Lateral Thinking Stories/Black Stories

This exercise is possible at the A1 level (after the past simple at least has been learned), but better from A2-C2 levels. The focus of this exercise is forming questions especially in the past (past simple or past continuous). There are many of these games on the market (see amazon) or you can find them online. Lateral thinking stories or Black Stories are a mix of a riddle/puzzle and a story in which the learners are told the ending of the story and must ask questions (yes/no) to figure out how it came to be. One story could go on for anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes, so be prepared. I usually just do one or two stories at a time.

  1. Choose a story (see here for some:
  2. Explain to the learners that they will ask you closed questions. You can have them work in pairs or small groups if you have a large class.
  3. You could allow a person/team to ask a follow up question if the answer is YES. (your answers will be YES, NO, or NOT RELEVANT)
  4. The person/team that solves the story wins.

NB: Be prepared to give clues if they aren’t coming up with. For example: Ask about the wife/what he looks like/her age etc. (especially if the exercise is taking longer than planned).


Folding Stories

This is something I used to do with my friends back home. It is best for levels from A2-C2. As the teacher, you should also take part!

  1. Give each participant a page with one sentence at the top (a different sentence for each sheet), such as: Bob had a problem at work./An old woman named Martha needed help./Sarah received an email with the best news of her life.
  2. Allow the learners to read their sentence and explain that they will write the next sentence under the original sentence.
  3. Then, everyone should fold the paper in such a way that only their sentence is visible.
  4. They then pass their paper to their left. When they receive the new sheet, they read the visible sentence (again ONLY THE LAST SENTENCE), they continue the story for that sheet.
  5. The process repeats for a certain period of time or until the sheets are full.
  6. Finally, the learners open the sheets and read their stories out loud to the group. Some of the stories will be quite funny, others strange, but everyone enjoys hearing them!

1-1 Adaptation: this exercise does not work for 1-1 situations at all. There need to be a minimum of 3 people who write.

Liar! Liar!

Liar Liar


This one is good for practicing tenses. You can limit it to just the past simple, or include past continuous, past perfect or adapt it for present and future forms. It’s good fun.

  1. Prepare two stories which include the target grammar. One story is 100% true and the other is totally made up. Obviously, the more unusual or interesting the stories, the better. Use longer stories for higher levels and shorter stories (as short as one sentence) for lower levels.
  2. Explain to the learners that one story is a lie and one is true. They should listen and decide which is which (no asking of questions afterwards).
  3. Tell the stories.
  4. Allow the learners to talk among themselves and decide which one they think is true and a lie.
  5. It’s always fund to when you tell them which one was really the lie.
  6. Next, have them do the same thing. Because they usually need time (unless they are very proficient) I usually give this as homework.

Variation: If two stories are too difficult, you can tell them they must tell just one story but with two lies in that story.