AMNESIA: A memorable conversation game

(Originally published in my book Brainstorming. Moscow: Manager, 2001. This is an updated version.)

Amnesia is a game I created to practice expressing regret and longing (If only/ I wish) or habitual behavior (You’re always + ing). You may focus on only one structure or choose to practice at least two through this activity. So that my illustration is clear, I’ll focus on only one.


Level:                    High intermediate to advanced

Format:                Small groups of 3-5 students

Objective:            To help someone recall his or her fictitious identity


STEP 1 – In advance prepare several sets of role cards. Each set should have one “victim” of amnesia* and four supporting roles. You can choose political figures, celebrities, and characters from well-known books. Choose people your students know or professions they are familiar with. Suggestions:

Bill Clinton* (former U.S. president): Hillary (wife), Chelsea (daughter), Al Gore (former vice-president), a body guard

Arnold Shwarzenegger* (actor and current Governor of California): Maria Shriver (wife and journalist), Danny DeVito (film co-star), movie fan, resident of California

Captain of an airplane*: the co-pilot, a flight attendant, spouse, a son/ daughter

Heart surgeon*: nurse, medical student, recent patient, parent

STEP 2 – In class, have students form small groups (3-5 members).  Give one set of role cards to each group so that only the supporting roles are assigned. The number of role cards given should be one less than the number of students in a group. Do no hand out the card of the “victim”.  Explain that the student without a card has amnesia.  The others must help this person recall his/ her identity. These students may now view the card of the “victim” to learn his/ her identity. They will assume their assigned roles and provide clues using the structure:  be always + (verb in the “-ing” form). Model with group of 4:

Student 1 (nurse): I often assist you in your work. Patients are always telling me how lucky they are because of you.

Student 2 (medical student): I watch you and learn from you. You’re always telling me something useful about surgery or how the body works.

Student 3 (recent patient): You saved my life. I’m not always trying to catch my breath like I used to. A new heart gave me new life.

Student 4 (amnesia victim): Am I a heart surgeon?

STEP 3 – The “victim” must listen to one clue from each member in the group before guessing his/ her identity. Additional clues may be offered if necessary.

STEP 4 – Have the groups switch sets of cards or pass out new sets and let the game continue.  Be sure that different members of each group take turns being the “victim”.



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Zach says:

    Great activity. I’m curious how you would use it practice expressing regret.

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      It probably works best for habitual behavior, but expressing regret is possible. This language focus is more appropriate for advanced students.

      The victim can have a greater speaking role. Before the students begin to offer clues, the victim expresses his/ her main regret: “If only I could remember my name.”/ “I wish knew who I was.”

      As each student offers a clue, the victim can respond with an “If only” or “I wish” statement: “I wish I could remember you, but I don’t.” The clues themselves can begin with “if only” or “I wish”: “If only we had more time, I’d take you to the hospital so you could see where you used to work.” / “I wish I could have all your patients tell you about your work. Then you’d remember everything.”

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