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Bank Robbery Roleplay

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I find this roleplay is enjoyed from intermediate to advanced levels. It is especially good for practicing interrogatives. I generally have small classes (this activity works best with 6-8 students), but I'm sure you could adapt it to a larger group.
First, set the scene. Draw a diagram on the board of a horseshoe-shaped building. This is to be the shopping mall. At one end of the horseshoe, you have a bank, and at the other end (opposite the bank) is a fast food restaurant - e.g. Pizza Hut. Explain to your students that there has been a robbery at the bank, and that half the students are detectives, the other half suspects. The suspects are all waiters/waitresses at Pizza Hut. They went on their lunch break together at 12.00, and they were seen at the bank at 12.15 - only 2 mminutes before the robbery took place! They were all supposed to return from their lunch break at 1.00, but didn't arrive back at work until 4.00. Not only this, but they arrived driving a brand-new BMW Z3! The task for the suspects is to create a story covering their 4-hour lunch break, and giving a reason as to why they are driving the new sports car - they have to convince the detectives that they didn't commit the robbery. The task of the detectives is to come up with a list of questions (hence the practice of interrogatives) to quiz the suspects on anything they like. Separate the two groups of students, so that they can talk freely with their group without being concerned about the other group hearing - I find it easiest to put them in two separate classrooms. Give the suspects markers so that they can draw diagrams, make notes etc, and give the detectives paper so that they can list their questions.
Spend your time equally between the two groups - and encourage them! Reiterate to the police that they can ask a vast array of questions - what was the license plate of the BMW? Was their manager mad when they arrived back at work 3 hours late? Yes? Is their manager a male or female? Did the BMW have leather interior? What was the weather like when they left work? Where did they eat lunch? How much did it cost? The list goes on...
At the same time, the time you spend with the suspects should encourage them - as you are listening to them create their story, interject with various questions, helping them realise that they have to cover as many details as humanly possible.
Once you have given the students sufficient time, call them all back into one room, and have the detectives interview the suspects. They should do this separately, and after one detective has interviewed their suspect (no more than 10 minutes), they should swap until all suspects have been interviewed by all police.
The whole aim of this exercise? If the police can find 10 (or whatever number you think reasonable) differences in the stories of the suspects (e.g. someone said the Pizza Hut manager was male, someone else female), then the suspects are guilty of robbing the bank! Once all interviews are completed, have the police report back to the rest of the class on the differences in stories/answers - this always gets a lot of laughs! It is also great practice of reported speech - for both the detectives and suspects!

Have fun with it! I've used it at various levels, and it's worked a treat for ages 12 - 25!


- Lindsay, currently in Jakarta.

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