Maestra’s Many Mutations of Mafia

Can you tell I like alliteration? I took the leap this year and decided to try Mafia. If you are not sure of what it is or how to play it, please read Martina’s blog here, as she gives a fabulous description of how it is played in a Language classroom. I had watched a few YouTube videos of teachers playing it with their classes but what finally made me want to try the game was reading Erica Peplinski’s blog on Bad Unicorn (which is the Elementary version of Mafia that she created). At one point in her blog, Erica talks about incorporating what you KNOW about the student in the narration…. I was sold…. I immediately tried it with all of my classes the next day, and of  course it was their favorite game EVER…. in the history of EVERDOM…. Literally….


Traditional Mafia

Here is a video of how I set up Mafia…. Our internet was down yesterday so I couldn’t play music but normally I play Twighlight Zone theme music in the back ground… You can see the kid’s discussion of what they will sing is pretty cute…

For ALL of my classes it is SO easy to have 100% engagement during Mafia. I milk every second of silence. They hang on to my every word. It is the dream environment for Comprehensible Input. I am the narrator, and I decide how each and every second of the game is told, so I can take as LONG as I want…. I can add as many details to the story as I want! Normally, I stretch the stories much longer than this one even, but you will get the idea.  You can see in this video, I know that Elliot has a dog, and he loves his dog more than anything in the world. I incorporated his dog into his demise…. Here is a video of how the rest of the game played out.

If I know that I child went to the movies the night before, I incorporate that into their mysterious murder, if a child plays basketball on the weekends in a specific place I incorporate THAT into the game, if there is a child in the class obsessed with all things avocado and llamas, of COURSE, he will be brought down by a avocado eating llama that was under the magic spell of the malicious mafia…. The best part of incorporating details of the student’s lives into the game is YES, the engagement is high, but more so that the students, piece by piece, bit by bit, are discovering who the victim was by the clues I am feeding them… It is so engaging…If you need more examples here is a SHORT mafia, this class was interrupted 3 times by tornado warnings, so we did a 10 minute mafia at the end of class. (It also happened to be Elizabethan Day for 8th graders, hence the weird dress)

Mutation 1: Nice to Meetcha Mafia

Mafia has been such a hit, I naturally decided to find ways to make it into Brain Breaks and short games in the classroom. I work closely with the theatre teacher at my school, the fabulous Meredith Long Dieth and she taught me this handshake version… It is silent and quick and easy… You stand everyone in a circle, tell them to go to sleep, and you select ONE mafia…. Tell everyone to wake up and when they do, they have to go around the room introducing themselves. I let my students use their nicknames, real names, or a different made up name. What is important is that they are making EYE-CONTACT, and shaking hands as they say “HOLA, soy______”. The Mafia shakes hands and as they are introducing themselves, they sneakily scratch the palm of the hand they are shaking. The victim, MUST NOT REACT, but continue shaking hands and introducing themselves for 10 seconds (counting silently in their head) and at the end of the ten seconds they must fall DRAMATICALLY to the ground and to their death…Students are allowed to raise their hands and shout ” yo sé” if they want to guess who the mafia is. Depending on the level of your students, you may want to require that they give evidence or proof of why they are accusing someone “Yo pienso que es ____ porque es muy sospechozo” (I think that it’s _____ because he/she is very suspicious”. If the person guesses incorrectly, they subsequently fall to their death.

Mutation 2: Winking Mafia

Another version of the one above is even faster and quieter. Students get in the same circle and close their eyes. You select one mafia, then when they open their eyes they go around and just make eye contact with everyone they walk past. The mafia, when making eye contact, must attack their victims by winking… once you’ve been “attacked” or winked at, you must NOT REACT, but count silently to 10 before dropping to your death (DRAMATICALLY), while you are silently counting to ten you must continue walking around making eye contact with everyone you pass. Two questions you may be asked: “What if I don’t want to fall or can’t because we are outside, or can’t because I am in a dress, or can’t because I am a miserable butt-head that doesn’t really want to play?” Your answer is, you then must DRAMATICALLY halt in your steps after 10 paces and throw your hands DRAMATICALLY above your head and remain there looking like a toothpick….The second question: “BUT I DON’T KNOW HOW TO WINK! WHAT DO I DO!?” Your answer: “WHAT?! then you must learn over the weekend, and for now you can blink at your victims with TWO eyes….” (you must also at this point pick a new mafia because this silly student just gave away who they were….)


Mutation 3: LOUP GAROU

We also developed another variation of Mafia after I taught about the Loup Garou. Last month I taught a mini unit on the Chupacabra, and the kids loved it so so much that I decided to teach a similar mini unit on a local, creepy Louisiana legend called the Loup Garou. (I am selling both units individually and as a set in my Teachers Pay Teachers store). This game is much more like the long lengthy Mafia and allows for lots of great input!

Have students sit in a circle, just like Mafia. You will instruct students to fall asleep. Then you will select one Loup Garou and one hunter. Touch the head of the Loup Garou ONCE to indicate they are the Loup Garou, and the hunter’s head TWICE, indicating they are selected to be the hunter.

Everyone MUST remain seated and silent, with their eyes closed until YOU the narrator, tell them to wake up.

Instruct the LOUP GAROU to wake up. The Loup Garou must silently communicate to you who they wish to attack. After they’ve done so, tell them to go back to sleep.

Next, awaken the hunter. Tell them to indicate who they want to kill (I played this with Middle School and felt it was perfectly fine. I don’t know if I would play with younger children,. You know your population and your students best! You be the judge) The hunter must indicate who they think is the Loup Garou (whoever they are choosing to kill) silently so that nobody in the class knows who the hunter is.


Touch the head of the person that was attacked by the Loup Garou. Inform the class that someone was attacked in the night and there is a new Loup Garou now. Wake everyone up and take the opportunity for intensely engaging input and tell them a story of a Loup Garou attack. Do NOT indicate WHO was attacked or who did the attacking. The person that the cazador attacked INCORRECTLY, is revealed and that person then becomes an angel and can play with their eyes open.

Now when you tell everyone to fall asleep you will have TWO Loup Garous, they must SILENTLY agree upon who to attack. The game is over when the hunter kills ALL the Loup Garous or when the Loup Garou kills the hunter.

So, there you have it! Lots of videos and lots of versions of my favorite game! 🙂

Until next time,



La Maestra Loca



  1. Do you have any tips for playing Mafia with a really BIG class? Mine are anywhere from 32-35 students. I am very excited to try this, but a little nervous about making sure 70 eyes are closed 😉

    1. I would absolutely still play…. The biggest class I’ve played with is 27. Kids (most) WANT to keep their eyes closed. Most kids have played mafia before so they know what they are getting into. Assign TWO doctors, TWO mafia and TWO police. Have them silently agree on the person they point to. Also, have kiddos who are angels help look for eye-openers. Ultimately, they want to play and have fun so they should be pretty good about closing their eyes for you. Stay positive when you give instructions and make sure they understand that eye-opening would ruin the game and the secrets! 🙂

    1. I am so glad it helped! Videos helped me the most 😉 that is why I wanted to make sure and post them with my variations. Much easier to visualize with an actual visual!:)

      1. We played the handshake version on “Juego jueves” and the kids loved it. Many laughs were had by all.

  2. My 7 year old daughter just watched all of these videos and was completely fascinated. Then I told her you would probably be teaching her Spanish this summer at camp in Brattleboro and she was sooooo excited!😃

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