Saturday, July 19, 2008

Classroom Community Days Four to Six: Two Truths and a Lie

Closing in on the first week, I know a lot about my students from the information sheets they filled out.  Students began to learn each other's names by playing name games.  They may have identified with each other during the classroom grids activity.  Now I want them to get some of the information I had on the first day, but in a way that the student has more control.

Two truths and a lie takes a lot of class time, but is time well spent.  Every student gets about 10 minutes of time when everyone is giving them their complete attention and asking about them.  There's no need to force students to go, but most teenagers are alright being the center of positive attention.

One person tells the class three things about themselves.  Two of the statements are true and one is false.  Members of the class can ask any (and as many) questions as they want to figure out which statement is the lie.  The person who offered their three statements doesn't have to answer these questions truthfully - so the object is to make them slip up and reveal their lie.

I model first.  My three statements might be:

1. I was on Sesame Street when I was 8 years old.
2. I was a Boy Scout for 16 years.
3. I lived in Africa for two years.

Then I give students a good half hour to ask questions.  It gives them an opportunity to figure out and practice asking good ones.  Then we vote on which statement the students think is the lie.

For the game to be worthwhile though, the instructor has to very clearly model the activity and set some guidelines for the two truths and the lie.  Students who don't see it modeled and understand how to choose good statements might give the following three options:

1. I have five brothers.
2. This summer I went to Disney World.
3. I have a pet dinosaur.

Students who know the individual outside of school may already know they have five brothers, or that they went to Disney World.  Or that information might have shown up on the classroom grid activity.  And all students probably know that dinosaurs are extinct.

So after I model, I offer a few guidelines to help students choose their statements.
One, don't choose any statements that are related.

1. I've lived in South America.
2. I speak fluent Spanish.
3. I have a pet dinosaur.

If someone knows the majority of countries in South America are Spanish speaking, one will know that the first two statements are most likely true because only one can be false.

Two, never say never.

1. I've never failed a class.
2. I speak fluent Spanish.
3. I have a pet dinosaur.

It's hard to determine the truth value of a negative.

Three, all three statements should have a certain level of unbelievability.

1. I have two brothers.
2. I ate a hot dog yesterday.
3. Michael Jackson is my uncle.

Though you could potentially fake a number of people out, the object is to get to know each other better, and one doesn't learn a whole lot about a person by how many brothers they have or what they ate for dinner.

Four, lies need to be complete lies, not half truths.

1. My uncle is Michael Jackson.
2. I speak Spanish fluently.
3. I grow all my vegetables in my back yard.

It's pretty lame when people have voted to say "ha! I grow all my vegetables in my front yard!  Tricked you all!"

One thing that can go wrong with this activity is students will start asking all kinds of questions that don't have anything to do with the three truths.  While this is in a way the point of the whole activity (to get them to want to know more about each other), it could become uncomfortable for the student put on the spot.  One potential intervention is to limit how many questions they can ask to a hard number - "okay, only 10 more questions and then we vote!"  Students will start asking good questions about the statements rather than going off on tangents.

Each student will need about 10 minutes for offering their statements and answering questions.

Previous - Day Three: Classroom Grid
Next - Day Five: Home Team Advantage

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