For those who don’t already know, Mafia is a game that might not have started there, but was destined to be played in the foreign language classroom. Each student takes a role of either Mafia, Police, Doctor, or Townsperson. There are a multitude of variations but this is the most standard. The roles are random. The goal of the mafia is to kill enough townspeople so that they can run the town, and the rest to survive, find the mafia, and put them in jail.
The teacher’s role is the storyteller which makes it a natural Comprehensible Input activity, and the kids are GLUED to it. In the beginning, you have to put up a lot of words on your wall like GUILTY, INNOCENT, I ACCUSE, and so forth. The students quickly acquire an understanding of the basics and you can move on.
So, how do you hack the game to get the kids to acquire MORE MORE MORE like we all want? Here are a couple subtle things I do:
- Pick a random structure like WEARS that you want to teach. Use the game to quiz the kids about the poor victim. Class, the victim wears red. He wears a red sweater. (they love finally sussing out who the victim is). Then move onto questioning the kids. Is the victim wearing a red sweater or a blue one? You can really hammar things like clothes, jewelry, hair, etc. Pick any verb you’re working on and use it.
- Pick a non-random structure and reinforce. Currently I am using the phrases GOT CLOSE TO, CARRIED AWAY, and vocab like swimming pool. I am concentrating on the preterite tense for Spanish as well. So in the case of each victim, the mafia entered their house, carried them away (to a swimming pool), and drowned them. Yes it’s gruesome. Know your audience and adjust.
- ADIVINA: I really like asking my students to guess. Jennifer, guess! Who is the victim? Oh, you think it’s Ron? No, it’s not Ron. Ron, Guess! When is the victim? The tension mounts as kids get safe.
So here’s what I focused on this last go-round. gana/pierde,fue matado, anoche, el asesinato, el asesino, un cuchillo en el cuello, se ahogó, intentó, no tenía éxito, and inodoro. Yes, we had a kid drown in a toilet. Swirlies for everyone!
Take it and run with it. As always, YMMV.