Fun speaking fluency game for middle school students

middle school girl pretending to be a detective
13 Sep SAV No Comments

Here is a fun game to get your teen EFL students speaking in class and enjoying themselves. Freya Dougan-Whaite, teaching middle school in South Korea, reports back and tells us how she used the game, and the success she and her students all had.


I just wanted to write and say thank you for your Detective and Thief Speaking Drill Game from your book, ESL Classroom Activities for Teens & Adults.


My middle school students in South Korea absolutely love this game! Their English is quite low level, but this game gets them speaking and they all have a great time! I just have to drill the target questions and answers beforehand, and they do a great job. It's wonderful to see my students so engaged.


To choose the thief, I have the students close their eyes, then I walk around the room and lightly touch a student's elbow. They find it so exciting and all desperately want to be the thief!


While the 'detective' does the rounds, they all try to get involved by analyzing my footsteps, like real detectives! It's extremely fun as a teacher to watch this! Then, to add a twist to the game, I let one student be 'detective's assistant'. They are allowed to select the 'thief' while the other students' eyes are closed... they love to shuffle around and try to throw other students off track!


I just wanted to share with you have much this game has added to my classroom. Today, our school opened its doors to parents and supervisors. I used this game for my lesson, and students were able to absolutely excel.


This is just one game from my great book of activities for teens and adults. If you don’t have it yet, check out all the reviews on (and other Amazons, but the most are on the .com site). You can get it as an instant download from me directly, or as a paperback or Kindle from Amazon, see the bottom of this blog for links.


Detective Game

  • Category Step 2 speaking drill
  • Group size Small group to a class of up to about 30
  • Level Beginner to intermediate
  • Materials None
  • Preparation None


How to play

One student is chosen to be the detective and one the thief. The detective has three chances to find the thief, which he or she does by asking a question to three students of his or her choosing. The question can take any question form you like, such as ‘What is your name?’ ‘Where do you live?’ ‘What were you doing last night?’ Etc. The three students answer the questions accordingly, and if one of them is the thief he or she must give himself up for arrest after answering the questions. If the detective has not found the thief after asking three questions, he or she got away, so now choose a new thief and a new detective for the next round.


The above set-up works well for a small group of students. If you have a larger group, then pick more thieves and detectives to ask and answer questions simultaneously so that more people are involved in speaking.


A way to spice the game up is to allow the detective to ask as many students as many questions as possible in a given time frame. If you have some kind of timer that ticks audibly, this adds an element of excitement. Allow the detective one-minute only to find the thief and then play another round with a different detective. If you divide the whole class into two teams, you can record which team finds the most thieves during the course of the game.




Another way in which to use this same idea but within a different scenario is to reverse the procedure. Instead of the detective trying to find the thief, you could have a situation where the student asking the question does not want to find the culprit. For example, you could have a thief who robs your house if you speak to him or her. The questioner asks three students a question. If one of those three is the thief, the detective has his or her house robbed, so that team can lose a point.


ESL activities for teens book coverThanks for reading the blog and I hope you have fun with the game. Here are links to ESL Activities for Teens and Adults: Instant Download, Paperback or Kindle.

I'm here to help if you need me, just comment on this blog, or use the contact page on this site. Looking forward to hearing from you soon,

All the best,

Shelley Ann Vernon

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