Late For Work | Drama and ESL Game for Excellent Storytellers
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Late for Work is a great improvisation game that makes students think physically about how to tell a story and how to read body language. With correct guidance, this game can easily be played while social distancing.

COVID-19 Update!
Mark spaces for players to stand two metres apart to ensure they are socially distancing.


  • Ask for one volunteer to be ‘late for work.’
  • The late student leaves the room and the rest of the group come up with a reason why they are late for work (try to make this as detailed and ridiculous as possible, e.g they were abducted by aliens from Pluto, were reunited with their long lost cat and were returned to Earth too late).
  • As a group, decide where they work, e.g. a factory, a fast food restaurant.
  • Ask for a volunteer to be the boss.
  • Ask for three or four volunteers to be colleagues.
  • The late student is called back into the room and arrives at work.
  • They stand facing their colleagues with the boss in the middle, facing away from the colleagues.
  • The boss asks why they are late for work.
  • The colleagues must mime the reason behind the boss’ back. If the boss looks they must return to work.
  • The late student must try to figure out why they were late for work and explain it to the boss.
  • Once they have figured it out, select a new group and start again.

Top tips:

  • This game works best with an audience. Ask the audience to click when the late student is close to having the right answer and clap when they get something right.
  • Encourage the colleagues to work together and work sequentially through the story.

In my experience

This is a great game to practise mime and improvisation skills, and works best in the drama classroom with slightly older kids.

What I’ve also found is that this is a great activity for intermediate and advanced ESL students. The person who is late for work has to tell the story using the past tense. If the story if more far fetched, it can encourage the student to practise more unusual vocabulary.

It is a real test of skill for ESL students, but based on it’s fun and playful format, it can produce great results with minimal stress for the students.

Need help keeping your students socially distant? Try marking a space using the following:

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Rebecca is the founder and chief executive officer of Silly Fish Learning Ltd. She is a children's playwright with a vast and varied career in education, primarily teaching drama and English.

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