ESL Crime Vocabulary & Activities

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

ESL students may not be familiar with words like 'hijacking,' 'kidnapping,' and 'theft.' This lesson introduces such terms and gives you some practical exercises your students can do to learn crime vocabulary.

Mastering Crime Vocab

Crime can be a very interesting subject for students to study. To get your ESL students interested, introduce crime vocabulary with a story. For instance, you might tell your students the details of a crime you saw firsthand, saw on television, or read about in the news.

Once the class is excited about the topic, introduce a list of vocabulary terms. Students can master the pronunciation through class drills (you say, they repeat) and individual drills (you say, one student repeats). To teach definitions, you might elicit answers from students by asking them what each crime term means. When the class defines vocab terms themselves, the definition is often more likely to stick.

Vocab List

Below is a list of crime words ideal for ESL students (accompanied by their definitions), followed by some ideas for basic and content-based activities for reinforcing the new material.

  • Hijacking: To use force to take control of a plane, train, ship, etc.
  • Kidnapping: To take a person away and keep them in a place against their will, sometimes demanding money in exchange for the person's release
  • Smuggling: To bring illegal goods (like drugs) to a country or to bring goods without paying taxes
  • Shoplifting: To steal goods in a store while acting like shopping
  • Pickpocketing: To steal from someone's pocket in a quiet way so they don't realize it
  • Mugging: To take something from a person by force
  • Burglary: When someone enters a building to steal goods
  • Theft: When someone steals from another
  • Arson: The action of setting a fire with malicious intentions
  • Rape: When someone sexually attacks another person
  • Murder: The act of killing someone
  • Fraud: Cheating or lying to someone to get money out of them

Activities to Check for Understanding

Now, let's look at activities your students can engage in to remember this vocabulary. Here, we have some basic activities to check for comprehension of crime vocab definitions.

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