Unsolved Crimes (Upper-Intermediate Lesson)

ESL/EFL Level: Upper-Intermediate (B2/C1)
Lesson Topics: the 300 million yen robbery, the D.B. Cooper hijacking, unsolved crimes
Skill Focus: Speaking, Reading, Vocabulary
Approximate Class Time: 1.5 hours
Lesson Plan Download: unsolved-crimes-upper-intermediate-082023.docx
Lesson Overview:

  • The lesson begins with warm-up questions and a pre-reading task that asks students to predict the content of two stories based on wordclouds. Next, students read two stories about unsolved crimes. The first story describes the 300-million-yen robbery in Tokyo, Japan, in 1969. The second is D.B. Cooper's infamous airplane hijacking in 1971. The passages are 362 words in total.
  • Afterward, there is a recall activity and then a vocabulary exercise that asks students to match B2/C1-level words to definitions. This is followed by some question-making with the key vocabulary.
  • The first speaking task is a debate about whether statutes of limitations for crimes should exist. This is followed by two police interrogation roleplays related to both of the aforementioned famous crimes. Next, students review key vocabulary from the lesson by making a story using four images.
  • Finally, students review collocations and ask each other some final discussion questions
  • Note: If you are teaching a larger class, this alibi game would be fun.

An airplane flying over leafless trees

UPPER-INTERMEDIATE (B2/C1) EFL Lesson Plan on the Unsolved Crimes

Warm-up Questions

  • Do you follow the news closely? What types of stories interest you the most?
  • What are some famous unsolved mysteries that you’ve heard of?
  • Pre-reading: Look at the word clouds below from two stories. Try to guess what happens in each.

two wordclouds from stories about unsolved crimes
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-- Lesson plan on Unsolved Crimes written by Matthew Barton of EnglishCurrent.com (copyright). ChatGPT was used to create a first draft of the D.B. Cooper story and some answer keys. Site members may photocopy and edit the file for their classes. Permission is not given to rebrand the lesson, redistribute it on another platform, or sell it as part of commercial course curriculum. For questions, contact the author.

Possible answers to follow-up questions:

  1. The money was supposed to be given as bonus payments for Toshiba factory workers.
  2. There are two obvious answers: 1) the man was wearing a police uniform, giving him an air of authority, and 2) the bank had received bomb threats in the preceding weeks.
  3. The robber left a bunch of miscellaneous items in the vehicle that would not be helpful in finding his identity. Also, he switched vehicles several times. (He also wore a costume.)
  4. At the next stop, the passengers left the plane. Cooper had the crew, however, stay on board. He then took off again. Later, he jumped off the plane with the money using a parachute.

Vocabulary Answers: 1-g, 2-d, 3-a, 4-k, 5-b, 6-L, 7-I, 8-c, 9-j, 10-f, 11-h, 12-e

Collocation Answers: 1-g, 2-b, 3-a, 4-f, 5-e, 6-c, 7-d


[1] Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/300_million_yen_robbery, https://www.tokyoweekender.com/japan-life/5-of-japans-most-famous-unsolved-crimes

[2] Main D.B. Cooper source: https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/db-cooper-hijacking

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