Fifth Sentence

I came up with this interactive lecture format at a workshop in Paris. My colleague Bruno Hourst gave a 10-minute presentation in French. I didn’t understand what he said (because I don’t understand spoken French) but this incompetency did not prevent me from attaching an interactive extension to Bruno’s lecture.


After a lecture presentation, each team writes down five sentences to summarize the key points. Later, one team reads four of its sentences and the other teams guess which sentence was left out. Correct guesses earn 1 point for the team. This procedure is repeated to permit all teams to read the sentences.


To recall and summarize the key points from a lecture.


  • Minimum: 2
  • Maximum: Any number
  • Best: 12 to 30


In addition to the time required for the lecture presentation, you need 5 minutes for each team.

Supplies and Equipment

  • Paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Timer
  • Whistle


Make your presentation. Keep the length of your presentation from 10 to 20 minutes.

Organize the participants into two or more teams. Each team should have at least one member and up to seven.

Identify five key points. Ask each team to summarize the lecture by writing down five sentences that identify the key points. Ask the participants to make sure that these key points don't to duplicate or overlap each other. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this task.

Ask a team to read four of its sentences. At the end of the time period, announce the conclusion of the activity. Randomly select one of the teams to read four of its sentences in a random order. Ask the other teams to listen carefully and try to guess the sentence that was left out.

Conduct the guessing game. Ask the other teams to reflect on the key points that were included in the four sentences and guess the key point that was left out in the fifth sentence. Ask the teams to write down this sentence. After a suitable pause, ask the teams to take turns to read the sentence they came up with.

Score the guesses. After listening to the guesses from the other teams, ask the first team to determine how closely each of the guesses resembled the sentence they left out earlier. Ask the first team to award 1 point to each team that came up with a reasonably correct guess.

Repeat the process. Choose another team and ask one of its members to read four sentences in a random order. Ask the other teams to write their guesses of the missing fifth sentence. As before, ask the teams to read their guesses and the original team to score these guesses.

Adjustments and Variations

Simplify the task. Instead of asking the teams to write five sentences, ask them to write five words that capture the key ideas from your presentation.

Avoid lecturing. Instead, give a short handout for the participants to read. Use the other steps in the activity.

Speed up the process. Ask all teams to write the five key sentences. Conduct the guessing game with only one team reading four of its sentences.

Play Sample

I used the Fifth Sentence interactive lecture format in a recent training session on improving human performance. I began with a slightly dull lecture on the basic principles of human performance technology. Here are some of the sentences that were left out by different teams:

  1. The three important steps in performance technology are analyzing the problem, identifying the root cause, and selecting a suitable intervention.
  2. The performance gap is the difference between the ideal situation and the actual situation.
  3. The focus of performance technology is not performance but achievement.
  4. Select the intervention that is targeted to eliminate the root cause of the problem.
  5. Training is not the only intervention. There are dozens of other interventions that are more suited for different types of problems.

At the conclusion of the game, the highest score was only 2. Most teams failed to guess the missing sentences. But they all participated in an engaging task and learned a lot from recalling the key points from the presentation.

Game Plan

This table displays the structure of the The Fifth Sentece interactive lecture:

Step If you are the facilitator, do this If you are a participant, do this
Make your presentation. (10-20 minutes) Present a lecture on the training topic. Listen to the lecture and take notes.
Organize teams. (2 minutes) Organize the participants into two or more teams, each with one to seven members. Introduce yourself to the other members of the team.
Identify five key points. (3 minutes) Ask the participants to write five summary sentences reflecting the key points from the lecture. Work with your teammates and come up with five summary sentences.
Ask a team to read four sentences. (2 minutes) Ask a randomly selected team to read four of its summary sentences, leaving out any one of the sentences. Listen to the sentences and try to guess the missing sentence.
Conduct the guessing game.(2 minutes) Ask the other teams to guess the missing sentence. Working with your teammates, write down the missing sentence.
Score the guesses. (2 minutes) Ask the original team to award a point to every team that came up with a reasonably correct guess. Keep track of your team’s score.
Repeat the process. (4 minutes for each team) Read the sentences, skipping one. Score other teams’ guesses. Keep track of your team’s score.

Reuse the Template

You can use the game plan for the Fifth Sentence interactive lecture as a template for presenting almost any training topic. This training format works very effectively especially if the participants have high levels of listening and writing skills.

Sample Topics

Here are some of the sample topics that we incorporated in the Fifth Sentence interactive lecture format. Notice the wide variety of topics.

  • Factors that increase trust
  • How To Manage Major Changes
  • Coaching as a Management Skill
  • How To Interview Candidates for a Sales Job
  • Seven Elements of Critical Thinking
  • Economic Opportunities in West Africa