I’ve always believed teaching English should be as much real-life-oriented experience as possible. That’s why I really enjoy playing board games and, whenever I can, I try to incorporate them (or their elements) into my lesson plans.
Sometimes, when I have a small group of pre-int+ students, I bring my own copy of one of my favourite games, The Mystery of the Abbey. I find it perfect as the beginning-of-the-course lesson, or maybe as a nice goodbye activity for the last lesson; it works great for any age group – the only drawback is, the game is designed for maximum 6 players.
Now, the idea behind the game is nice and easy to grasp, especially for those who have read (or watched an awesome film based on) a masterpiece by Umberto Eco, “The Name of the Rose”. The players are monks who arrive at the abbey just to learn that one of the pious inhabitants has been murdered. Since the murderer is clearly one of the local priests, the players are asked to find the evil one – you can check the rules here.
The only way to find the criminal is to investigate, interrogate, confess… Basically, to communicate 🙂 It may seem awkward at the beginning, especially with adults who somehow believe that a proper English lesson includes only grammar and vocabulary exercises. But after a while they’ll get surprisingly comfortable with speaking (or chanting, yes, yes…) in English.
The reason why I love this game as the beginning of the course is that it helps students to start speaking the language from the first moment and, unlike usual introductory activities, it makes them see that they can actually communicate well enough to achieve something: in this case to solve the mystery.
The second reason of choosing Mystery of the Abbey for the first class is that, as every good game, it’s fun. And making the students see that they can actually have fun using English also makes them happier and greatly improves their attitude. Not to mention the socialising aspect: getting to know one another during the game is way better than all those “tell me something about yourself ” activities.
I hope I’ve encouraged you to give it a go 🙂