Apr 29, 2012

Honesty Day

April 30th is celebrated in the USA and some other countries as Honesty Day. To mark this day, Billy Joel's classic ballad was an obvious choice for my upper-intermediate students but then I also decided to develop some activities around it.

The activity outlined below is suitable for both teen and adult learners at Upper-Intermediate (B2) level and up


Step 1 - Discussion
Before the discussion you can brainstorm with your students examples of dishonesty (e.g. lying, cheating in an exam, stealing etc)

Step 2 - Situations
I found a quiz on the CBS website which I adapted for this activity. I was very tempted to use "What would you do?" to get the students to practise hypothetical modal would but "What do you do?" seemed more natural in the given context.

Step 3 - Song
Gapfill activities with songs can be a trite affair; however using them before listening is highly beneficial especially if you gap parts of a collocation or another common expression - and songs are a good source of these! For example, in the song at hand students should know the expressions "pretty lies", "wear your heart on your sleeve", "till the bitter end" as well as grammatical patterns "I can always find someone to say they..." - you can't put "concerned" here because there is no "are" etc. However the main focus of this activity is heightening students' phonological awareness as once they've figured out what completes a gap they can easily fill in the other gap with a rhyming word.

Honesty - handout and teachers' notes or preview below

After listening to the song to check the answers (and a second time to sing along!) you can provoke further discussion by asking your students:

  • What is the difference between honesty and truthfulness? Or honesty and sincerity?
Other ideas
I found at least three articles related to the topic on Sean Banville's BreakingNewsEnglish site:

Homeless man in credit card honesty
Lonely Planet travel guide in fraud scandal
Cut-and-past essays a problem in schools

I hope your students enjoy the lesson. Happy Honesty Day!


  1. Thank you for this . It would be good to know the subject was only of philosophical importance but our reality suggests we take it very seriously at all levels.
    As a light follow up, you can't go wrong with ths clip of Mr. Bean
    Steve Hellmann

  2. I know what you mean, Steve.
    Shouldn't there be a Tell-a-Lie day because the remaining 355 days should all be honest days? Anyhow...
    Thank you for visiting my blog and sharing this video (Mr Bean talks in it!) which I am sure other teachers who decide to celebrate (or commemorate) Honesty Day will find a nice addition to their lessons.

  3. Who knew there was an "honesty day"?! Honestly, is there anything there isn't a day for now?
    We high-school teachers can't leave this important topic for this time of year though - its exam time!

  4. lovely idea. if i wasn't trying furiously to finish the literature log, i would use it.... ;(

  5. Hi dear,
    Loved it !!!
    will be used next week...


  6. Hi Naomi, Sara and Michal
    Thanks for coming around and dropping a line.
    Hope you've been honest all day :)

  7. I have never heard of this day before. Worthwhile addition.

    1. Neither did I until the day before! :) Still not sure about the implication for the remaining 355 days?

    2. Somehow I doubt most Americans have either.

  8. Hi Leo, Fab lesson! I really enjoyed it! The idea is refreshing and provocative.
    Keep them coming!
    Many thanks,

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Kate! I'm glad you like it :)

  9. I used your suggestions very successfully in my class, and it was particularly appropriate as we had recently started a unit on the very subject of honesty! Thank you! Elana S

    1. Thank you for your comment, Elana. What a coincidence! What coursebook is it?


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