This ESL classic is often given as a suggested activity for practising the past continuous tense. However, in my experience, students often revert to the past simple in the heat of the moment. Nevertheless, it’s still an often hilarious game which encourages inventive thinking while posing and answering questions.
Inform students that a terrible crime was committed the previous night. Maybe someone broke into the school and wrote something terrible on the board or perhaps the teachers’ secret biscuit stash was stolen.
Tell the students that they are suspected of commiting this crime and that they will soon be interrogated in an attempt to find the guilty party.
Put students into pairs and tell them that they have a little time before the interrogations begin. They should prepare themselves and make sure they have a solid alibi.
Elicit a few examples of alibis, for example, eating in a restaurant, watching a movie, being at the gym.
Put students into pairs and have them decide what their alibi is, make sure that each pair comes up with a different cover story.
Give students ten minutes to flesh out their alibis and make sure their stories match. For example, what time did they arrive and leave? What were they wearing? What did they eat and drink?
The interrogation begins
Select the first pair of suspects and ask one of them to leave the room for a few minutes.
The remaining members of the class play the role of detectives and question the remaining suspect. Go round the class and invite each student to ask one or two questions, for example, What time did you meet? How did you get to the restaurant? Etc.
Students should take notes in their notebooks to help them catch inconsistencies in the suspects’ stories.
When the questioning has finished, bring the second suspect back into the room and have the class now pose the same questions to the second suspect. Students will be looking for inconsistencies and maybe setting traps to catch out the suspected criminal.
No communication is permitted between the two suspects!
Repeat the process for each pair of students and at the end of the game ask the class to play judge and jury. They vote on which pair of suspects are guilty of the crime (have the most inconsistencies) and then choose an appropriate punishment.