I created my Focus Board which lays out the unit Common Core Standards, skills, strategies, essential questions, and vocabulary.
I created a menu to share with my team which highlights the read aloud, materials, anchor charts, resources, and technology for the unit.
When planning this unit, the first place I started was my Teachers College Reading and Writing Project/Lucy Calkins A Curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop. I read through this plan and highlighted all of my teaching points and goals for the unit. Then I created my anchor charts (which can be seen in my previous post, Mystery Unit Anchor Charts).
I was searching online to see what other schools had done for their mystery units and I came across a document by Trenton Public Schools. It was the draft of a unit titled Readers Think and Talk Across Genre-Based Book Clubs: Mysteries. It has some very useful activities linked to the CCSS and is also aligned to the Teachers College Reading Workshop. The mini lesson teaching points are all listed for the unit.
We began the unit by spending time on content-specific vocabulary. Scholastic (click for link) provided a detective's dictionary that had easily-understood definitions. Students played matching games, did vocab activities on the Smart Board, and cracked a code using definitions. They designed flap books to illustrate the words and use them in sentences.
In order to differentiate the vocab matching activities, some students played the game like Memory with the cards face down, but others left the cards face up and then matched words and definitions.
www.camjansen.com provides numerous resources focused on mysteries. There is a link that lists the themes found in the Cam Jansen books and a reading by the author, but it also has activities about mysteries in general under the link Super Sleuth Squad Headquarters.
This was a Crack the Code vocab activity from that website. I differentiated it by giving my lower readers a matching activity that contained what I thought were content words they should learn.
After I preloaded the vocab I created an aura of suspense in class when I presented each student with a plain gold envelope. I was very secretive about it and told each student that they were now an official third grade detective. During the unit, I referred to them as detectives, not readers, during our mid-workshop teaching point. Each time I addressed them, I called them detectives. They loved this! They were very serious about their detective files. They decorated them and were not allowed to look in the file unless I told them to do so and I told them exactly which paper to take out.
The first paper to come out of the detective file was a Scooby Doo recording sheet. It explained to students that by watching a television show, we would be creating a touchstone which would allow us to refer back to this story throughout the unit to make connections, compare, and contrast themes and ideas. There are many episodes of Scooby Doo on You Tube. My inclusion block watched A Pup Named Scooby Doo episodes because they were shorter and the characters were children.
The next paper they used in their Detective File was:
During minilessons, students would stop and jot information about characters and clues on their suspect lists and clues clipboard. They would also reference the text on these recording papers.
I used the Detective Case Report as an assessment piece. Students completed this form with information from our read aloud book.
My read aloud was from the Woodland Mystery series. This is a series of books from the Wright Group that are written to encourage students to increase stamina and be successful with chapter books. These books are written with about 1000 base words and the words that rhyme with them. There are larger margins, 3 illustrations per chapter, fewer lines per page, limited use of contractions.
Of course I marked up my read aloud book with jottings ahead of time. I addressed envisioning, character traits, life lessons, plot development, and prosody.
I was able to integrate a little math into our mystery unit with this cool little mystery activity from Scholastic! Students had to use clues to eliminate suspects and solve a mystery using elapsed time.
My students loved this unit because they said it was suspenseful and exciting! They increased their volume and stamina which were two of the goals of the unit. I cannot wait to add to this unit for next year...I think we need mustaches and hats!