Inside Room 37, seated on the dark blue rug with furrowed eyebrows and inquisitive expressions, Class 3 students were pondering an intriguing Lower School mystery. The incident at hand? The Case of the Missing Cupcakes!
LS Literacy Coordinator Heather Nagle recently discovered that a batch of cupcakes went missing from her office. Since Class 3 students just commenced their mystery reading unit, she knew they’d be the perfect group to investigate!
With a fingerprint key and a timeline of Ms. Nagle’s day that had been provided in prior classes, the students in Mike Robinson and Rebekah Lin’s class* were close to revealing their final suspects, having narrowed it down to Ms. Cruite, Ms. Holowach, Ms. Cossich and Ms. Bellantoni. (*Each Class 3 Homeroom participated in this activity at varying times.)
More recently, however, another clue had revealed itself. On Ms. Nagle’s desk, a confusing note had appeared, and she hoped Class 3 could help her figure it out.
This unique note, which the girls discovered is called a cipher, is a piece of writing in code to conceal or disguise its message. Mr. Robinson and Ms. Lin explained that students may see this type of message pop up in their mystery books, as detectives often have to solve ciphers.
Working in pairs at their tables, the students excitedly worked to unscramble the letter. (A code provided at the top of the paper helped students determine which letter correlated to which symbol.)
Before this special detective adventure, which was developed by Ms. Nagle and Class 3 teacher Miranda Orbach this past summer, students in each Homeroom enjoyed a mystery read-aloud to get them excited about the unit. The girls also discussed important mystery vocabulary, including ‘detective,’ ‘suspect,’ ‘intent/motivation.’ ‘culprit,’ ‘scene of the crime’ and ‘red herring.’ These definitions were helpfully displayed on a large Post-it note next to the room’s smartboard.
After this “case” is closed, students will be broken up into Book Clubs, with 4-5 girls per group. In these groups, the readers will delve into all elements of mystery. Through their discussions, students will practice essential skills of listening to others’ points of view and taking turns speaking. They will also learn to refrain from going ahead or spoiling a story and will enhance their overall reading skills.
This comprehension-focused unit encourages students to interact with the text, ask questions and make connections to prior knowledge. By reading mysteries, students will learn to make inferences using clues. By fine-tuning this high-level skill of deductive reasoning, they will recognize that authors often leave subtle clues for readers in all genres of books.
The girls will also be tasked with reading two mystery books on their own. “They’re so into the unit,” remarked Mr. Robinson. “They want to read full series like Nancy Drew or A-Z Mysteries.” (The former of which boasts hundreds of titles!)
At the sound of a chime, the students put down their pencils and returned to the rug. “Who can help me figure out the cipher?” Ms. Lin asked the class.
After several hands went up, the following statement was revealed: If you can read this, at the end of this note you will be one step closer to knowing who took the cupcakes. I want to tell you I am sorry for taking your cupcakes but I was really hungry. I did not think it would be a big deal. Ask your teacher for the next clue. Good luck!
Based on their evidence – a list of LS teacher food allergies and dietary restrictions – the students eliminated Ms. Cossich because she doesn’t like sweets and Ms. Holowach because she’s gluten free.
“It’s important to consider your evidence. Remember to do that when you’re reading stories, too,” added Ms. Lin. With dismissal nearing, the students reluctantly packed up their investigation and grabbed their backpacks. During their next lesson, the students will receive their final piece of the puzzle. Good luck, Class 3 detectives!