The Alibi Game

I didn’t invent this game but found it in a text book I used many years ago. I believe it was Oxford Press material. It would take up an entire hour of class without anyone getting bored and gave students lots of practice listening for details, while giving me an easy day. I think I will try it with my next Zoom class.

I began the class by announcing, in a very serious tone, that someone had stolen the principal’s motorcycle. The original version was that someone had been attacked and money stolen from the safe, but I didn’t want to go down that road. Any crime or incident that would involve the police coming to investigate would do.

I told the class that the police were coming to question them all. They would be asking them where they were at the time of the crime. Then I put the students in pairs. Whenever possible I put a strong student with a weaker one. I told them that they were each other’s alibis. They were to develop an alibi, saying they were together at the time of the crime and preparing to be able to say where they were and what they were doing. I reminded them that the police could ask them for details. Which restaurant? What did they eat? What color was the wallpaper?

Of course some of this pairwork was done in the ML, but they were preparing to give their alibi in the TL, so it was not as monolingual ML as pairwork often is. In a Zoom class, this preparation could be done in breakout rooms.

When everyone had their alibis prepared, I would send one partner out of the room while the class, as the police officers, questioned the other one about where they were and what they were doing, trying to get as many details as possible. Then that student would go out and the other one come in to be interrogated. The class would ask the same questions, trying to find contradictions. It was a lot of fun, as the class tried to think of something the pair had not foreseen, and the suspect tried to find plausible excuses for not remembering a detail. My role was limited to helping occasionally with vocabulary and deciding when the alibi was broken.

When the class broke the alibi, which they almost always did, it would then be the turn of another pair of suspects. The best alibi I ever heard was from one clever guy who told that class that just after the motorcycle had been stolen, he had been walking down the street and he and his partner had seen me ride past on a motorcycle!

Is this comprehensible input? I would say yes because the bulk of the class is listening intently to what is being said. I never corrected grammar and only helped with vocabulary when it was needed to be comprehensible. I only used this in classes where the level was sufficient for some output to be relatively painless. There is a lot of built in repetition, as students are hearing the same questions repeatedly. Weak students could reply yes, no, or give simple and brief answers about where they were and what they were doing, having planned ahead of time what they could say.

If you decide to play the Alibi Game, I’d love to hear how it went for you.

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