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Lateral thinking

Average: 3.2 (75 votes)

This activity promotes recognition of the past continuous followed by practice. It utilises a well-known lateral thinking story.

Derek Spafford


You will need:

  • one story, cut into strips, for each pair or group
  • one complete copy of the story per student
  • one copy of the grammar worksheet per student


  • Put students in pairs or groups and give out the cut up story. Ask students to put it in the correct order. You could give the first sentence to help. 
  • Set a time limit and then when finished ask students to walk around and look at each others' finished story.
  • Invite them to make changes to their own if they wish.
  • Read the correct version of the story and then ask students to discuss possible answers.
  • Get suggestions from the class then give them the answer (the surgeon is the boy's mother) if they don't come up with it.
  • Now give out completed versions of the story and ask students to find examples of the past continuous.
  • Students should then complete the grammar worksheet. 
  • Now divide the class into two groups. Each student in one group will be the police officer. Each student in the other group will be the boy's friend.
  • Explain that the police officer is going to interview the friend to find out what happened.
  • In their groups, set a time limit for students to come up with possible questions and answers depending on the group they are in. Encourage the police officers to ask other questions outside of the story to encourage communication. 
  • When ready, put the students in pairs (one from each group) to conduct the interviews. 
  • Monitor and provide feedback when the activity is finished. 


Students could work together to write a newspaper article about the incident. You could also use more lateral thinking activities as the springboard for a discussion.

Language level
Language Level: 
Pre-intermediate: A2