Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mystery Unit

Third grade was supposed to teach this unit back in January, but at that time we did not have enough books at a variety of levels for our students to read. In order for a balanced literacy framework to be successful you definitely need to have the appropriate materials. So we switched it to March. I placed my leveled mysteries on the top of the classroom library shelves for easy access by my readers. They were very excited about all of the new books (I did not have these in the library prior to this unit).


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:

 
They selected a mystery book at their level and as they read they checked off the parts of the mystery that they came across in the book. They also had to reference the text by writing the page number next to the element on the checklist. Students continued their practice of jotting while reading so they could have meaningful discussions with peers and conferences with me.



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! 


 

12 comments:

  1. Just love your ideas for this unit! I am starting a Mystery Unit tomorrow using all of your ideas. However, • Trenton Public Schools Readers Think and Talk in Genre-Based Book Clubs: Mysteries (has performance assessments p. 5, rubric p. 6, chart ideas pp. 9, 11, 15, minilessons pp. 10, 13, 14) is no longer available on line. Do you have those posted any other place? Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patti, I have the file saved. I could email it to you.

      Delete
    2. Here is the link to the file in my Google Docs

      https://drive.google.com/a/cms.k12.nc.us/file/d/0Bzx_ywYgHcZWM3o1NEhMVER5d2s/edit?usp=sharing

      Delete
  2. would you be able to email it to me as well? Also, I am having trouble finding the book series you mention...any suggestions?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here is the link to the file in my Google Docs

      https://drive.google.com/a/cms.k12.nc.us/file/d/0Bzx_ywYgHcZWM3o1NEhMVER5d2s/edit?usp=sharing

      Delete
  3. The Woodland Mysteries can be ordered online I think. They are Wright Group books. If you post your email I will send you the files. Then I will delete your email post for you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello! I'm wondering if you could also email me the copy from the Trenton school? Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will post a Google doc link tomorrow.

      Delete
    2. I'm sorry this is late! How did 10 days go by?! Here is the link to my Google Doc
      https://drive.google.com/a/cms.k12.nc.us/file/d/0Bzx_ywYgHcZWM3o1NEhMVER5d2s/edit?usp=sharing

      Delete
  5. Hi,
    This is such a great mystery unit!! Would it be possible to get access to the google doc file that you have? I would love to incorporate these resources into our upcoming unit.

    Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. If you click on the link in the comment above I will add you to my Google Docs to access the document.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi, I'm a third grade teacher about to start this unit. when I tried to look at your Google Docs link it said I need permission, so you will probably get a request from me soon. My user name is kedrowss

    ReplyDelete