Genre Mix-Up Mystery

   If you’re looking for an engaging and rigorous way to check your students’ understanding of genre, you’ve come to the right place! I created the Genre Mix-Up Mystery as a fun way to check my students' understanding of genre. I once again set the stage to engage and watched them have fun learning!


   This activity is a great follow up to a study of genres or a quick brush up to review. This format can be used with any level because you will be choosing the books that students will be investigating and classifying. Anything from picture books to chapter books works! 

   At my school, we used this as a culminating activity and as an informal assessment of their knowledge they had gained through our genre study. We used my teammate's genre study, which can be found in her Teachers Pay Teacher store: Miss Brandt- Elementary Escapades.

     Set Up:

   To begin, I gathered approximately 4-6 books of each genre that we had studied. We had a variety of levels in each group so student could select a book at their level. I then made copies of the Genre Mix-Up Mystery booklets for students, which can be found here for FREE! On the inside of the booklet you will find  “Detective Evidence Based Terms” sentence frames that the students used for quick reference to be sure they were not only naming the genre, but providing evidence to support their answer as well. 

     I then posted the clues around the school and left a pile of books (all of the same genre) at each clue. At every clue, I once again set the stage and left the books thrown around with yellow caution tape all over the area. If you're looking for caution tape, click here

    In my classroom, I went a step further and really tried to play up the crime scene. I threw the books around the floor, used the caution tape to barricade off the library area, and even turned off the lights and used black lights to make it look as if we were searching for evidence. You can put out hats for students and even little magnifying glasses so that they can become detectives and fully immerse themselves in the experience. 

The Main Event: 

     After my room had been turned into a crime scene, I grabbed an outfit that made me look like a detective (a black hat and a black jacket) and got ready for the kids! I turned on mystery music from YouTube, turned off the lights and sat at my desk with my back toward the students when they walked. I then let the excitement build! It was so much fun to hear them come in and have no idea what was going on, but start looking around and trying to figure out what we were doing. 

     Once the students were in the classroom, I let them know that while they were gone someone came in and messed up all the books in our classroom library. It was up to them, the detectives in our class, to solve the mystery! They had to follow the clues around the school and identify the genres of books that the culprit had left at each crime scene. For each correct genre they identified, I gave them a letter. They then had to unscramble the letters to determine who the culprit was. Next to each clue number students had to write a complete sentence using the “Evidence Based Terms” to identify the genre. 

Example of student packet

Example of student packet

      For those students that finished early, I put out a variety of books from all different genres on the floor and desks (as part of the original crime scene) and let them sort them back into correct genres for our library.

     We had a great time and really caused a buzz around the school. The students were having so much fun and were so determined to figure out the mastery, that they didn't even realize they were reading book summaries and writing. 

    If you're interested in trying this in your own classroom, please check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store: Mrs Dessert- Sweetest Teacher for a free download. Be sure to click on the star and follow my store for all the latest freebies and resources to keep your students engaged and having fun while they are learning! 

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Shark Tank Junior

   How do you get kids excited about learning? Give them something to be excited about!

   This idea has been in the works for a few years, and it all started when my entrepreneur brother, owner of Portland Gear, lived with me. During his time with me we spent endless hours on the couch listening to his business ideas, talking about his business plan, and watching Shark Tank. We would be mesmerized by the inventions the entrepreneurs would pitch to the Sharks and I’d find myself saying, “Why didn’t I think of that?” With that question in mind, I started thinking about the most creative people I knew. Well that’s easy, KIDS!

   In my quest to make learning fun and meaningful for my students, I decided I had to find a way to bring this to life in my classroom. Enter the idea: Shark Tank Jr. To make this project rigorous and aligned with Common Core, I decided we would naturally link this to persuasive writing and speaking.

  Luckily right around the time this idea came to me, it happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, the largest marketing day on television. To kick off the idea of Shark Tank Jr, I first introduced the idea of marketing with lessons on ethos, pathos, and logos, followed by an introduction of popular marketing strategies. You can find a FREEBIE in my store here. After teaching the kids these, we then watched a few examples of Super Bowl commercials from the most recent game. We had small group and whole group discussions about the marketing and got kids thinking about ways advertisers get their products noticed.

   Following our lessons and discussion, we then created songs about ethos, pathos, and logos in small groups. To make things a little more engaging, we then had a Lipsync Battle between groups with the final four performing in front of judges such as the principal and counselor. The kids loved it and can still sing their songs to do this day, which means the kids retained the information.

   After introducing marketing strategies, the idea of Shark Tank Jr. was introduced. I told the students they would be coming up with an idea or product that they would then present to a panel of judges in the most persuasive way possible. We had my brother come in and present about his very successful business and how he came up with the idea and markets his products. The kids thought he was just about the coolest person ever and this really set the stage for the project. The kids were SOLD!

