We utilize Mystery Skype to kick-off the novel we’ll be reading together in my gifted and talented reading group. It’s easy and a great example of authentic learning; students are engaged in critical thinking skills and teamwork. It really builds our classroom community! My kids LOVE it! Let’s get started…
1. Find someone connected to the novel (theme, author) and have him/her agree to a date and time for the skype. Be sure to review the format, plan and timeline you’ll be using during this activity. Don’t feel forced to find a classroom to skype…think outside the box.
2. Assign students to write questions independently (and/or collaboratively) using geography points on the map to help guide the discovery in advance of the skype. Some examples of the questions my kiddos wrote were:
- Are you located west of the Mississippi River?
- Are you located west of the Rocky Mountains?
- Does your state border a large body of water like a lake, river or ocean?
And then things got serious and they asked questions that I would not have thought to ask:
- Does your city host a professional sports team?
- Is the dirt where you live red?
3. At the pre-determined time, use technology to connect your students to the “unknown.” We start by having students introduce themselves (first names only) and then students take turns asking questions. Each student has a map in a protective sleeve. As students ask questions and eliminate areas of the USA, students cross-out regions and states until the mystery location is identified.
4. When my students have solved the mystery, we do a little compare and contrast between our locations. It has been interesting to hear what my 4th graders share as “important” facts about our city and state.
5. Our final step is to review the questions asked during this exercise to determine our good questions and those that need an upgrade.
Mystery Skype is a great opportunity for shy “thinkers” to become vocal leaders. It is a simple activity that gives every student in the room a “voice.”