Mafia for ESL

Ok, before you think I'm promoting organized crime in the classroom, let me tell you about this game. If you've gone to college in the past let's say 10 years, you may have heard of Mafia. If so, you can skip to the blue part of this post.

It's kind of a strategy role playing game that I'd never actually played, but know was extremely popular in certain boys' dorms when I was at school. It uses cards to determine roles. There are a set number of killers (or mafia), a doctor, police, and a narrator (shop owner).

During the "night" in the game the narrator directs the mafia to open their eyes (everyone else is "asleep") and secretly kill someone. After they go back to sleep, the doctor gets to choose someone to save. It's a matter of chance, since they don't know who will be killed. Then the police get to "investigate" one person, and the narrator will indicate whether or not they are the killer.

In the "day" part of the game, all the townspeople found out who was killed and discussion begins. It ends with someone being voted as the killer. Then another round begins. The game ends when either all the townspeople are killed, or all of the killers are found and voted out. It kind of becomes a witch hunt. Actually, when I was prepping the game I found that it was invented by a psychology student.

So I was teaching an article about murder mysteries, and this thought occured to me... what if I tried to play mafia with my classes? Would it be possible for ESL on a large scale? After thinking it through, I decided to try it. I did it with four 40+ student classes, but it took them awhile to catch on, usually just before the 50-minute period ended. But THEN, I tried it with my most advanced class, and it was amazing! I had originally planned to just do it as an icebreaker/activity before we got into the textbook, but they got so into it, that I let them keep playing for the full 2 class periods. For homework, I had them write responses to the game, and I was extremely pleased at what they wrote. Here are my two favorites:

First, human being are crazy. Anyone who gets the power to kill others is irrational. They would kill people to get achievement, and become more happier when killed a man.

Second, human being are selfish. When being a doctor, people often save themselves rather than save others. If all of the Dr. in the reality are out of medical ethic, the world will ruin.

Third, the most important thing I’ve learned, is that I am a unwelcome man! In the game, I always either be killed in the first round or be elected as killer and out. The only time I lived to the end is when I was a killer.

In the killer game, you can observe everyone’s personality. Some are kind while others are evil. I think it is a meaningful game.

I especially thought the second response was sooo insightful, and true, not just in the game.
NOW is the hard do I top that?


  1. I forgot about that game. Good idea!

  2. Hahaha, that's awesome, Charlotte! We used to play at Pines all the time - particularly in our famed LIT group (of which Zeke was a member). Would this qualify as a "Canadian" game? hmm...


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