your stories. 

4. Hand out a set of the Vocabulary Cards to each student and give them 15 minutes to write their 3 stories. (Ideally, you can just hand them a copy of the paper.) Each student then writes two true and one false story about themselves.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This can be done as a diary entry so students can use the Present Simple to complete the task.

5. After the students have finished their stories, collect them making sure they haven't written their names on their pieces of paper. Redistribute the stories around the class (on chairs, windowsills, tables, etc in randome order). Each student should still have three name/adjective cards so there is a matching name for each story written in the class.

6. Students then take their Name Cards and read the stories set about the class. Their job is to try and match the name with the story and then decide if it's a true story or a false story by writing a "T" or "F" on the Name Card.

7. When all the students have read the stories and made their decisions, the authors collect their stories and see if the student correctly guessed the author and authenticity of the story.

VARIATION: Instead of using Name Cards you can simply have students write their names on the board. Instead of placing a Name Card on each story, the students work in pairs reading the stories. In their pairs, they decide if it's a story about their partner and if it's authentic.

8. The activity finishes when all the students have revealed their stories to the class.

The aim of this activity is for students to write three short stories about themselves, incorporating personal information vocabulary, and identifying the author and authenticity of each work.

True Story Writing Follow Up:

1. In pairs, students must agree together and finish the following sentences on how they would like to develop their English throughout the course. After they have finished their sentences, the teacher collects them to review at home to help understand student expectations.

a. I would like...

b. I want...

c. I don't want...

d. I hate when my teacher...

e. The best way to learn is...

2. Put the class into two teams. Using the sentences from Follow Up 1. - the teacher can play Grammar Gambler, checking the grammatical accuracy of the statements the students wrote. Grammar Gambler is a game where the teacher writes 5-10 sentences on the board, numbered appropriately. Then in pairs, students have up to $100 to gamble on each sentences. The students must first determine if the sentence has any grammatical mistakes or if it's ok. After making their decision, students then place a bet on that sentence and their decision. (If they bet ok, and the sentence is ok - then they win their wager. If not, then they would lose their wager; and vice versa.)

3. Have students write a description of what they think an ideal 1) teacher and/or 2) student are and then present to the class. These can be collected and then used as blackmail later on in the course.

4. Have students write 10 sentences about themselves on two separate pieces of paper. With the first half of the sentence on one card, and the second half of the sentence on the other card.

e.g. In the summer, I like to | run and swim in the sea. 

After they have written their sentences, pair students up together and then tell them to try and correctly match the sentence halves before their partner can. They can then introduce their partner to the class again.

VARIATION: For Follow Up 4. - students can introduce their partner to the class in pairs and after each statement, the first pair to decide if the statement is true or false garners a point for their team. Make sure students know that they are limited to only one guess per statement and if they guess incorrectly, they will lose a point. The pair at the end with the most points can be crowned class champions for the day.

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ESL Personal Information Writing Activity: True Story (PDF) 

The (PDF) formatted activity will soon be hot off the press. In the meantime, instead of using the Vocabulary Cards, the teacher can simply play a game where students write in teams all the verbs they know in the base form. Using those verbs, students can continue with the activity.

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