This is an activity that I've used with students of all levels to practise their ability to describe people and events and to produce questions.

Nik Peachey

It's also good for getting students to really listen to each other and to take notes or just for some fun.


  • The activity is based around a short video clip of a crime. Any crime scene will do. The video doesn't even have to be in English as you can do it with the sound off.


  • You should split the class into two groups and tell one half that they are going to be the police and they are going to interview the witness to a crime. Their task is to work together with the other police and prepare questions that they will ask the witness.
  • Tell the other half of the class that they are going to witness a crime. You'll need to have the classroom set up so that only the 'witnesses' can see the TV screen. If you trust your students enough you could actually send 'the police' out of the class or to another classroom, to work on their questions while the witnesses watch the crime.
  • When the crime scene video clip has been played, put the students into pairs so that each of the police officers is with a witness. The police should then interview the witness and get as much information as possible about the crime.
  • Make sure that the police take notes as they listen. If you have artistic students you could also get them to work together on a picture of the criminal or a diagram of the crime-scene reconstruction.
  • To add an element of motivation you could also give a prize to the most accurate notes.

If you have a video that is in English you can play it with the sound on and, for higher levels, even extend the focus to reported speech: 'He told everyone to put up their hands.'

Technology-free crime scene


  • If you don't have access to a video / TV you can do a 'low-tech' version of this activity by cutting pictures out of a magazine. Be sure to cut out enough for half the class to each have a picture and have a few extras to spare.


  • Put the students into pairs, one police officer and one witness, and have the witness from each pair come to the front of the class.
  • Give each one a picture of a person to look at. Tell them that the person in the picture is a criminal. They shouldn't let anyone else see the picture.
  • Once they've had a couple of minutes to look at the picture, take all the pictures back and then send the witnesses back to their seats.
  • Their partner, the police officer, then has to ask questions and make notes so that they build up some idea of what the person in the picture looks like.
  • Once they have their description, put all the pictures on the floor at the front of the class and get the police officers to come to the front of the class and see if they can find the picture that the witness described.
  • You should make sure that the witnesses remain silent until all the police officers have 'arrested' the picture of their choice.
  • You can then try this again reversing the roles this time. This gives the students a chance to learn from any mistakes they may have made the first time round.

You can make the activity more difficult by selecting pictures of people who look more similar (same age / sex etc.) or easier by having a greater range of people.

This activity can also be a very useful lead into discussions or vocabulary work on crime or description.



I have used this lesson several times now and it's always very succesful. To round up the activity the policemen report to the class on the witness they are looking for and the policeman who has the most accurate description (as voted by his/her classmates) is the winner.

Dear Nik,
Thank you for your article! I used it as a basis for my variation of this activity.
We discussed cyber security with my students, and I've got two rooms with 2 TVs at my disposal. So, firstly, we worked in 2 big groups with two videos - (for cyber criminals - Cs)
and (for web-site owners - Os).
Cs have prepared questions for Os to find out about their problems and give recommendations on how to avoid these problems in future.
What do you think about it? :)

A great lesson, well done for making it clear with easy-to-follow steps. My only concern is that while English language is largely gender neutral, we do have a few exceptions with professions and job titles, although police officer is not one of them. In order for all students to be aware that this job is not gender-biased, as say waiter and waitress is, I usually opt for police officer as my class invariably is made up of male and female students. I always feel sad finding EFL material that still refer to gender-specific names for jobs and professions that are not. Prime ministeress?

Thanks for your comment and feedback - you make a good point! We've changed the activity to include the more gender-neutral 'police officer'.

Best wishes


Hi Nik

Thanks, I love this activity. Instead of watching a crime the students could enact a crime themselves by playing Wink Murder beforehand! Then one of their own number is murdered. (I suppose the 'victim' could then change character and be a police officer or witness so they're not left with nothing to do!).

Hi everyone I`m new to this website ( and teaching). Is there a lesson plan and worksheet with the lessons suggested? If there is could someone please point to the link. Many Thanks.

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