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The crime scene

Average: 4.2 (32 votes)

This activity practises describing people and events and asking questions.

Nik Peachey

This is an activity that I've used with students of all levels. 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 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 witnesses 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, e.g. He told everyone to put their hands up.

Technology-free crime scene


  • If you aren't able to play a video clip, 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 similar, or easier by having a greater range of people.

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

Language level
Language Level: 
Intermediate: B1