   We used the Shark Tank Jr editable Google Slides to help the students plan out their products and presentations. Through this project, and using this product, students will brainstorm ideas, pick an idea, decide on marketing strategies, create a logo, use math to determine the worth of their company, percentage of their company they are willing to give up for an investment and how much money they are seeking, and then write a speech. The students were so invested in the activity that they spent about three weeks working on their projects to prepare for the big event.

The Big Event

   My teammate and I are all about creating engaging and meaningful experiences for our students, so when it came time to present our projects we went all out. We contacted local business owners, middle school and high school teachers, parents, and community members to be our Sharks. We transformed our stage into the “Shark Tank” by renting a black backdrop, blacking out the stairs leading to the stage and using black lights to make the tunnel into the tank. We set up official Shark chairs and played the Shark Tank themed music as the kids entered the tank and received deals. The stage was set, so when the big day came the kids were pumped.

Even an old rundown stage can be turned into something special with some decorations and the right music! 

Even an old rundown stage can be turned into something special with some decorations and the right music! 

   The kids were absolutely 100% invested in their projects and were so excited to present. Many of them dressed up, created giant logos, and even made real working prototypes (which was not a requirement). The Sharks listened to their presentations and then asked them a variety of questions which put the kids on the spot and had them do a little impromptu speaking as well. After questioning, the Sharks competed to make deals with the students. The smiles on their faces were PRICELESS! Once a deal was made, the Shark Tank music played and an extra-large check was written! Even though it wasn’t real money, the kids felt as if it was.

Spotlight on, models for their product, the Sharks listening intently....Lights, Camera, Action! 

Spotlight on, models for their product, the Sharks listening intently....Lights, Camera, Action! 

    It’s been a few months since the project, and the kids still refer to this experience as one of their favorite things we did this year. One student had very inconsistent attendance, but was there every day we were working on this project. Afterward he wrote in his yearbook memory that, “Shark Tank changed my school life!” (He’s been at school every day since!)

    Be sure to check this product out in my store here! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need any help implementing this in your classroom. 

Click on the picture to check out this resource in my store!

Click on the picture to check out this resource in my store!

S.T.E.A.M. Themed Breakout

YOUR MISSION, IF YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT: Use the clues and supplies given to you to successfully break out of the locked boxes using teamwork and engineering!

  This breakout activity is a fun and engaging way to get both students and parents working together to solve riddles, clues, and puzzles, to successfully break out of the locked boxes. Keep reading for a FREEBIE of the entire breakout for you to use!

 Currently, our school is a designated STEAM school. This means that as a staff, we strive to incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics into our lessons to encourage the study of those fields, as well as engaging all learners and learning styles in their learning. 

  Each year our school holds a STEAM Night, where students can bring their families to school to experience a snapshot of what we have been doing throughout the year. This year my amazing teammate, @elementaryescapades (Instagram), put on a fabulous STEAM Night in which families had passports, and traveled to different grade levels to participate in STEAM activities together. They were also able to check out displays about different STEAM related careers, experience live demonstrations of technology in use and cooking demonstrations, and meet community members who have jobs in these fields. This is a great opportunity for parents to not just come and “see” what is being done in the classroom, but actually experience it firsthand.

  In sixth grade we have been experimenting with using breakout boxes in our classes. We currently own a BreakoutEDU kit, but found that it can be quite expensive to buy enough of those kits to complete breakouts with classes of thirty. Instead, we gathered all the things that come in a kit and made our own homemade version. We were able to purchase toolboxes that have a spot for a lock as well as padlocks with keys at the Dollar Tree. We then ordered invisible ink pens, keychain black lights, directional locks, and word locks from Amazon. Then, for a fraction of the price, we had enough kits to run multiple breakouts at once!

   For our class’ STEAM Night activity, I put together a STEAM themed breakout activity for the kids and families to participate in together. I had five different sets going at once, so small groups were able to come in and start whenever they made it to my room. I could also easily refill and reset the boxes when a group was done for the next group. 

   Parents and students had a great time working on this activity together, and I saw great perseverance from all teams. It was great to see the bonding taking place between families while completing the tasks and the big smiles stretching across their faces as they broke out. 

   We even had signs and certificates to use to pose for pictures after. If your school has a Twitter or Instagram account, this a great thing to use to have parents post pictures and tag the school to tell your school’s story. 

   If you are interested in the breakout I created, I have posted it in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Mrs. Dessert, as a freebie for you to use! All the directions for where to buy the materials, set up the breakout, and celebrate at the end are included. This activity is not just for STEAM Nights, but could also be used in your classroom as a team bonding activity at any point in the year. Although the theme is based around STEAM, there is no specific knowledge set needed to enjoy this breakout. So check it out here