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ALIBI (Role-Play in an EFL Classroom) Aneta Naumoska Blaze Koneski Faculty of Philology, Ss.

Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, R.

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

I heartily recommend this activity to teachers of English all around the globe, which is a slightly different variant of the original Alibi, because of its nature of easy modification and its application to the multitude of learning styles.

Lesson Development:
Students are told that a murder has been committed and that they are all under suspicion. A young man has been killed in cold blood and the police are looking for the murderer according to the evidence that has been collected at the crime scene. The class is divided into pairs, and each pair is required to prepare an alibi for a given period of time (for example, between ten oclock p.m. and midnight on the previous day). Both of the partners must be able to state where they had been, what they had been doing and who they were with the previous night. Since each pair claims not to have committed manslaughter because of having spent the previous night together, they both must come up with a believable story and keep their stories straight by answering slyly to every question that is posed. The pairs have 5-7 minutes for preparation and during that time, they should make up a credible story for their whereabouts. After the given time has passed, one pair is chosen for interrogation. One of the partners is placed in the witness box, while the other one is sent out of the room (so as not to listen to the other ones answers). This is followed by role-play, i.e. a courtroom scene is set up in the classroom (adapting objects as to make the situation as authentic as possible, or even getting dressed to look like a judge!), with one student acting as a lawyer, supported by a panel of judges and the rest of the class acting as the jury. The suspect is politely asked to give a detailed account of his/her activities for the period in question (in this case, the 2 hours during which the murder happened). While this process of interrogation is

going on, everybody takes part by attentively listening to the accused and carefully taking notes on some significant moments. Thereafter, the second member of the pair is called in and the same procedure follows. He/she will be interrogated so as to let the judges and the jury bring the final decision. After interrogating one group of suspects, the others get together, discuss and decide whether the partners have committed the crime or not, whether they are guilty of murder or have been telling the truth about where they were the previous night.

Comments:
This is an excellent multi-skill activity that requires speaking, listening, discussion within each pair, formulation of questions, retention of facts, etc. These language requirements ask for full attention on the part of the students and they need not be thought of as difficult to achieve. Speaking a language requires not only knowing the linguistic components of the given message, but also memorization of vocabulary on a certain topic (in this case, vocabulary connected to crime), and the comprehension of the grammar. Students will satisfy their needs of expressing themselves in a language by learning the vocabulary (and using it for specific purposes in specific contexts). It is the teachers job to demonstrate to the students the practical use of English to communicate their thoughts and ideas in real-life situations. This is precisely the aim of Alibi - to make the students feel more relaxed by using specific words that they have already learnt on the topic of crime. Another aim of this activity is to sharpen the listening skills of students, and this includes not only listening to the teacher, but also to the other classmates. This activity requires only one person to be the main sender of the message, while the others should listen carefully to the speaker and try to understand him/her. Language always occurs in a certain context, i.e. it is experienced in a particular set of circumstances. This activity perfectly shows the blending of speaking and listening activities, colored with discussion, formulation of questions (mostly containing the past simple tense), etc. In addition, with larger classes, students can be divided into groups of four or five (instead of pairs), thus creating a mini-court situation in the group itself. Larger classes though, have the additional difficulty of getting too noisy at moments. The teacher can even give out small pieces of paper to each group, describing the specific role and personality of each group member. Color

photos of people cut out from magazines can be handed out to group members so that they will totally be immersed into their new personality! By actively participating in the activity and posing their own questions, each student has a chance to speak. All of them also have to listen actively to the questioning of the accused. These language needs are closely connected to the language requirements provided by the teacher, which can be altered more or less according to the group level.

References:
Cunningsworth, Alan. Evaluating and Selecting EFL Teaching Materials. Heinemann Educational Books: USA, 1984, pp. 6; 65 - 73. Larsen-Freeman, Diane. Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1986, pp. 96 - 106. Maley, Alan. Drama Techniques in Language Learning. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1982, pp. 100; 196. ***** Aneta Naumoska is a Lector of Contemporary English Language at the Department of English Language and Literature (Ss. Cyril and Methodius University) in Skopje, Macedonia, and has been working there for over four years (right after graduating). She is finishing her M.A. thesis, concerning teaching and learning English in a social context. Living in Canada for 10 years has been quite a valuable experience.