Warm-up: Exaggeration Story (Telephone) Activity

Warm-up Activity for ESL Conversation Class

Basic Idea: A “telephone” story warm-up activity in which students exaggerate other students’ stories.

Total Time: 15 minutes (depends on the number of students)

Minimum number of students: 4

Strengths:  entertaining + practice of past tenses + vocabulary extension

Levels: Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate, Advanced


Warm-up Activity Execution:

  • Write the word “exaggerate” on the board and then explain its meaning by means of example.
  • Tell the students to think of a story from their past. Tell them the story doesn’t have to be funny, necessarily, but it should take roughly 1-2 minutes to tell to another person. Give them a minute or so to think of a story.
  • Next, tell the students that they will break into pairs and tell their story to a classmate. Upon doing so, they will be told their classmate’s story. Afterward, they will switch partners and then retell the story they just heard (from the first partner) to their new partner while exaggerating it. Tell them to try to make the story more interesting, incredible, funny, or change it in whatever way they wish.
  • After telling an exaggerated version of the first story they heard, they will in turn hear an exaggerated story from their partner.
  • Following this, they should change partners and repeat the process. They will have to stand up and move around the room to find another partner. Make it clear that they will always retell the most recent story they heard. They should should not retell the same story twice.
  • They should continue the process until they have exchanged a story with all students (or you stop them).
  • Once the students understand the idea, have them begin.



After all students have exchanged a story with all their classmates (or after about 4 switches have occurred), have the students stop and sit down again in a group. Ask them to share the most recent story they heard with the group. This should be entertaining because by this time, the story should have became fairly distorted and ridiculous.

Warm-up Activity Advice:

  • Monitor students while they exchange their stories and provide them vocabulary assistance when needed.
  • Write down their major errors on paper and commend them on their work + review major mistakes after the activity is over.

That’s it. I use this game as a warm-up activity for intermediate to advanced conversation classes. Give it a try and let us know how it goes!

– Matthew Barton / English Current

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2 comments on “Warm-up: Exaggeration Story (Telephone) Activity

  1. Melanie (Posted on 1-9-2013 at 23:43) Reply

    I am emo

  2. Gareth Murphy (Posted on 8-8-2013 at 15:35) Reply

    This is a great idea – basically enforced Chinese whispers :)

    I’ll give it a go tonight :)

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