Who-What-Where-When-Why-How is a TEFL game based on the popular board game, Cluedo.

The game is ideal for practicing speaking and listening. It is particularly good for formulating and practicing questions and, above all, it can be adapted very easily for different themes and cultures making it very flexible and suitable for different classes.

For the purposes of this article, the original Cluedo game will be used as a basis for the classroom activity. However, you’ll see that it can be easily adapted and made much more involved for experienced classes.


The first step is to make some flashcards.

Below is how to make a simple version of the game, effectively Who-Where-How.


Collect 10 pictures of individuals from magazines and put them on a card each. Give each a memorable name. The original Cluedo featured:

  • Professor Plum
  • Miss Scarlett
  • Mrs. White
  • Colonel Mustard

but you can make your own.


This is about locations. These can be within a house, e.g.

  • living room
  • bathroom
  • kitchen

Or you can move around the country. If you were in Italy, for example, you could choose:

  • Pisa
  • Genoa
  • Rome
  • Venice

Note that you are using the English versions of city names here for practice.


For this simple version following the Cluedo idea, collect 5 pictures of a murder weapon and put them on a card each. Examples here are:

  • gun
  • rope
  • poison
  • bomb (be culturally careful with this in certain countries)
  • dagger
  • axe
  • spanner


If you are expanding the game and using other categories, simply make suitable cards for them. What can feature actions (as in what was done); When can feature any kind of time frame – dates, years, time of day, seasons, etc…; Why can feature motives.

Finally, on a sheet of paper list all the Who-names, Where-locations and How-methods. This needs to be photocopied so you can give them out in class.

Setting Up the Game

Run through the grammar of question formation and make sure your students are happy with this. Get them to ask and answer plenty of questions both as a class and in small groups so they know the kind of language they’ll be using before the game begins.

Then divide the class into small teams of 3 or so (with the more teams, the better, depending on the size of the class; if you work with large classes you may need to prepare more cards above). You should make the teams as equal as possible in terms of language ability.

Tell the class that an anonymous caller has phoned the police and told them there has been a murder and it is up to the class to discover:

  • who killed the victim
  • where the murder took place
  • how the victim was murdered

Then give each team a photocopied sheet with the list of suspects, locations and weapons. Now would be a good time to check that everyone is familiar with the vocabulary here.

Tell the class the murderer, location and weapon is on this list, but they have to find it!


Tell the class you will create the murder. Choose at random a card from the pile of suspects and put it in an envelope. Then choose a murder weapon at random and add it to the envelope. Finally choose a location and do the same.

It’s best here that not even you as teacher see the contents of the envelope. It needs to be a surprise!

Explain to the class they the only way they can work out the name of the murderer, the location and the murder weapon is by eliminating all other possibilities from the sheet they have until only 3 remain. And they do this in two ways:

  • By crossing out from the sheet the cards they will be given.
  • By asking questions of the other teams to see what cards they have and then eliminating those from the sheet.

Now take all the remaining cards and shuffle them together thoroughly. Then deal them out to the teams, one at a time, till they are all gone.

Solving the Murder

The teams must now solve the murder. Give them a few minutes to check the cards they have and eliminate them from the sheet.

Then in turn, each team can ask a question to any other team about a specific card. Of course, all the teams in the class must listen carefully here as everyone can use the information.

Good questions would be:

  1. Do you have Professor Plum?
  2. Have you got a gun?
  3. Do you have Venice?

As the questions are asked and answered, the teams will be able to slowly cross off which cards are “in play” and see which cards are possibly in the envelope.

Finally, when a team thinks they know the answer, they can make an accusation:

“We believe it was Miss Scarlett in Rome with poison!”

If they are sure they want to accuse, you suspend the game and (theatrically!) open the envelope.

It they are right, they have won. If they are wrong, they are eliminated from the game and other teams continue asking and answering until the truth is revealed.

Variations on the Theme

Once the class are familiar with the game you can bring in variations.

  • More options. Simply add more cards to each category so that the teams must ask more questions.
  • Less options; to make the game easier – perhaps for the first time of play – you can make it just Who and How.
  • Restricted questions; only indirect questions can be asked or passive questions, etc.


Exploding the Game
In some cultures a game like this based on murder might be a little insensitive and may not suit the class you have. Instead, it is easy to adapt the idea to other scenarios. Over time you can build up collections of cards in the different categories of Who-What-Where-When-Why-How.

Then you can set up different scenarios and ask the students to work out:

  • the name of the thief, who stole which famous painting, from which gallery
  • the name of the adventurer, who crossed which country, by which method
  • the name of the explorer, who found which ancient artefact, from which country
  • the name of the celebrity, who has bought what kind of pet, and given it what name
  • the name of the actor, who starred in what film, when
  • the name of the teacher, who used to live in which country, and why they left

The possible permutations are endless!

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Posted in Lesson Plans & Activities.

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