Teacher’s Corner January 2019: Carmen Sandiego

Many of us teachers, especially those who were in school ourselves in the 80s and 90s, fondly remember the first time we got a computer lab or, even better, a classroom computer. Even more fondly we remember the games that our teachers would let us play. Games during school hours at that time was an extremely novel idea!


In addition to Math Blasters, Oregon Trail, or the Cluefinders, one of the most popular learning games was without a Doubt Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, a geography-based game where you tracked down the evil henchmen of V.I.L.E. to ultimately track down the criminal mastermind herself, Carmen Sandiego. For students across the country, this was their first introduction to countries big and small around the world, and a real eye-opener to the cultures of others.

With the new Netflix series that debuted earlier this month, Carmen Sandiego has seen a renewed interest from young people. Did you know there are ways to integrate this game into your language classroom?

If you are part of an exploratory or culture class, the full original game is available, free of digital rights, on archive.org (https://archive.org/details/msdos_Where_in_the_World_is_Carmen_Sandiego_Enhanced_1989) However, as the world is constantly changing, some of this information, with particular regards to the Soviet Union, is no longer valid.

Licensed under free use on Flickr
The cover for the CD-ROM version of the game, released throughout the 90s

If you are in a world language classroom, there are ways you can take the main idea of the game to integrate into your own classroom.

In my Spanish classroom, I created a Google Sites version of the game to practice recognition of cognates while also introducing culture. (https://sites.google.com/view/senorglasscarmensandiego/home) In this game, students are intended to use recognition of cognates and look up information on the Internet (in the spirit of the original game’s use of an atlas), so that not only are they practicing their reading skills, but students are also getting the opportunity to get a broad overview of cultures they will be learning about throughout the year.

Another more direct way to integrate the game into your classroom is through the teaching of prepositions. As the game relies on the teaching of where the villain went to, came from, and more, this would be a perfect opportunity to practice these frequently challenging grammar points. This would also be a good time to have students create their own Carmen Sandiego challenge. Give them a city or country, have them find facts, and then use their prepositions to create their own mini-mystery.

The Teacher’s Corner is an ongoing blog series from the National Museum of Language. If you would like to be featured as a guest writer, please contact rob@languagemuseum.org