Whodunnit? Planning A Mystery UoS

MysteryThis is a fun UoS – children enjoy it and it has a lot to offer.  There are many reasons to reread; to find clues, to examine characters and their motivations, and to clarify summative predictions.  Jill and I have been having ongoing discussions for how this UoS could go.  Some questions we were hashing out were:

Q) Do we want to align the reading (mystery) unit with the writing (opinion) unit?

A)  Yes we do want to and this is how we are going to do it.  Opinion writing is a genre that we have interwoven throughout other units of study.  As students are studying characters, series, informational topics, biographies and authors they are generating opinions which they debate, advertise and write about.  In this UoS we want to challenge the students and take it up a notch.  We are going to do this as students take on both sides of an opinion.  Students will write opinion pieces about suspects from their mystery.  First they will try to persuade others that the suspect in guilty and next they will write an opposing piece that will try to persuade others that the suspect is innocent.  The focus of this activity will be to show students that in opinion writing word choice is so important , how what is not said can have huge impacts, and the importance of knowing what your position is when presenting your information.  The same situation can be portrayed very differently depending on what you focus on.

Q) How do we want to culminate the UoS celebration into a final project that will be engaging to children?  Our big work this year  has been to focus on our celebrations to be the driver of agency.  Students are working along a gradual release of responsibility that eventually leads to independence.  The most striking observation so far is that  they are totally immersed in their own work. This work has to amount to something – and that happens in the celebration.

A)  This is how we see the celebration going:

  • Each group sets up a crime scene with tape and all.  The crime scene includes the clues needed to solve the mystery.
  • The question (crime) is posted near the crime scene so other students know what they need to solve.
  • The suspect cards (innocent and guilty) are displayed on a table near the crime scene.
  • Students are given time to be detectives as they examine the crime scene, clues and get to know the suspects
  • Students choose solutions to the crime which are based on how well the group has made their case
  • Suspect opinion cards are evaluated to see which were the most powerful and chosen most often

This is a rough sketch of what we are imagining this UoS might look like.  We will continue to collaborate and have conversations with our students and colleagues to inform the planning.  Tonight on our #g2great chat, we discussed engagement and we believe that in order to have engagement we need to present our students with lessons  that challenge their thinking but at the same time are fun.  We are doing our best to think like a kid and find ways to motivate them to want to learn.

This is only the beginning of our process- stay tuned for more.  If you would like to get a feel for what the celebration might be like, take a look at this link from Crashbox an HBO series that has the same feel for what we are trying to convey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcaFLtlsmH4

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