These lying games work so well because they require forming lots of purposeful questions, while the interrogated student is asked (and often fails) to pull off heroic acts of keeping a straight face.
Before playing one of these games, you could set the students this question to discuss in pairs or threes. What are some ways of telling if someone is lying? It will add some tension and humour to the activity which follows.
Two truths and a lie
This is the simplest form of the activity and works well as an icebreaker.
Ask students to write down three sentences about themselves, two of them should be true and one of them should be a lie. Students take it in turns to read out their sentences and then the rest of the class must decide which statement they think is not true. The student’s classmates can ask him or her questions to try and trip them up.
The lying game – team version
Write five sentences about yourself on the board and explain that two of the sentences aren’t true. Ask students to discuss the sentences with their neighbour and decide which two they think are lies. Encourage students to ask you questions to test your knowledge of the sentence subject.
Your example sentences might look like this:
My favourite football team is Tottenham Hotspur
I’ve never been to Scotland
When I was young I wanted to be a shop assistant
I studied at Oxford University
I can juggle four balls
Now ask the students to write some similar sentences about themselves including some which are false. This step takes time, give students 10 to 15 minutes for this.
Divide the class into three teams (more is possible but it becomes much harder to score points).
Give each team a piece of A4 paper/card with True written on one side in marker pen and False on the other.
Team A decides on a sentence from one of their team members and tells the class. Teams B and C now confer to decide whether the sentence is true or false and both teams are also allowed to ask the student one question.
Give teams B and C a minute or two to make a decision and then signal that the time is up. Both teams must now simultaneously hold up their true/false card. Team A then holds up their true/false card to show if the sentence was true or false.
If team A has fooled both of the other teams then they get a point. Whereas teams B and C get a point if they have correctly guessed the truth or falsity of the statement.
Who’s the liar
Take from the deck the same number of cards as there are students and make sure that one of the cards is a Joker. Pass the cards around, each student takes a card without looking at the others.
Inform the students that if they now hold the joker, they cannot tell the truth, all other players must tell the truth.
Going clockwise around the class, students take it in turns to ask any other student one question about anything they want. Example questions might be:
Do you like English?
Do you drive a red car?
Did you enjoy your weekend with your parents-in-law?
Have you lived in another country?
Focusing on open questions will make the activity more challenging.
Where did you go for your holidays last year?
What kind of music do you like?
What’s your favourite food?
Where do you live?
How often do you go running?
If a student thinks they have identified the liar they can make a challenge, but if they are wrong they have to sit out the rest of the round.
Sharper students might quickly identify a way to win. For example asking, are you a woman? Or are you wearing shoes? It’s up to the teacher to make an arbitrary judgment as to whether a question is too specific.
I recommend that as the teacher take part too, as it generally adds to the fun and students will look to you to model good question. The game often descends into hysterics with students struggling to keep a straight face when they get dealt the Joker.
To spice it up a bit, try adding a second Joker to the pack.