Alibi - Task-based Learning Lesson

Instructions to the teacher:

  1. Divide the class into two groups: Criminals (2 students) and Police (rest of students).
  2. Give some time to both groups – criminals to make sure their stories are the same; police to decide on interrogation questions.
  3. Police interrogate first criminal while the second criminal remains outside the room.
  4. Police interrogate second criminal while first criminal remains silent.
  5. Teacher gives feedback at the conclusion.

* The crime

Last Wednesday, a Wallace Bishop jewelry store was broken into and $2,000,000 worth of diamonds was stolen.

* The suspects

The police have detained two suspects. The two of them have stolen jewelry together before. They were arrested and spent three years in prison – and the thieves who broke into the Wallace Bishop store used the same modus operandi that they used.

* How do things stand at the moment?

The police do not have enough evidence to arrest the two suspects at the moment – they have only brought them in for questioning. They have decided to interrogate them separately and check their stories. If they both give the same answers to the questions they are asked (they will be asked the same questions), then they will create an alibi for each other and the police won’t be able to arrest them. If their stories don’t match, the police will be able to conclude that they committed the crime!

* What is the suspects’ alibi?

The crime occurred between 6 PM and midnight, so the police can only ask them questions about what happened during that time period. The suspects will say that they went to four different places in another part of the city that night – a coffee shop, a restaurant, a cinema and a nightclub, in that order.

* So, what now?

The police and the suspects will be given time to prepare for the interrogation. The police will be trying to formulate difficult questions. Their goal is to prove that the alibi is false. The suspects will be discussing what they did between 6 PM and midnight last Wednesday. They will need to memorize their answers, as they won’t be allowed to use any notes during the interrogation. Their goal is to be ready to answer any question that they are asked.

* Important memo to the suspects

  1. When the police interrogate you, give short answers. That way, there is less chance of you and your partner giving different information.
  2. If a police officer asks you about something that you and your partner didn’t discuss, or you don’t remember what you decided to say, it is better to say “I’m not sure”, say “I don’t remember”, give an indefinite answer or give an excuse for not knowing, rather than giving an answer that will be different to your partner.
  3. The police are going to try to trip you up, so you need to brainstorm together and prepare for any possible question that they may ask you.
  4. If a majority of the police officers think that you are not guilty, you will be free to go. It is important to remember that each police officer can only conclude whether or not you are guilty based on the answers that you give for his/her questions, not for answers given to other police officers’ questions. So, don’t get discouraged if you think you give a silly or wrong answer. Even if your stories are not exactly the same, you might still be able to avoid being arrested!

* Important memo to the police

  1. Each of you need to take turns asking them several questions. It is better not to ask them questions in chronological order. For example, ask them a question about the nightclub first, then the restaurant, and so on.
  2. Don’t ask Yes/No questions.
  3. Have follow up questions ready in case they give you short, incomplete or indefinite answers.
  4. It is not enough for them to only make one mistake (ie. for them to give differing answers to a question). Each police officer can only judge their guilt based on answers to his/her own questions, not on answers given to other officers’ questions.
  5. A majority of police officers have to think they are guilty for them to be arrested. So if there are five police officers, that means that at least three officers need to find mistakes in their answers.