Playing Mafia with Brandon Brown quiere un perro

As a pre-reading for BBQP Chapter 4 I played “mafia” for about three 48 minute class periods in Spanish 1. This is a generally awesome CI activity for anytime but worked well for me at this point in our novel due to the structures that occur in Chapter 4: se duerme (falls asleep), duerme (sleeps), hace ruidos (makes noise)

Some people were asking on Twitter how I was doing this so I wanted to write up a quick post on it.

Blog post image mafia

First, you need to familiarize yourself with the ways in which mafia is played. Youtube search: mafia classroom and you’ll be able to watch a few videos in which teachers use mafia in their ELL or language classes.

In my classes, I tend to rely heavily on Martina Bex’s resource here as a guide.

I’ll assume here that you understand the game so I’ll just go into HOW I modified to make it work for me and my students.

I chose to have the usual characters: mafia, police, doctors and community assigned with playing cards randomly. I made sure that each “attack” at night had a dog involved somehow. Either the victim was with their own dog or, in most cases, the mafia used a dog in the attack. And to keep it more on the playful side and not too dark, I never mentioned anyone was dead or killed, just eliminated from the game.

So I was sure to milk the CI as I explained the attacks to students, checking for comprehension, writing English on the board as needed, acting out just about everything that I could.

Here are some of the “attacks” that I invented:

  • Mafia has an enormous dog like Clifford who sits on a Taco Bell (and the victim obviously was in the Taco Bell because they wanted a burrito in the middle of the night and the mafia knew that).
  • The mafia’s dog peed in another victim’s eye while he was riding his bike in the park (at night, no less) and he couldn’t see well (obviously) so he fall off his bike and was eliminated that way.
  • In another “attack” the mafia put dog poop in pizza because they knew the victim liked pizza. (Interestingly, in one class, the doctors were able to save the victim because they gave him special medicine. But then later the mafia attacked again with poo-pizza and didn’t fail the second time.)

So, the possibilities are really endless once you get going… allergies could be involved, dog poop, fleas, slobber, etc. It never gets old and kids are aghast at what I can come up with next.

I also like to to a Write & Discuss (from Mike Peto, described here with a video) with about 10 minutes left in class. I don’t do a W&D on the first full day of mafia play because I want students to get the momentum of the game. After that, it’s your call on when you feel it is appropriate. I do W&D’s now about 2-3 times a week and my students are used to it as a way to end class. Yes, students want more mafia but if your class community is good, they trust you and they know you’ll give them more, then they shouldn’t put up too much of a fight.

During the W&D with mafia, I let students decide which victim’s attack we should summarize. I just do one even though more things happened in mafia that day. There just isn’t enough time to summarize all the attacks. So once they decide on which one, I start writing as you see in the tweet photo above and students provide the direction and details of what happened, I just guide them and correct as we go. I also use the W&D’s to talk with students again about the events, ask questions, etc. You need 10 minutes minimum, though I have done a W&D in 6 minutes a time or two.

Another note: I post key new, important repeated words and phrases on the boards in TL so students to see them during accusation phase of the game. I stop and point often. Phrases like:

  • I accuse… S/he accuses…
  • S/he is suspicious.
  • They cannot save him/her.

In some of my very intense (awesome!) classes, my students enforce strict “no English” rules during mafia. In one, it was two utterances in English and you’re eliminated. In another, it was one and out!

Have fun!


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