The scene of the crime: past narrative

Review… Can it be effective in WL classrooms??? We need to get a feeling for what our students have acquired and yet honor the fact that memorizing and really using grammatical concepts are different! It’s hard to find a balance… Hard until I saw Martina Bex’s post about a crime scene investigation… The perfect scenario for a past narrative! Here is my experience in day 3 Spanish 3 and 4 today:

Students entered the room and found that someone had robbed us!



Chalk outlines marked the scenes of the crimes… Two large beanbags and a blue rug. Evidence was everywhere!



First, I explained that there had been a crime. I set the scene by telling students that the police thought that the robbery occurred around 11pm and that there were a lot of clues to the identity of the robber.

All students took a silent evidence gathering tour of the two crime scenes. When they returned to their table, they had to create a police report that detailed all evidence and missing items.




After the lists were complete, they took a second tour of the evidence looking specifically for clues to the criminal’s identity. They found a “to do” list signed SMS and an English textbook that pointed toward our English teacher neighbors.

With a suspect in mind, groups made a questionnaire for their interrogation. What questions could they ask to prove she had done it?

I collected the papers and then the students narrated the night’s events in the past tense. Finally, we typed out their theories about why she had not “destroyed the evidence” as she planned to on the “to do” list!

Tomorrow we will start by discussing our investigation and then will watch the newly released “crime scene video”… And she will probably end up behind bars!

Lots of great past tense reps in a fun and funny context!! Even if you’re already back in swing, this is worth the work involved in setting it up!


  1. What? This is awesome! What a great and novel way to have discussions in the past tense and guide students to be creative communicating about something that happened.

  2. Preterit, Imperfect, or both? I am just now getting into the Imperfect with my Spanish 3 class and the next chapter puts it together with the preterit, trying to see if this would work… you have a rubric or instructions document that you used?

    • We use both. I just use them in context as appropriate! Since I don’t have a traditional text I don’t have to separate! No grade, just a way to recycle common past tense verbs. It generated a lot of good discussion!

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