Who’s Your Alibi?!

I have to follow the syllabus book when teaching my Y9’s, and unfortunately it can get very dull. Some of the units include computer vocabulary, “listening” tips, religion, and for a class full of 13-17 year olds it can get boring fast. However, the other week we covered a unit that discussed matters of courtroom drama, crime, punishment, and the law. At first I had no clue what to do (the class is for 2 hours every week), but I asked around and got to thinking and it resulted in some pretty good ideas that worked out great with my students. One of the ideas worked out so well that I will share it with you, because it left me in stitches at the end of class.

It’s called the Alibi game. A part of the unit is discussing narratives and retelling stories, so a game such as the Alibi game could be incorporated into the flow of class very easily and it took up the majority of the last hour. It also helps that Y9s are advanced in English and can pull-off a game like this very easily.

First, I taught common words used in crime-related scenarios, such as lawyer, suspect, alibi, interrogate, evidence, guilty, detective, and defendant, and then I wrote the following on the board:

Stephanie has been murdered!
Time of murder: 4:00pm
Location of murder: Her EF classroom
Suspected murder weapon: a bloody mop found at the scene of the crime.
Suspects: Cindy, Lee, Susan, Darren, David, and Michelle. 

I informed my class that they were all suspects in the murder and needed to come up with a good alibi. I put the students in partners (there were 3 pairs of 2) and gave them a few minutes to develop a very VERY detailed story about where they were at the time of the murder. I told them to consider weather, who they saw, what they talked about, where they went, etc etc. It was also up to them to decide whether or not they were guilty. And then the fun began!

I put 2 chairs in the middle of the room, facing each other. I picked the first couple and told one student to sit in the chair and the other to wait in the hallway. I was the detective doing the interrogations, naturally. The students watching were told to take notes on what the suspects said to see if their stories matched, thus proving if they were lying or telling the truth. Then the interrogation began! I found throughout the game I played both good cop and bad cop depending on the student. I yelled, I tried to negotiate, I played it cool, I sympathized, I threw my pen, I banged my fist on the desk, I did anything a cliched detective would do from the movies I’ve seen. Here are some quotes from yours truly:

“Look, I believe you….but your story has HOLES IN IT!” *banging fist on table*
“You’re lying! You’re a filthy, lying, criminal scumbag!” 
“I understand why you did it. Just tell me what happened. I’m going to take care of you.”
“If I were you, I’d start talking. Your partner already took the deal and told me everything.”
“TELL THE TRUTH!” *throwing a pen at them*
“Walk me through that day. Start from the beginning. Don’t worry, I’ve got all night.” *pretends to light cigarette*
“Look at you, you’re sweating like a pig! What are you hiding!?”
“Ugh. You make me sick.” *shakes head with disgust*
“Here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to rat out your friend, blame the whole thing on him. No one is worth going to jail over.”

So clearly, I had a lot of fun with this. Maybe a little too much fun…? The students reactions went from being amused, to scared, to bewildered, to nervous, to stubborn, much like in a real interrogation (I assume)! It was cool the way the game sorted itself out too. One pair had a pretty solid story with very few notable disparities, another pair was alright, and the last pair said almost the exact opposite from each other once I started grilling them:“Where did you turn once you left the building?! Left?? AHHH your partner said right!! What did you talk about?? How much you like english?? Thought I’d like hearing that, did you! Well your partner said you talked about how you hate math!! Well?? TELL THE TRUTH!!! haha.

The observing students took notes while each pair had a turn, and we had a class discussion at the end of the game. We decided on which pair seemed the most guilty and which pair had the most stable story. All in all, a successful class! I’m very pleased with the outcome, as you can tell.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marilyn Hanstead
    Sep 18, 2011 @ 00:26:45

    Hi Steph:

    I do love reading all your blogs. First thing I check when I turn the computer on in the morning.

    Your stores are so very interesting and so well written. Your are one CREATIVE, RESOURCEFUL, CARING, FUN TEACHER.

    I also enjoy looking at all your pictures. What an experience you are having and sharing with all of us.

    Enjoy the weekend.

    LOL Auntie Marilyn


  2. Gail Johnson
    Sep 18, 2011 @ 02:13:10

    You really are enjoying yourself aren’t you! I hope the kids enjoyed it as much as you did! The weather here is getting colder, haven’t been to the lake for a week now. Doubt if I will go in swimming again this year but it was a great summer. Love your stories. Take care! Nan


  3. Mitch
    Sep 18, 2011 @ 03:11:27

    This is hilarious, typical Stephanie.


  4. Blaine Copland
    Sep 18, 2011 @ 04:30:30

    Sounds like how I question my children. You’ll make a good mother someday.


  5. My-Tien
    Sep 18, 2011 @ 13:04:15

    This was by far my most favourite of your blog posts. You should really look into getting a publisher to make this into a book where it’ll be featured on the New York Times Bestsellers list then a studio will want to make it into a huge blockbuster starring Lucy Liu (the only noteable Asian other than Tila Tequila in the entertainment industry – although Lucy IS half white like you), they’ll throw a love story spin on it and it’ll do great and you’ll be a millionaire! Huzzah!


  6. Lois Christianson
    Sep 19, 2011 @ 00:09:10

    Hi Steph
    What a terrific lesson you taught. It sounded soooooo good. You do put a lot of effort in your teaching. A born teacher, that’s for sure.
    I am really impressed. You’ll have to come back to Canada and give Canadian kids the chance to take part in your classes.
    Love it and you
    Aunty Lois


  7. maryanne rooney
    Sep 20, 2011 @ 07:27:09

    hahaha….the students most love you….i’m sitting in portland oregon trying to past the time and thought….i should read steph’s story…..and what a pleasant one it is…maybe u should be a lawyer!


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