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Activity type: A role play based on a very old idea in which students have to act as criminals and police people.
Level: Pre-intermediate and above

Teacher's notes:

  1. Tell the whole group about a crime which has recently been committed, for example:

    Last night between 6pm and 9pm a diamond was stolen from a store on the main street of our town. The diamond was priceless. Nobody knows exactly when the diamond was stolen but it was certainly taken between 6pm and 9pm. Two people were seen outside the shop last night and have been taken in for questioning by the police. At present, they are the prime suspects and unfortunately they are in this very room!

  2. Point out two ‘suspects’ in the group. Choose the most confident students who do not mind being suspected of a crime. Make sure that they feel suitably surprised! Ask the students what needs to happen now i.e. that they need to be interrogated and that they need to have a strong alibi. Actually they have to think of one story i.e. that they were together and they need to think, in detail, what they did between 6pm and 9pm.
  3. They might say, for example, that they went to a restaurant, they ate fish, they shared the bill and that they went home on the bus. The stories MUST be identical. If the stories are not the same, they are ‘GUILTY’
  4. Tell the two students to leave the room and to think of an alibi; it must be watertight.
  5. Tell the remaining students that they are police people and what they are going to do is to interrogate the suspects. Arrange the classroom so that you have two equal groups and put one group on one side of the room and the other group on the other side of the room. Ask them to think of questions that they would like to ask the suspects. Tell them that they need to find differences between the two suspects’ stories.
  6. After a few minutes preparation, allow the two suspects back into class. Seat one suspect in front of one police station and the other in front of the other police station. Tell each group to interrogate the suspect with their prepared questions. After 10-15 minutes (this will depend on the group), swap the suspects over i.e. move one suspect to the other police station and move the other suspect to the other.
  7. Allow time for the new interrogations.
  8. After both police stations have spoken to both suspects, ask the stations to confer as to whether they think the suspects are guilty or not i.e. were there any differences in their stories.
  9. As a follow-up, you can do error correction, ask the students to write up a report of what happened and also decide on an appropriate punishment!

Note: You can have more than two suspects e.g. three suspects and three police stations or four and four police stations. The amount will depend on your class size. Always make sure that you have the same number of stations as suspects because they all need to speak to each suspect.

This is a very good review of the past simple and past continuous.

This activity can take up to an hour possibly over that.

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