A few months ago my children played a joke on me. They told me that they had developed a method for communicating telepathically with one another. They said that it was black magic. I didn’t believe it for a moment but when my daughter insisted, I played along. She had her brother stand outside the room. I pointed to an object in the room that we were in. Her brother joined us. She was able to get him to positively identify the object that I had pointed. All she did was to ask him if it was this object with that. After a few times she revealed her secret. I have adapted it to use in the classroom. And I want to tell you how I do that.

First, read these instructions for how the game Black Magic is played. Then come back here and see how I adapted it.

I had students sit in a circle. I have big classes but I no longer have desks so transitioning to a circle takes about 45 seconds. I wrote Profe puede comunicar con la telepatía on the board.

I hammed it up a little bit and made sure that my students knew they were in for something special. You may want to get a volunteer ahead of time, but I chose one in the moment. I asked a potential volunteer to close their eyes and try to communicate with me telepathically. I really hammed it up here, telling the class that the communication was good, but not super great. I told the class that I needed to strengthen the telepathic communication between my volunteer and me so we stepped out into the hallway for just a moment. When we did, I explained how the trick works (per the instructions linked above).

In some classes I chose a student I knew I could trust to keep the secret. But in other classes I chose a student with whom my relationship was weaker. Being in on the secret together would create a special bond between us that I hoped would strengthen our relationship.

I wrote on the board the following phrases:

Estoy pensando en una cosa especial. / I’m thinking of a special thing.

¿Tú sabes lo que es? / Do you know what it is?

Será / Could it be

My class has already been exposed to a variety of verbs in the present progressive, as well as to the verb piensa (thinks) so bridging to estoy pensando was easy.

By the same token, ¿Tú sabes lo que es? was clearly comprehensible. Even so, each time I brought my volunteer in, I went through both of those sentences ritualistically. Imagine the ritualistic introduction a fortune teller might go through before telling a fortune.

I coached my student volunteer to reply with No lo es or Sí, lo es. I’m a firm believer in incorporating direct and indirect object pronouns in to communicative situations without necessarily defining them conceptually.

The game worked like a charm and we got about 20-25 minutes of fun, focused CI in each class.

One thing surprised me after a couple of rounds. My students wanted to guess our method. They assumed it had to do with pointing, eye contact, voice inflection, etc. So, they made me face away from my student volunteer, put my hands in my pockets, etc. We were still able to pull it off. But in between rounds several of my students were able to articulate their guesses of how we were making it work. They said things like, Tú señalas con dos dedos. Or, Primero tú caminas a la cosa.

There was one boy who did guess the trick. So this will be a once per school year type of activity, but it’s a good one and I encourage you to give it a try!

Black Magic
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3 thoughts on “Black Magic

  • March 24, 2016 at 3:11 pm


    Sounds great! But how does the “secret” work? I don’t understand this part:

    All she did was to ask him if it was this object with that.

    Perhaps it is my jet-lagged addled brain as I sit in the airport in Las Vegas with slot machines sounding all around me, but I don’t follow.

    • March 24, 2016 at 6:30 pm

      Hi Dave, so, my student volunteer or assistant steps out of the classroom. Students inside the classroom choose an object that is visible. My students chose anything from posters on the wall to the American flag to a broken pencil on the floor. We call the assistant back into the room. She is not aware what object has been identified. I say to the assistant, I’m thinking of a specific thing do you know what it is? She says, yes I do. I ask is it the poster? And I choose different objects around the room. When I point to something and ask if it is that object and the object is black, the assistant knows that the next object I point to regardless of what it is, is the object that the class selected. Does that make more sense?

  • March 28, 2016 at 6:51 am

    Cool. This is one of games we played when I went to camp as a little girl. I think I’ll save this for either state testing week when a few kids are pulled out of the class for tests or close to the end of the year when the wiggles set in.
    Thanks for sharing this and the time you commit to your blog to help and inspire others. 🙂

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