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I wonder if you already know the excellent language game called Alibi. I've used it many times with intermediate and advanced level groups and it has always been enjoyed and produced lots of good language.

This is how it works:

You tell your class in English - in your best dead-pan and convincing fashion -  (or in French if they are really good) that a crime was committed last night at 8.00 p.m. (I would usually say an old lady was mugged on the town square.) You then explain that the police suspect a pair of young people. You then say that they are suspected to come from your school. (Class still looking concerned.) You then say that the two suspects are thought to come from this very class. (A few will look quizzical, a few will cotton on that you are joking.)

You then confess that you have made up the crime and then explain that you need two volunteers to leave the room to work out an alibi between them. They should agree on something they did together, such as a trip to the cinema or a restaurant, and plan in every detail what they did. Warn them that they will have to come in one by one to be questioned by the rest of the class. This means that their alibi must be very detailed (what clothes they were wearing, how they got to their destination, where they sat, what they ate, who paid, who was there, what they talked about etc etc).

Whilst the pair are outside you can prepare some questions with the rest of the class and write them on the board. The key grammar point is use of past tense, and the distinction between perfect and imperfect tense - what were you wearing?/how did you get there? etc.

After about five minutes you invite one of the suspects in and they sit at the front. You get them to swear an oath on the French dictionary: "je jure de dire la vérité, toute la vérité, rien que la vérité" (the class always likes that bit).

The class then puts up hands to ask questions (using the crib sheet on the board to help). The teacher just chooses who to speak and throws in extra questions if pupils dry up. You may choose one student to act as a scribe to record testimony.

After about 10 minutes the second suspect is invited in, swears the oath and answers questions. The first suspect may stay in the room if you are sure they won't cheat by gesturing answers to their alleged partner-in-crime.

Finally, having weighed up the similarities and differences between the two stories, the class can vote to decide if the suspects are guilty or innocent.

What I like about this game is that you get to use a lot of target language, pitched at an appropriate level for the class and that the pupils are really interested in the proceedings. They are listening REALLY hard for differences in the two testimonies. It is also a very flexible format, because if the class is reluctant to speak, the teacher can take the lead and provide lots of good "comprehensible input".

What you also find is, because they are really focused on content, they are less focused on grammatical accuracy, including the perfect/imperfect distinction. This is alright, as you can sensibly correct where necessary, then go through it after the activity. In this case communication trumps accuracy.

Oh, and one last thing, the game demands nil preparation. Nice!

Try it. See what you think.


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Here is Professor Macaro's review:
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