Last year we set the stage to assess our students’ understanding of genres using the Genre Mystery Mix-Up. This year, to build excitement as we learned about the different genres, we put the kids through Detective Academy, where they learned the skills and knowledge about genre they would need for the mystery mix-up at the end of the unit. Here is a quick overview of what we did. Everything you will need to complete this, and the mix-up, in your own classroom can be found here: Genre Mix-Up Mystery and Detective Academy.
Set The Stage
Much like many of my other room transformations, I believe the magic happens when you catch kids off guard. This was only the second week of school, but to set the stage for this lesson, I quickly set up a crime scene in my classroom during recess, turned on some mystery music and then picked the kids up in my detective outfit. Their excitement was contagious as they entered the building and they were instantly hooked from the second they walked into the classroom. I also had an envelope hanging from the ceiling that said- DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 10:05. Just this simple hook had them guessing what was going to happen from the start of the day. Inside were their Detective Academy handbooks, which were quickly snatched up when a student finally got the envelope down and opened it.
After learning the Detective Anthem (included in the resource) the Agents in Training were given their official badges (included) and sent out to work on their first two cases.
Solving The Cases
In order to introduce and review the different genres, I gathered a variety of objects that represented each genre. Each day, I would label the objects with a case number (Ex. all of the fantasy objects said Case 1), and then I would hide the objects for two cases around the classroom. We turned off the lights, used crime scene tape, mystery music and black lights to make it feel like they were solving a real case. They would search the room for the different objects and then record them in their Detective Academy Handbooks under the correct case.
After they had found all the objects, they had to make inferences as to how all the different objects in a case were related. After giving the kids some time to solve the cases themselves, we brought all the objects to the front of the class, made sure everyone had written down all the clues, discussed our inferences, determined the genre, wrote an explanation for the genre and then thought of books that fit that genre. (There is a place to do all of this in the Detective Academy Handbook)
Tying It All Together
As mentioned before, each day we solved two different cases in order to the cover the genres that we were addressing. This can be easily adapted to any genres you would like, as the resource is fairly generic when it comes to what the cases represent. Each day as we added more genres and more examples, we added to our knowledge toolkit that would help them with the mystery mix-up at the end of the unit.
As an extra bit of encouragement and informal assessment, I would collect their handbooks and grade them at the end of each day. I then made a “Top Recruit” slide where I listed the kids who had completed their work correctly. This little touch created some positive competition that then had kids working hard all week on the different cases.
After the four days of Detective Academy we had a little graduation ceremony where I made them official Agents. I pretended to wrap up the unit on that day (even though they all wanted more) in order to surprise them the next day with the Mystery Mix-Up where their skills would be put to the test. You can read more about what we did for that here: Genre Mystery Mix-Up, but the resources for that book scavenger hunt are all included in the resource as well. Resource: Genre Mystery Mix-Up and Detective Academy.
We had a blast with this lesson and the kids still talk about this experience and can clearly define the different genres. Room transformations and engaging lessons don’t have to be intimidating. Try it out!
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