In advance, download the mystery clues from the Resources tab and print each of the 24 clues on separate slips of paper.
Gather your group and ask them to sit a small distance away from one another.
Announce that the local (fictional) bank has been robbed and your group’s task is to act as detectives to solve the mystery.
Distribute one clue (small slip of paper) to each person.
Instruct each person that they may read their clue out loud to others, but they must never show or display it to anyone.
Explain that the group has all of the information it will need to solve the case.
Challenge your group to identify who committed the robbery and the alibis for all other suspects, ie where were they when the robbery actually occurred.
Allow 20 to 30 minutes (or other timeframe as you choose) for your group to solve the case.
Remind your group that the solution is found within the clues.
In conclusion, invite your group to reflect on their decision-making process.
How To Play Narrative
As a logically inclined individual with a penchant for mysteries, I love this type of group activity.
First, you need to download the 24 short puzzle clues (see the Resources tab) and then print and cut them into small slips of paper. For example, this is what is written on one of the clues:
Margaret Charity, a teller at the bank, discovered the robbery.
When ready, assemble your group and invite them to sit in a position (preferably a circle) that will not only be comfortable (because they will be busy for 20+ minutes) but offer a little bit of space between others. This last qualifier is to prevent folks from seeing what others are about to be given.
Hand out one slip of paper (set of clues) to each person. Announce that everyone has a unique set of information or clues and that as a group, it has all of the information it needs to solve the problem.
Importantly, instruct each person that they are not permitted to show what is written on their paper to anyone else. They are entitled to read it aloud to the group, but they can never show, display or write what is written to others at any time.
As detectives, challenge your group to discover who committed the bank robbery and to determine the alibis for all of the other people being investigated, ie where were they when the robbery actually occurred.
As with all group initiatives, you should set a timeframe that will challenge your group. For reference, when I present this to teenagers, I typically allow 20 to 30 minutes for my group to solve the puzzle.
Remind your group that the solution is found within the clues. Manage any questions that will inevitably arise, before relinquishing control to the group.
Perhaps armed with pen and paper, your group truly has everything it needs to solve the puzzle.
From this point forward, your primary role is to watch and listen. Make notes about the group’s organisation, how they worked together, assumptions, stumbling blocks and communication styles, etc.
As soon as a solution has been offered, or the time expires, look for opportunities to invite your group to reflect on a whole range of group dynamics including leadership, communication and decision-making processes. Check out the Reflection Tips tab for starting points.
Note: the solution is described at the end of the document which contains the clues (see Resources tab.)
Practical Leadership Tips
Logic or deduction style mysteries will always attract some people and repel others in a group, ie some will claim that they are no good at these types of problems and quickly get frustrated. Remind them that this is a group problem, and every person has a valuable piece of information to contribute, so remain engaged as long as they can.
If you have less than 24 people in your group, simply supply two or more clues to each person.
If you have more than 24 people in your group, choose to distribute a single clue to partners, or better still, create multiple small groups of 12 people solving the same problem. In this latter case, you may need to physically locate each group away from others.
It is noted that pen and paper are optional, but in truth, many groups often prefer to use these resources to help them visually solve the logic.
Remember, the secrecy parameters of this mystery mean that group members can verbally share their clue’s information with others but they cannot collect the clues or visually display them to one another, ie this precludes writing it on a whiteboard for all to see.
You could integrate Bank Robbery as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group understand the perspectives of and empathise with others including those from diverse backgrounds.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
In addition to exploring critical SEL competencies (see Social-Emotional Learning tab,) there are ample opportunities to invite your group to reflect on and develop their critical thinking, leadership and decision-making skills. In addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could pose the following questions to help your group reflect on these skills:
How did your group approach this task?
Did you develop a particular method of collecting, organising and interpreting the clues?
Did a leader emerge in the process? Why?
Was a leader needed to accomplish this goal? If yes, who emerged as a leader? How did this occur?
If no leader emerged, what does this tell us about how your group solves problems without a leader?
What did leadership look like during the exercise? Was it useful?
Did your group verify or double-check its assumptions regarding the information you were processing?
What was the impact of making an assumption? Be specific.
Red Herrings: Look to the Resources tab to download 4 x extra Red Herring clues. This will not only allow 4 more people to participate in the mystery but, as these clues represent irrelevant information, they will also further complicate the process of solving the mystery.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
In advance, send a bunch of emails containing one of the clues to each of the 24 people involved in this task. As above, none of this information can be shown or displayed to the rest of the group, but only shared verbally.
Encourage your group to create a shared online document (eg Google Docs) to record their thinking and solutions.
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Useful Framing Ideas
You have just learned that a local bank in New York City has been robbed of one million dollars. Your group is the detective team that is investigating the robbery and attempting to identify the thief or thieves. Each of the slips of paper I’m holding contains a clue about what happened. If you put all the facts together, you’ll solve the mystery. There are a few rules to follow so the investigation is not compromised…
if you love problem-solving puzzles or deductive-reasoning challenges, then you are going to love this next group task…
You know those lateral thinking exercises that appear to give so little information, but you are told you have everything you need to solve it? Well, that is exactly what I have in store for you now…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after leading this intriguing team mystery:
How did your way of working together change as the activity progressed?
If you figured out the mystery, was it easy or hard to do so? How did your group come up with the answer?
If the group didn’t figure out the mystery, what needed to happen in order for you to do so?
How did it feel to need every single person to take part in solving the crime? Was anyone overlooked or did anyone dominate the process? How did this affect your group’s success?
What steps can be taken to make sure everyone on your team is included when working toward a certain goal?
What happened when someone forgot a clue or made an incorrect connection between clues? How did your group communicate and react in this situation?
At what point did the task or problem start to become clear? How?
Were there any moments when you wanted to cheat, eg by passing around the clues, laying them out in order, or walking around to see other people’s clues? Why did you or didn’t you do this?
If this had been an important real-life situation, how well would the team have done? Explain.
How might this activity teach us a lesson about solving problems and making decisions?