(Originally published in my book Brainstorming. Moscow: Manager, 2001. This is an updated version.)
Language Focus: Contrasting the present perfect and simple past tenses.
Level: Intermediate to advanced.
Format: Possible in pairs or small groups. Ideal as a whole class.
Objective: To talk about past experiences and decide who is telling the truth and who is bluffing.
STEP 1: Define bluff. You might allude to the bluffing done in poker games.
STEP 2: Select one student to be in the “hot seat”. This student will answer his/ her classmates’ questions about a past experience. Ask another student to begin the questioning. The first question uses the present perfect tense and must begin with “Have you ever…?” (= general past experience) The answer to this first question must be: “Yes, I have.”
NOTE: Students should ask about unusual but possible past experiences: “Have you ever gone sky diving?” – or – “Have you ever met someone famous?”
STEP 3: The class may then start calling out additional questions to learn details (= specific past events). These questions will all be in the simple past tense: “Where did you go sky diving? Who jumped with you?” Etc. Set a limit on the number of questions or the time allotted for questioning. (For example, one question per student or one minute of questioning by the entire class.)
STEP 4: Ask the students to decide collectively if the person in the “hot seat” is bluffing. As the student tells the truth, encourage the use of the present perfect tense: “Yes, I’ve really gone sky diving. I’ve done it twice.” – or – “No, I’ve never met anyone famous.”
STEP 5: Select a new person to be in the “hot seat”.
SUGGESTION: Lower level students may need more prompts to form questions. You can write a list of phrases on the board. (Examples: see a UFO, eat snake meat, ride a horse, cut someone’s hair) Let students choose from the list. Write the phrases using the base verb so that students gain practice in forming the present perfect.