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21 Lies I Will Tell My Children

August 25th, 2007 by Dave · No Comments

I was recently listening to an old episode (#10) of This American Life and I heard a short (1 min 30 sec) play by the Neo-Futurists. It’s called “21 Lies I Will Tell My Children,” and seems like it could be used for discussion activities with adult (or at least relatively mature) ESL / EFL learners.

Below, you can find the full text of the play, and also an mp3 recording. I’ve also created some pre- and post-discussion activities. Please feel free to add some ideas for activities of your own in the comments. Some of the lies in this list could lead to discussion of mature topics, so use them at your own risk.

Pre-discussion questions:

  1. Is it ever OK to lie? Why or why not?
  2. Can you give some examples of “good” lies that you’ve told?
  3. Have your parents ever lied to you? What did they lie about?
  4. Would you lie / have you lied to your children? What would / did you lie about? Why?

Next, have students listen to the 21 lies, either by reading the list or listening to the mp3. Pre-teach any necessary vocabulary. To focus more on grammar, you could ask students to take notes on the list and have them dictate each sentence back to you, correcting them as needed.

“21 Lies I Will Tell My Children”


  1. If you don’t get down you’re going to break your neck.
  2. Santa’s coming.
  3. Mommy was just…um…singing. Go back to bed.
  4. I will never forget this for as long as I live.
  5. I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt you.
  6. I said “shucks.” “Oh shucks.”
  7. Sure I like your music, it’s just…different.
  8. One more time and you’re going to get out and walk.
  9. Just because your friends do it, doesn’t mean you have to do it.
  10. Oh now, you don’t really mean that.
  11. Sure I like your new haircut, it’s just…different.
  12. I never said that.
  13. No one is going to notice a little pimple.
  14. Sex is the expression of love and devotion.
  15. It doesn’t matter about the new car, all that matters is that you’re OK.
  16. I’m going to kill you.
  17. Sure I like your boyfriend, he’s just…different.
  18. I was just closing my eyes for a minute.
  19. You were the best baby in the world.
  20. Everything is going to be all right.
  21. Daddy will always be here to take care of you.


Post-discussion questions:

  1. Are there any lies that you don’t understand? Ask your partner(s) to explain them to you.
  2. Did your parents tell you any of these lies? Which ones? When did you realize that they were lies?
  3. Do think any of these statements are not lies? Why?
  4. Which of these lies do you think parents should tell their children? Which do you think they should not tell?
  5. Are there any additional lies you would add to this list?

Tags: audio · blog · ESL activity · lesson plans · listening · speaking

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