Note to the reader: While this popular party game has long been Mafia, I no longer advocate for calling it by that name. Mafia is a term that refers to crime organizations that are often associated with specific countries and cultures; most notably, Italian, Russian, Japanese, and Irish. In the same way that we do not want to glorify so-called drug ‘lords’, we also do not want to glorify organized crime in any culture. Because there are many different versions that teachers now play, I now refer to the collective versions of this role-playing game as ‘Elimination’.
Rarely a day has passed since I played Elimination with narrator Ben Wang this summer in Chattanooga that I haven’t thought about that game! Elimination was already my favorite pastime–not that I get to play much anymore–and for sure my favorite game to play in class, and it was just SO EXCITING to realize that I could use the game with even my little bitty Spanish babies!! Gah! The rest of the summer and fall has been really busy for me, and so it wasn’t until this past weekend that I was finally able to sit down and write out some beginner scripts that you can use to help you be successful with Elimination in beginning levels.
I wrote out 15 “reveals” with very limited vocabulary that you can adapt for your students and your situation. The first five are available in Spanish for free here, and the next 10 are available in editable form for purchase here. The scripts are also available in French. They use vocabulary from the first three units of the SOMOS Spanish 1 curriculum, so that teachers that are following it can play within the first few weeks of school and still be recycling previously targeted structures. My hope is that by the time you have worked through my stories, you will have internalized the rhythm of the game and will have a feel for how to create your own comprehensible reveals.
Here is an example from the plans. It is loosely based on the true story of Alina Filipescu trying to get me to like kombucha. (She succeeded, but I only like Gingerberry.)
Alina likes kombucha. There is a lot of kombucha in Alina’s fridge. Alina says to Martina, “Do you like kombucha?” Martina says, “I don’t like kombucha.” Alina says, “Kombucha is delicious! There are many different kombuchas in my fridge. There is normal kombucha. There is mango kombucha. Do you like mango kombucha?” Martina says, “I don’t like mango kombucha.” Alina says, “I like mango kombucha a lot.” Martina says, “Blecht”. Alina consumes the mango kombucha. Alina is dead.
It’s important to note that Elimination as it is originally played involves a lot of death. There are many possible non-violent adaptations for Elimination that you can make! Check out Adaptation #10 toward the bottom of this post for two ideas, although there are many others!
HOW TO SIMPLIFY ELIMINATION
Here is how to play the simplified version of Elimination. I will use the vocabulary for the version of the game that I play, in which the Eliminator is an Assassin (Asesino), and the Targets are townspeople.
As the teacher, YOU are going to decide who the “Eliminators” (assassins, werewolves, bad unicorns, etc.) are. Depending on your class size, you might assign as few as 1 assassin (in a class of five students, for example), or as many as 4 assassins (in a large class). More than 4 Eliminators is difficult because they have to be able to communicate SILENTLY with each other and come to an agreement–SILENTLY–using only their eyes and very subtle gestures.
Have all students sit in a circle and close their eyes. With all student eyes closed, walk around the outside of the circle asking, “¿[student name] es el asesino?” (Is __ the assassin?) as you pass behind each individual student. When you pass behind a student that you are assigning as an assassin, gently lay your hand on his/her shoulder or head as you ask the question, “¿[student name] es el asesino?” (Is __ the assassin?). No one but that student should know that you just touched his or her head or shoulder, thereby making his/her assassin identity a secret shared only between the two of you.
When you have walked all the way around the circle, instruct the assassins only to open their eyes. Tell them to look around and make eye contact with the other assassins so that they know who their assassin ‘team’ is.
Now, ask them, “¿Quién es su víctima?” (Who is your victim?) Now, they must use eye contact and very subtle gestures to all come to agreement as to who their first victim will be. Once they have done that, tell the assassins to close their eyes.
In each round, after the assassins have agreed on a victim and closed their eyes, tell all townspeople to open their eyes.
Now, you will very slowly explain who the victim is and how they met their untimely demise. Use one of the 15 “Historias de la muerte” (death stories) included in this packet to get you started! As you tell the story, replace the characters’ names from the pre-written historias with students from your own class. Be sure to include some of the assassins as characters in the stories (although never as the victim) so that you throw your students off their trail. Replace details from the historias with details that are personalized to your students. As you tell each historia de la muerte, be dramatic! Move and speak slowly to build suspense and draw your students into the world of the game. Use essential skills for making input comprehensible, like circling key structures and checking for comprehension. Read more about these strategies here.
Once you reach the end of each historia, and the victim is identified, that person is OUT. He or she can choose whether they want to participate as a “ghost” or as an “angel”. A ghost continues playing the game (opening and closing his or her eyes), but cannot speak AT ALL, ever. Students who choose to participate as ghosts are students that enjoy the suspense of the game and don’t want to know who the assassins are until the bitter end. An angel watches the entire game with open eyes, all the time, but also cannot speak. Students who choose to participate as angels are students that enjoy being “in” on the secret and watching you, the narrator/teacher, spin a web of mystery around their identity.
After each death announcement, YOU (the teacher) once again walk around the outside of the circle, asking, “¿[student name] es el asesino?” (Is __ the assassin?) as you walk behind each individual student. Any remaining, living participants in the game (townspeople and assassins combined; NOT any ghosts or angels) get one vote each. Each living participant must vote for the one person that they think is most likely to be one of the assassins. Students vote by raising their hand. Have each student keep track of how many votes s/he received by holding up the corresponding number of fingers. For example, if five people voted for Jimmy as the most likely assassin when you asked the question, “¿Es Jimmy el asesino?” (Is Jimmy the assassin?), then Jimmy holds up five fingers.
Whoever has the most votes is out of the game, whether or not that student was actually an assassin. Tell that person, “Estás muerto/a” (You are dead). (If you want to be less violent, you could say “You are eliminated”).
With all student eyes open, ask the newly eliminated “¿Fuiste el [uno de los] asesino[s]?” (Were you one of the assassins?) and have the student reveal whether or not he or she was indeed an assassin.
The newly eliminated student can choose to continue as a ghost or an angel. (If they were actually an assassin, they will probably continue as angels since they already know who the other assassins are.)
CONTINUING GAME PLAY
Have the town close their eyes. Have the assassins open their eyes and choose a new victim. Have the assassins close their eyes. Have everyone open their eyes. Choose a new historia de muerte to recount, and continue playing until the townspeople eliminate all assassins (the town wins!) or until there are more assassins than townspeople (the assassins win!).