When it comes to using games in the classroom, teachers usually turn to the Internet to find the most beneficial ones that can be played with their students. Among the most amazing activities, there are a so-called detective or murder mystery games which are not only played with friends or at some parties but can also be a great source of motivation to learn English and to solve puzzles. In today’s article, we will talk about the benefits of detective games in the ESL classroom and will present several types of games that may come in handy.
Benefits of using mystery games in the classroom
Detective games improve students’ analytical and critical thinking skills. Learners ask each other questions, search for clues, work in pairs, and do their best to solve the riddle. They learn to analyze the situation and look at it from different points of view. These kinds of games also boost student’s memory skills thus helping them hold the new information easily and store it in the long-term memory. Detective games help learners sharpen their visual memory, make connections with the information given, and form associations with various details.
Now let’s look at different games that you can use in English lessons.
Show pictures of different things connected with crime (or place the items on the table) to your students and let them look at them for about thirty seconds. Then take away the pictures. Ask your students to recall the items they saw there. The one who is able to name all the items is the winner. To make things more challenging, you can take away only a few pictures (or items). And then get your students to name the missing ones. This activity hones learners’ memory, logical and analytical thinking. It helps them notice the details and missing things like a detective. And of course, they practice vocabulary on the topic of “Crime”.
You can use this memory game while practicing any vocabulary topic. If you work with kids, you can ask your students to be very attentive detectives and remember the right order of the cards. You can show cards and then hide some of them in the classroom, nominate “detectives” (give out “Sherlock” hats), and let them find the cards.
Another interesting detective game that can be perfectly used in the ESL classroom is Mafia. This activity is aimed at practicing asking questions, providing justifications, helping students improve their critical thinking skills. It can also be a great tool for practicing Past Tenses since the players must prove that they didn’t kill the person because yesterday they were doing something else. You can also give out wordlists of words for students to use in their speeches.
There are four roles in the game – citizens, a doctor, a sheriff, and the mafia. The game takes place during the day and at night. In the daytime, players talk to each other and try to find the mafia. Then they made some accusations and the accused player is killed.
At night, all players close their eyes and the moderator asks the mafia to open their eyes, and the mafia agrees on someone to kill. After that, the mafia closes their eyes and the moderator asks the doctor to wake up. The doctor then points at someone to save. The doctor then sleeps and the sheriff wakes up and points to someone to identify. The moderator must then tell the sheriff if the person he/she pointed at is a mafia member, citizen, or doctor. Afterward, everyone opens their eyes as it’s morning. If the doctor did not choose to save the person who the mafia wanted to kill, then the moderator must announce that a player died last night. That dead player cannot speak anymore in the game but can watch its continuation.
The game is over when one of the following things happen:
- 1) All the mafia are killed, so the citizens win.
- 2) The mafia outnumber the citizens, so the mafia wins.
Your students will definitely like this game, but take into consideration the fact that this is quite a long activity, and it will take some 40 – 50 minutes to play in a group of 10-15 students.
This is a murder mystery game for three to six players. The main aim of the game is to find out who the murderer is, where the crime took place, and which weapon was used. The gameboard visualizes the story. The traditional Cluedo game is set in a mansion that has lots of rooms. Each player takes the role of one of the six suspects and tries to find the answer by moving around a game board through different rooms and collecting clues about the murder from the other players. What did happen, and where? Where were all the characters at the time of the murder?
You can also create a digital Cluedo game for your classroom. All the necessary information about how to do it, you will find here.
In this game, one of the students thinks of a person, action, place, or food, and the other asks 10 YES/NO questions to get clues. For example: “Is it something that you do every morning?”, “Can you do this action right now?”, “Is it a man ?”, “Is this place cold?”, “Can you eat it at night?”. This activity helps students improve their logical and memory skills, pay attention to details, and ask the right questions.
Who is the murderer?
Here the teacher introduces the crime scene, the victim, some evidence, and also the list of the suspects. Students work in pairs or in groups to share their points of view, who they think the murderer is, and try to prove it.
You can also provide your students with the necessary words, e.g. commit suicide, shoot oneself, investigation, crime scene, assassin, apprehend, evidence, sentence, suspect.
The activity will help them hone their speaking skills, enlarge their vocabulary and practice Tenses and modals of deduction.
Here one player is secretly assigned the role of “murderer” by handing every player a playing card with a particular card signifying that the recipient is the murderer. Then the player is able to “kill” others by winking at them, while the surviving players try to find the killer. If a player thinks they know who the murderer is, they announce “I accuse”. If their guesses are right, they win and the game finishes. If not, the game continues. If only one player and the killer remain, the game is over and the killer wins.
The game is aimed at practicing modals of deduction (must, may, might, can’t), vocabulary on the topic “Crime”, Past Tenses and improving critical thinking skills.
- Joseph can’t be the murderer, because he was with me yesterday.
- Andrew must be the person who killed the victim because he hated him.
Apart from the activities mentioned above, you can also find lots of amazing mystery riddles on YouTube to use in your classes. These games are perfect for warm-up or time-fillers. Here are some of them.
This was the list of the most popular and challenging detective games that can be used in the ESL classroom. Hopefully, they will work with your students as efficiently as they do with mine.
Have you ever used murder mystery games in your classes?
Speaking activities are, obviously, essential for English language speaking classes. A lot of students join classes particularly to develop their communicative competence, become more fluent, versatile, adaptable, and confident communicators in English. However, designing speaking activities might be time-consuming and nerve-wracking for any teacher. We have prepared a memo with superb ready-made speaking tasks that will make your student talking. Download it here.