5-Minute Mysteries in L2

A novel way to provide engaging input and interaction in a meaningful communicative context.

I’m a huge fan of mysteries and riddles.  The more challenging, the better.  They are highly engaging, interesting, and encourage creative thinking.

When I was a kid I used to play a lot of Mind Trap.  Well, play probably isn’t he best word.  My friends and I used to read the cards and challenge each other.  Often I would pass the time by reading the mysteries to myself and refusing to look at the answer until I was sure of the solution.  I would play this “game” for hours and hours.  I was also a fan of Encyclopedia Brown and 5-Minute Mysteries-type books.

I’m surprised that it took so long for my love of riddles and mysteries to be joined with my almost daily quest to provide interesting (and low-prep!) sources of comprehensible input.

Here is the mystery I presented to my students (Latin III and IV) today:


est conclāve.  conclāve est parvum et obscūrum.  conclāve ūnam iānuam et ūnam fenestram habet.  in conclāvī est sella et lectus et mēnsa.  in terrā conclāvis est basipila et magna cōpia aquae et multa fragmenta vitrī.  fenestra est frācta, et sunt fragmenta vitrī prope fenestram frāctam.  in mediō conclāvī est cadāver.  est Robertus.  Robertus mortuus est!

discipulī, quōmodo Robertus necātus est?


There is a room.  The room is small and dark.  The room has one door and one window.  In the room is a chair and a couch and a table.  on the ground of the room is a baseball, a great amount of water, and many pieces of glass.  The window has been broken and there are pieces of glass near the broken window.  In the middle of the room is a body.  It’s Robert.  Robert is dead!

Students, how was Robert killed?


I could have used this riddle in any level (with a few adjustments).  I also had my students draw the details as I narrated them to them.  I did not prepare a script ahead of time, but just told them a riddle that I knew and phrased in a way that they could understand.  I also let them ask questions about the riddle until they figured it out. This provided a lot of repetitions and it was a way a personalize the input, especially when they wanted to know details about things that ultimately were irrelevant to solving the riddle. I did have to give the students a hint before they could solve it.

Do you know how Robert was killed?

(I’ll post the solution later in the comments section)

5 thoughts on “5-Minute Mysteries in L2

  1. Lorraine Tansey

    Someone threw the ball through the window, broke it, and hit Robert in the head. Idk about the water but I suspect there was ice involved. (Fan of Christmas vacation!😃)


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