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True Or False

Target: listening, vocabulary listening
Age: kindergarten aged and up
Duration: 1 minute or so
Class Size: any
Energy Level: varies
Type: It depends
Equipment: whatever you like!

I was first introduced to this idea as a game at a Japanese Kindergarten open day. One teacher made a statement such as "I had natto for breakfast" and the children had to guess whether it was correct or not. Children who thought the statement was true put their hands over their heads with fingers touching to form a circle. Those who thought the statement was false put their arms over their heads in the form of a cross. The teacher then revealed the answer and the children who guessed wrong were eliminated. I can't remember if those who survived through to the end got a prize. I was too busy watching the children some of whom were in tears. Their mothers seemed oblivious. I talked to one afterwards about the game and she thought it enjoyable until I pointed out that her son had cried. So easily are we inured to competition.

I think imposing such elimination games on small children is a form of sadism. Knocking players out is simply unnecessary and detracts from the simple enjoyment of guessing. Here are a few considerations:

  1. It is preferable to make statements that can be verified. "I have a big, plastic banana in my left pocket" can easily be demonstrated as true or false.
  2. Repeating sentence patterns can help children to understand more of what they hear.
  3. Mixing in sentences that require guessing with ones that are knowable can aid understanding and give everyone a chance to guess correctly. For example, "My sweater is blue" is obviously true or false.
  4. Use gestures to aid understanding. For example, tap your left pocket when you say "left pocket".
  5. Mixing in silly sentences likewise gives everyone a chance to guess correctly and adds to the fun. "There is an elephant under the table" is obviously false, unless it isn't!
  6. Make some statements that are almost true, but not quite. Perhaps that plastic banana could be very small rather than big or perhaps it could be in a back pocket or elsewhere in the room. Again doing so can help to increase understanding.
  7. Older players may prefer a less active way to indicate true or false. For example, thumbs up for true and thumbs down for no.

The game works best with a little preparation. Put one or two unlikely objects in some unlikely places. Two of my favourites involve wearing a hat. Put a plastic snake under the hat or a folded up Santa Hat inside it. Both are fun.

This is an activity that can be used to fill a few spare moments or as a break from the main focus of a class (if you have one).


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