Wednesday, May 28, 2014

End of Student Teaching and the Mystery Project

Andrew and me on our honeymoon to Kaua`i
It's been a month since the end of my student teaching, and what a month it has been!! Aside from the obvious chaos that surrounds the week before spring break and finishing up all of my student teaching projects, there was applying for and receiving my credential in Pennsylvania, applying to transfer that credential to both New York and Connecticut (and WHAT a headache that has been), finally taking our honeymoon, as well as our cross country move to New York, and now applying to jobs all over the New York City- Westchester -Connecticut area- Whew! I have barely had time to come up for air, let alone blog. So the next few posts will be playing catch up with all the great projects that I missed telling you about.

Finished book report projects
This particular project is one that I am really proud of. I had seen Amy Lemon's Mystery product all over her blog as well as Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers, but I didn't do anything other than ogle it until I found out that David Adler, the author of the Cam Jansen series, was coming to our school. It was an incredible opportunity to have an author come and speak, and I was expecting it to be good, but I was seriously blown away. He took the kids through his writing process and was witty, engaging, and the kids LOVED him. I talked it over with Ms. G afterward and showed her Amy Lemon's Mystery pack, and she gave me the green light to go ahead and create a mystery unit that tied everything together.

Each child's Case File
I used some of the graphics and pages in the packet, but I ended up creating my own as well so that it worked with my unit. I split the class into groups by reading level and chose Young Cam Jansen, Cam Jansen and Jigsaw Jones books for each group. I really wanted to focus on collaboration and discussion skills, and wanted the exploration of ideas to be really student driven. Each student got a "Case File" packet with a case journal, reading detective badge they could decorate, book, as well as some information sheets. Each group got a "Investigator File" with case journals for each role.

Investigator File

There were four job roles- Chief Investigator, Sketch Artist, Clue Reporter, and Suspect Reporter.  I introduced one role a day by first having a class discussion on what the job sounded like. Then I did a read aloud and modeled the job before having the students all practice it on their own. The Sketch Artist drew a picture of a small moment from the reading and included a caption. The Clue Reporter wrote down any clues or details that helped the story make sense that day. The Suspect Reporter wrote down details about all the different characters and/or suspects and focused on things that made that character unique. Chief Investigator had two jobs; the first was to write a summary of the reading that day and the second was to be the discussion leader for their group and report to the class. We practiced this role a lot- how to be a good group leader, what kinds of questions to ask, etc. I was really impressed with how well the kids did with the group work, and I credit the fact that I took the time to explicitly teach discussion and good leader behavior.

Daily set up including question of the day
Each day, we started with a question of the day and a short discussion of what the question meant. Questions like "Look at the cover and read the first two pages. What do you think the mystery is? Then finish the chapter. Has your prediction changed?" or "What is one great moment of suspense that you read today? What made it a good suspenseful moment?" Groups then read for fifteen minutes, which turned out to be a chapter or two. Then each student would write down their answer to the question in their individual case file. Each day, each group member would take a different role and after they would write in their own case journal, they would write in their Investigator Journal. Then the groups would discuss their answers to the question of the day. Lastly, we would come together as a group and each Chief Investigator would present to the class. It sounds much more complicated than it was!
Hard at work on their poster
More great teamwork!
When each group finished their books, they put together a poster for a book report to present to the class. They each chose a piece of the poster to write, and had to get their writing edited by a teammate before getting it checked over. Didn't they do a great job?!

A sample of a middle level group

My highest group's poster
My lowest group- the typed section was a modification for a student
who needed a little extra help, so he was able to orally dictate his summary as I typed.
Ok, so now that I have probably bored you to death with the procedural details, let me tell you how it went. The kids LOVED it. Every day they asked if we were doing Mysteries today, and I was just blown away with how well they did with the group work and discussion, and their daily work went really well. The questions of the day were really tough, but the kiddos did some incredible critical and creative thinking. We hit on so many Common Core standards, and they practiced so many skills while having a great time! The grouping worked really well too- the low groups were all students in RTI, and I was expecting them to struggle a bit, but they actually did the best with the group work! The higher level groups took the questions above and beyond and wrote scripts out for their presentations. I filmed the presentations and put together a little movie, and the kids were pumped to watch themselves.

This was a really fun project and I'm so glad it turned out so well!

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