Monday, May 18, 2015

The Telephone Game

When I was little, I used to play a game called "Whisper down the lane".  Everyone sat in a line. One person whispered a sentence into the ear of the person next to him.  The next person listened to what was said and then repeated it to the next person in line. When the last person has heard the sentence, he shares it with the group to see how much it has changed.

For several years, I've been doing an activity similar to this with my Spanish 4 classes.  My students always call it the Telephone Game. This year I tweaked the activity and made it suitable for level 2 also.  The two versions are listed below.

It's best to do this activity where you have a lot of space because you don't want students to hear others not on their team. That makes it an ideal outdoors activity.  

1. Write a story in your TL that has a lot of details.  HERE is the story I wrote in the morning the day of the activity. I used this as an oopportunity to recycle structures and vocabulary that I taught throughout the school term. Write questions about the information in the story.

2.  Divide the class into teams of 3 or 4.  It works best if all teams are equal.  If the numbers aren't equal, you can recruit the extra students to serve as "eavesdroppers" (they listen to the students to make sure they are speaking in the TL).

3.  Everyone will need a writing utensil.  When we go outside, each student takes a clipboard and a pencil with them.   

4.  The teams should each form a line, with a lot of space between the first person in line and the second person, between the second person and the third, etc.

5.  The teacher tells (reads if necessary but be sure to "tell" the story and add emotion) the story to the first member of each team.  They should listen well because they will be in charge of retelling it to the next person in line.

6.   After you, the teacher, have told them the complete story, they walk to the #2 person of their team and the 1st student tells the story to the 2nd student on their team.

7. After the 2nd student has heard the story, student 2 walks to student 3 and tells her the story.  While student 2 is telling the story to student 3, the teacher should hand a paper with questions about the story to student 1. 

8. When student 3 has heard the story, she tells it to student 4.  Student 2 then has time to complete the questions about the story.

9. After student 3 is finished telling the story to student 4, hand each of them a paper with questions for them to answer.  

When all the papers are completed, redistribute them to grade.  The team with the most correct answers is the winner.

2nd version
 This is the version I used with Spanish 2.  

1. Students form groups of 3.  
2. Tell the exact same story that you used for a higher level BUT this time ALL the students listen as you tell the story.  
3. Hand 1 question paper to each team to complete after you tell the story.
4. The team with the most points wins.

Another variation is to have the students work in groups of 3 but only 2 students from each team listen to the first version.  Those two students work together to retell the story to the 3rd student on their team that didn't hear the original version.

Two years ago I had 3 stories that weren't quite as long as the one linked above, but, of course, they are temporarily missing.  

Suggestion: If you are doing the activity in the first version, tell the students that the person that feels most comfortable with listening activities and retelling should be the first or second student.  If the first few students miss information, the rest of their team will miss out on more points.

I demonstrated this to my Spanish 4 class by having 6 students go out to the hall while I told the story.  Two students in the class then had to tell the story to 2 students that were in the hall.  Then 2 more students came into the class that were in the hall and listened to the story from the students that listened to my version, etc.  The students enjoyed listening to how the information was not communicated correctly, or not communicated at all!

The students enjoyed this again this year. They enjoyed it so much that I'll be writing new stories to use for another time before school ends.


  1. I love this idea--I'm totally using it during my last week of classes! What a great activity to use when students are getting squirmy towards the end of the year! I just posted a lot of activities that I will be using to keep my students engaged during the end of the year

    1. Hi Niki - The students love this activity. The only possible problem is that the last student(s) to hear the story have free time until it is their turn to listen.
      Thanks for sharing your list of activities. I've done some of them (Marker Partner Game and looking for sentences from the book that a student acted out or drew, but that's an old blog post from several years ago and I can't find it) and some of the other ones on your list are new. I'll have to remember them to use in the future.
      Only a few more weeks for this school year for me!!!