Stories from China: Mafia

Don’t get too excited, this isn’t an epic tale of my clashes with the Chinese Mafia! It’s actually a teaching story – this week and in the past I’ve dedicated an entire lesson to playing the game Mafia with my students.

In case you don’t know the game, in its most basic form, every round students who are Mafia kill someone in secret, and the students have to try and guess who is the Mafia. Once they get the hang of it I add in a doctor who can secretly save someone (usually themselves), and then a sheriff who can accuse someone each round and learn from the narrator if they are the Mafia. We played it A LOT at camp, and had more roles and multiple Mafia member and conspiracies flying around the place – it’s a really fun game.

Although it’s a fun game to play, it’s also educational and useful for the students (I promise!) My senior specials are advanced enough now that they can take charge of their own games, begin to have debates and arguments (meaning that they’re thinking in English), and one game can involves 11 people and last 30 minutes! Considering that all the preparation I need to do is to bring a deck of cards with me (to assign roles), it’s such a simple and fun lesson. I can incorporate the idea of forfeits for when they speak Chinese, see their debating skills improve, and one person is the narrator and runs the game, developing their leadership skills too.

It’s also fun with the senior 1 specials. Their English isn’t as advanced as the senior 2’s, and they’re 3x as many of them, so I split them into 3 groups and let them use Chinese if they need to. My rule is: if I know what you’re saying in Chinese, you know the English! Again, the students love playing it, mainly because it’s fun and doesn’t feel like a real lesson. The first time they played it they got so involved they actually ripped my cards!! I played it yesterday with 1 class and some of the accusations flying around were hilarious! One Mafia girl managed to win by shouting (in English) that the others looked too happy/too sad and therefore they were clearly the Mafia. I was in stitches watching them realise it was her all along!

Mafia is a fun game to play with anyone, helps develop my students’ English skills, and means all I do in the lesson is referee them, make sure they don’t get too noisy, and that they use English correctly!


Also how much does this photo look like it belongs in a brochure!