Connect with English Raven on Twitter!
Copyright 2001-2011 Jason Renshaw / English Raven Educational Services PTY LTD. All rights reserved. ACN 123 251 927
English Raven's "Mystery People" Card Games
When it comes to active language experimentation and learning, there's nothing quite so powerful as a good mystery to solve!
The Mystery People cards consist of 108 depictions of people, along with hints as to what they carry with them or have and what they do for a profession. These are designed to be somewhat open-ended, without specific explanations or 'solutions' and therefore lend themselves well to games where students will need to express opinions and provide supporting evidence based on what they can see.
There are a trillion different ways you could apply these cards in a classroom game environment, but below are a few ideas to get you started!
Flip it - Solve it - It's Yours!
This is the simplest application for these cards and involves laying all (or a select range) of the cards out on a table-top face-down. Students then take turns flipping over a single card and attempting to solve the 'mystery' depicted on the other side. Who is this person? How can we tell? An example way of applying this would be to have the students use language of this nature:
'Well, this person is a man, and he's carrying a camera and some film. He's probably / must be / could be a photographer.'
The main point of the activity is to encourage the students to use all of their available language skills and vocabulary to help them piece together a solution. Determining just how complex and comprehensive the explanation should be will of course be up to the teacher based on an analysis of what students have studied and/or should be able to use the language for.
Once a student has flipped a card and done a satisfactory job of describing it and coming to some sort of reasonable conclusion, they are entitled to 'keep' that card and earn one point in the game. The person with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
Mystery Person Bingo
Another simple game, this application involves handing out 9 random cards to each student and having them lay them out face-down in a 3-by-3 bingo grid. On their allocated turns, the students flip over one of their cards and attempt to describe it in much the same way just described above. If they are successful, the card stays overturned. Once a student has managed to flip over 3 cards representing a straight or diagonal row, they get bingo and win that round of the game.
This can be a good way to 'force' students to make second or third attempts at describing their cards - and they also get some 'thinking time' for cards they described incorrectly or insufficiently while other students are taking their turns. These games can be faster, allowing for more rounds and more competitive fun!
Help the Detective
This game focuses much more on listening and comprehension skills, and to a certain extent encourages some non-stressful risk-taking. Lay all (or a select range) of cards out on a central table, face-up so that the images can be seen. Students may compete individually or in up to four teams.
Basically, the teacher takes the role of a detective and the students act as potential witnesses in a hypothetical robbery or accident. In turns, students either singly or in pairs approach the detective to help him locate a key witness or instigator in the alleged incident. The detective/teacher may ask questions such as "Can you help me find someone? I'm looking for a woman who enjoys sports. She was carrying a basketball and was on her way to the gym when this incident occured. Have you seen her, because I need to ask her some important questions!"
Students then have a set time limit (say 10 or 20 seconds) to find the person's profile amongst all the cards spread out on the table. Once this time limit is up, the 'detective' suddenly gets an urgent call about a hot new lead and has to leave immediately (ie, "time's up!"). If the student(s) find the correct card/person, they score a 'key witness point'. Once a student or a team has helped the detective find three key witnesses, the case has been solved and that student/team is nominated winner.
This can be a really exciting game, and usually arouses students' curiosity. It also makes for a useful way of explaining things such as law enforcement and detective work, which is something a lot of children are likely to see on TV or in contemporary movies.
Download the 108 Mystery Person Cards!
All of the mystery people cards have also been formatted into A4-size collages to facilitate a "mystery person" board game. This is relatively simple to set up and apply, and has quite a bit in common with the popular commercial game known as Guess Who? However, the English Raven Mystery Person game profiles the people more widely to include depictions of what they have, carry, do for a living, etc. It also differs from the former game in that men and women are grouped together on separate grids.
The game is set up for two players (print multiple copies so that you can pair off the students in your class, or make the PDF versions available for viewing on computer screens in class), each of whom takes either a blue (A) or pink (B) version. It is best to fold the cards in the middle (with the provided backing attached to the outward facing side).
Each student selects one person on the top grid of their card by circling him/her. This is their 'mystery person' which they should conceal from the other student at all costs. The bottom grid is their 'guessing' grid to help them try and figure out who their partner's mystery person is. On this (bottom) grid, the students can cross off names/profiles as they get feedback to their Yes/No question prompts.
Note: students are only permitted to ask Yes/No Questions, and their partners must answer with either "yes" or "no". Whenever a student has concealed a man, they will be looking for a woman, and vice versa. Laminating the cards allows them to be marked on and later cleaned for reuse in future classes.
Students ought to quickly pick up on the fact that some questions will be more effective than others in terms of narrowing the field to guess who the mystery selected person is. For example, asking based on name only doesn't help to eliminate more than one slot at a time, whereas asking questions like "does the lady have short hair?" or "does the man have glasses on?" can be really helpful to narrow the potential field of people.
At higher levels, even more advanced questions are possible (e.g. "is the lady involved in transportation?").
All the Mystery People Card Game downloads are available in the Card Games section of the MAIN DOWNLOADS page (for English Raven members).
The Mystery People Interactive Board Game