Believe It or Not (Online Version)

Steve Hampshire, Fukuyama City University

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Present perfect, life experiences, past simple questions, true or false?
  • Learner English level: Intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: Junior high 3rd year and above
  • Preparation time: 5 minutes
  • Activity time: 5–10 minutes per student
  • Materials: Zoom and completed worksheet (see appendix)

“I have driven a steam train, eaten ants and climbed Mt Fuji.” Impressed? Well before you offer your congratulations, I would suggest you dig a little deeper as all may not be quite as it appears. Believe it or not is a two-part scaffolded, online, communication challenge that will have your students picking memories and testing imaginations as they dig deep to separate fact from fiction and uncover the real stories behind sets of purported past experiences. But it doesn’t stop there. With the truth out, it’s time to spread the conversational net and see who else shares a similar past!



One copy of the worksheet per student e-mailed in advance. Complete Part A and B before coming to the online class.



Step 1: On a piece of paper write a sentence stating a true, personal life experience.

For example: “I have been to Sapporo.”

Step 2: Hold this up to the PC camera and read the sentence. Ask your students to find out more about this event. Point them, if necessary, to the Wh- questions listed on their worksheets.   

Step 3: Introduce the first activity. Show your completed Part A of the worksheet to the students, explaining that two of the sentences are true but one is false. Read the first sentence and field questions from the class for one to two minutes.

Step 4: Repeat with sentences B and C.

Step 5: Now take a vote on which experience your students think is the false one. You can use the thumbs up reactions feature here. Write the results on the board. Finally uncover the truth.

Step 6: Now, it’s the students’ turn. Using the ‘Breakout Room’ function on Zoom, divide the class into groups of three or four students. Zoom does this automatically or allows you to allocate manually.

Step 7: Before pressing the button to send the students into their Breakout Room groups, decide who will go first, second etc. Also, set a time limit for each sentence Q&A and vote. Allocate one student to be timekeeper.

Step 8: The first presenting student holds the completed Part A of their worksheet to the camera and reads the first sentence to their group. The questioning can then begin.

Step 9: To monitor the progress of different groups just press the ‘Join’ button on the Breakout Room interface and you can visit individual groups at will. When sufficient time has passed, close all breakout rooms and rejoin as a class.

Step 10: Introduce Activity 2: Have you ever _? Using the questions in Part B of the worksheet, divide the class into new Breakout room groups. Review the Wh- and follow-up questions on the worksheet, set a time limit and monitor as described above.

Step 11: Regroup as a class for feedback. Noteworthy revelations could also be fed back to the whole class via the chat function!



Although originally designed for the classroom, I have found that these activities work equally as well in this online format, continuing to generate lots of language and providing plentiful question and answer practice for students, who Believe it or not, become so absorbed in their search for the truth that the English just comes naturally. Now that’s a fact!



This appendix is also available below: