Murder Mystery

This is a story taken out of English File Elementary that I thought was a fantastic way to focus on asking questions about something in the past and answering those questions with irregular verbs.

Read the following passage.

June 22nd 1958 was Jeremy Smith’s sixtieth birthday. He had dinner with his wife, Amanda, his
daughter, Barbara, his business partner, Gordon, and his secretary Claudia. The next morning,
when Amanda Smith went to her husband’s room, she found him in bed…dead.

Based on what you read, who do you suspect killed Jeremy?

crime scene

Now, read the following investigation.

Inspector Granger arrived about 9:00 a.m. He was a tall man with a big black mustache.
Amanda, Barbara, Claudia and Gordon were in the living room. The inspector came in. “Mr.
Smith died between midnight last night and seven o’clock this morning,” he said. “Somebody in
this room killed him.” He looked at them one by one, but nobody spoke.
“Mrs. Smith, I want to talk to you first. Come into the library please.”
Amanda followed the inspector into the library and sat down in the large chair in front of a
“What did your husband do after dinner last night?”
“When we finished dinner, Jeremy said he was tired and he went to bed,” said Amanda.
“Did you go to bed then too?”
“No, i didn’t. I went for a walk in the garden.”
“What time did you go to bed?”
“About quarter to twelve,” responded Amanda.
“Was your husband asleep?”
“I don’t know, inspector, We…we slept in separate rooms. But I saw that his door was closed.”
“Did you hear anything when you were in your room?”
“Yes, I heard Jeremy’s bedroom door. It opened. I thought it was Jeremy. Then it closed again.
I read for about half an hour and then went to sleep.”
“What time did you get up this morning?”
“I got up at about 7:15. I had breakfast and at 8:00 I took my husband a cup of tea.
I found him in bed…he was dead.”
“Tell me, Mrs. Smith, did you love your husband?”
“Jeremy is…was a difficult man.”
“But did you love him Mrs. Smith?”
“No, inspector. I hated him”

Answer the following questions about the text.

What time did the inspector arrive?

What did he look like?

What time did he say Jeremy died?

Who did he question first?

What did Jeremy do after dinner?

What did Amanda do after dinner?

Did Amanda hear anything in the night?

How did Amanda feel about Jeremy?

Now, write your own investigation – both questions and answers – of someone else that was present the night of the murder.

To Do List

How many of you make a “to do list” each day?

How many things on average do you have on your list each day?

Are all of those things very important?

Do they all need to be done TODAY?

Watch the video and see if you agree with the author’s to do list.

What did the author want to do more of and less of?

IF you could make a change today, what would you do MORE of and what would you do LESS of?  Why?

Make a similar list for your self and then share it with the class.

Telling a Story

This is a fantastic way to get people talking about their dreams as well as practicing present and past simple.

To begin

Do you often/ever make wishes?

Do you believe that wishes come true?

Have you wished upon a shooting star?


What happened in the video?

Who were the people in the video?

When you were a child, did you ever wonder what the moon was?
For homework, write a dialogue between the three characters.


What happened?

I have been doing a lot of thinking regarding the schedule of introducing different verb tenses and here is what I am almost completely convinced of: The past should be introduced almost immediately and simultaneously with the present.

IF we are truly using a communicative approach you will find that your students have a real need to use the past from the very beginning. Which is why, I have complete beginners learning the past right now. How do we do this?

Well, with film, with music, and with storytelling.

For example: Watch the following video. (first with no sound)

What did you see? What did your peers see?

Then play the video again, but this time with sound. Close your eyes and listen to the music.

What did you hear? What did your peers hear?

How did you feel when you watched the movie?

Did it make want to travel?

Past Simple

Learning and practicing the simple past can be easy if you do it in context.

Remember – to form the past for regular verbs all you need to do is add “d” to verbs ending in “e” or “ed” to verbs ending with any other letter.

Of course, in the case of irregular verbs, there is no good way to learn them other than by memory!

Here is a list of irregular verbs – I highly recommend that you do NOT try to memorize all of the verbs at the same time, but rather choose 2 or 3 per day. 

Then, to practice what you are learning, you can write simple anecdotes about things in the past.

A trip

A scary moment

A happy moment

You last birthday party

A dream you had

Here is a great example!