Who Done It? Mystery Genre Kick-Off

It's nice to move on from Nonfiction. That unit seemed to dragggggg. Maybe because it was both before and after winter break that we worked on it. Anywho, I was excited to start our next unit: mystery genre book clubs! Here's a peek into our first 2 weeks!


For this fictional unit, we bring out all the engagement strategies we know! We launch with a real life classroom mystery that lasts the whole day. We do book clubs. We do exciting read alouds. We watch mystery movies. It's a great unit before we transition into test prep.


We started with a real life mystery. I didn't take pictures really because it was a crazy day! Not only was it the day of my last formal observation of the year, but I had to perfectly choreograph all the suspects and clues so that I could teach into the mystery vocab. Here's a little run down on our mystery:


Due to severe allergies, snack is provided each day for students. A favorite is puff corn. Knowing this, I brought some and told them that was our snack that day. Pumped! Little did they know that it was going to go missing. I had my principal in on it, who was going to be in the room anyways for my last observation. She even was sneezing and coughing on purpose to make sure that students knew she was there so they would suspect her. I had the music teacher have some on her desk for when they went there for music. I hoped at least one observant kid would notice... and they did. I had our instructional coach walk in with some as her 'snack' to give me something. We had pretend announcements over the intercom, generated questions to ask our suspects, nonchalantly walked around the school looking for clues, called suspects, the whole 9 yards! I had kids who literally couldn't contain themselves with the excitement. We had indoor recess that day to the cold and all of them wanted to write down notes on this case so they made their own graphic organizer and whenever we learned something new, they wrote it down. All the while, I was plugging in mystery genre vocabulary. To quote one student, "It was the best day of my entire life." (Ok- maybe not MY life... but for an 8 year old, perhaps this isn't too far from the truth.)

The next day, we did this matching activity for the vocabulary we learned the day prior. We used my teammates awesome mystery pack. It's in our binder to reference if we forget.


I also had to be gone one day due to a committee meeting. So students got to watch a movie! But not just any movie, a Scooby Doo movie to reinforce vocabulary, story structure, and inferring.


We also promoted engagement by doing mystery book clubs. We learned how to prepare and what roles we can play when we meet. It's going pretty good. Our wonky schedule with testing is making it difficult to keep track of things, but we're trying. It'll look different these next two weeks because I loose my coteacher to ACCESS testing. Boo. We finally were getting into a good rhythm.


We've talked about story structure quite a bit to help us review fiction since we've been out of it for what seems months. We used this story arc during our fiction unit:


I then showed them this story arc:


We compared the two and why they are similar (mystery is typically fiction so it has the same elements) and how they are different (mystery typically escalates in spurts due to clues and suspects, reaching a very exciting parts and then wrapping up quickly). This was a nice refresher and helped them to know what to look for.

To wrap up our first bend, we created this chart inspired by my other teammate! I loved his thinking with organizing this chart. We've been all about the trees this year as a visual for our learning. Not sure of our fascination with it, but it just works for so much! And so we continue with it.


We reviewed that we have to be rooted in the text by rereading, reading closely, and stopping and jotting. We should be noticing the different characters and what kind of people they are as well as the clues (evidence) the author is giving us about the mystery. Lastly, we talked about the type of thinking we do with mysteries: questioning, inferring, and predicting. I had all the post-its off the chart and we sorted them together. Then, they talked about which part of the tree they wanted to focus more on in the second bend of our work. I loved how most students knew exactly where they needed to grow!

We are onto the next bend in this mystery genre. I wonder if we will run into any red herrings??

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Convince Me: The Start to our Persuasive Writing Unit


This is probably my favorite writing unit. I've found it very easy to scaffold and build, which is super important for my EL cluster (and really- most of my students). It's engaging and it shows how writing can impact others. We've been working on it for about a week now and we are slowly learning the art to persuasion. This is a work in progress- some charts aren't complete yet, graphic organizers only half-filled, but by the end of the week (hopefully- I'm home sick) we should be ready to write our first draft!


I wrote my own persuasive piece in a morning message one day to launch our new unit. In addition to that, we watched a few Kid President videos. I literally had kids say out loud, "I want to make today awesome!" We talked how Kid President made his message so believable to them and that we would be doing the same thing as him: Trying to make the world better through persuasive writing- starting right at our school.


I wanted to do an On Demand to see what they would bring without any of my teaching. I told them to think of a problem here at school and write a persuasive (opinion) speech. This gave me great insight into what the previous grades focused on and it allowed me to give some feedback to my students. I wrote down a glowing moment (lightbulb) and a growing moment (seedling) to tell them what to keep doing and what a goal might be.
We then started this chart. We'll continue to add to it as we learn about the structure of a persuasive speech. The top part as to just define it and state the reasons as to why write this type of writing. They then began to brainstorm problems in our school that they could image solutions for. We used my teammates AWESOME resource for our planning purposes. 

I've used the same student's work throughout this post so you can see the different steps we took. I'm really proud of this kiddo, as he is one of my ELs who have found a love for writing this year.


After we brainstormed and selected a problem to solve, we stated our solution in the form of an opinion. Our curriculum has them call it a thesis statement. We did some work around bold and brave vs. wishy-washy statements and they had their opinion ready to support!


We started talking about audience right away so that when we start thinking of examples and reasons, they are tied to our audience. We did this activity that I made up last year to get them thinking about talking to their audience throughout their speech (which is exactly what Kid President does too).  We practiced with the cards from my updated pack Convince Me that includes this hand out and the cards! They had to talk to the audience listed on the card and convince them of the opinion also on the card by thinking how their audience might react and what they might think. Check it out!

I put this item on sale for the next 10 people to purchase!

Now, it was time to come up with reasons. And this was the part they always struggle with. Their reasons are usually weak and they don't think about their audience at all. I found an excellent post from Teresa at Confessions of a Teaching Junkie and used most of it in my room this year and it worked like a charm. You should definitely check out her original post.

We defined the word "valid" with a shade of meaning visual. I found the book Teresa recommended on Youtube since I didn't have a copy. As the book was being read, I jotted down the different reasons the boy gave to his mom as to why he should have a pet iguana, while the students enjoyed and listened.
Sorry for the poor quality- these were taken on my phone up on the SMARTboard


We then thought about the audience, which was his mom, and thought which reasons would be most convincing to a mom. As long as they could defend it (defensible) and it made sense (logical) we considered it valid. We slowly erased the reasons until we had what we thought were the 3 strongest reasons. I didn't necessarily think that the iguana being eaten by another animal was a valid reason, but two kiddos had rather convincing statements, so as a class, we kept it. 

We then tried it with my reasons I jotted down the previous day for my "model" persuasive speech. They helped me determine which ones were most valid.


Then, it was their turn and I saw a lot of students going back to the reasons they jotted down originally and adding more, crossing out invalid reasons and picking their top 3. 


Once we picked 3, we added them to our planning page, my free OREO page from my store.

With this kiddo (and many others) we'll go back to our reasons and write them as strong, full sentences as opposed to ... because... so... etc. type of statements during our revision stage. But, his reasons are pretty valid in my eyes!

What's next for us?
  • Come up with strong examples
  • Add in transitional phrases to flow from one reason to the next
  • Add a hook involving a question or anecdote before we state our problem and solution (opinion)
  • Add in a conclusion to call our audience towards action
  • Find places to "talk" to our audience
My hope is to get these drafted, revised, and editing and then actually record these speeches into mini-videos so we can send them to our target audience and get their reactions. Time will tell if we can accomplish all of that!

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