SWBAT: Express themselves appropriately (grammatical structures and register) in the TL to ask appropriate questions that will enable them to discover the solution of the mystery. Read TL messages posted on the "bulletin board" that give clues to people's identities and motives in the mystery.
Standards targeted: 1.2, 1.3
Description of activity: Students are enlisted to participate in a baffling criminal investigation. They must identify all the characters and suspects who play roles in this scenario, and they must eventually solve the crime. The end product is a brief written report that recaps the crime and names all of the characters involved, including any interrelationships among them.
1. You, the teacher, need to provide the scenario for the mystery. This is easily done by finding a mystery story written for the age group of your students and adapting it to your own use. Or just use your own imagination--we know how c re at iv e FL teachers are!
2. You must invent a sufficient number of characters and suspects for all of your students to play a role. Privately, you need to give them their identities along with some descriptive characteristics or facts about their particular personage. Most importantly, you will need to indicate where they were and what they saw at the time of the crime. They will need all of this information in order to assume their identity and play their role in the mystery. You can make it as simple or complicated as you wish; it gets really challenging when many of the characters' lives are intertwined, unbeknownst to them. This additional complexity could also make for interesting subplots, some of which you didn't even anticipate!
3. For this activity, you will need to set up a local Usenet group or bulletin board. Obviously, you do not want this open to the general public because they are not in your script! Besides, this is a good way for your students to get their feet wet using the TL and technology in a safe environment. Later, they will feel more confident about venturing out into the real world and trying out their TL skills. If you recall from the Usenet Groups activity we did in Learning the basics you have to get a newsreader. If you haven't done that activity yet, perhaps you should head on back there and check it out. }:--[ Then you will be an expert and will be able to carry on here. If you already did it but are still confused, find your school's computer or technical consultants, throw yourself on the mercy of their court, and ask them to set up a closed Usenet Group or bulletin board for you and your class.
4. Explain the activity to your students and clarify any parameters you wish, such as "due date" for solving the crime, frequency or minimum number of postings, time periods when students will be permitted to access the Usenet group, etc. These variables will all depend on you, your physical and technical circumstances, and your mystery. Remind students to sign their postings (with their alias, bien sûr), as this is the only way they can be identified and you can keep track of their on-going participation.
5. Now you are ready to go! Start the ball rolling by assuming the role of Police Detective I. L. Findham and ask the proverbial police question: "Ho, there, identify yourself." Students will begin to answer, and the plot will thicken!