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Not being greatly familiar with mysteries myself, I read a couple of children's mysteries. As a result of having to solve the mysteries myself I discovered some vital elements I needed to comprehend to accurately complete the task: the WHO, the Setting, the Plot, the Characters, Inference, Hypothesis, Cause and Effect, Fact and Opinion, and, most important, Why or Motive.
Two books I suggest teachers should read are Looking for Rachel Wallace by Robert B. Parker and Tango Briefing by Adam Hall. Both books have plenty of action and plots that are not too hard to follow. The main character in Robert B. Parker's book is Spencer as in "Spencer for Hire", the TV series. The main character in Adam Hall's book resembles "James Bond." These books are relatively easy reading and should keep you interested in solving the mysteries.
Initially, I will read some 5 minute mysteries to them from Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake! by Donald J. Sobol with Glenn Andrews. These will be in search of the answer to WHO DONE IT. During these first few stories I will establish a firm understanding of the Story Elements (characters, setting, plot, resolution), Hypothesis, Drawing Conclusions/Inference, Causality (cause and effect), and Fact and Opinion. It may be necessary to discuss Figurative Language as sometimes what is said is not clearly what it appears to mean.
A great deal of attention will be also given to cases in the book You Be The Jury by Marvin Miller. This book contains courtroom mysteries where you decide the verdict. These cases will be used to emphasize the lessons in drawing conclusion, cause and effect, and fact and opinion.
My aunt taught each of her nieces and nephews this song from the early 1950's. She loved to sing many songs with us all but she favored songs that contained an element of surprise or mystique. The following song was one we remembered more than the others because it still puzzles us to this day.
- As I was walking by the beach on one bright, sunny day
- I saw a great big, wooden box a floating in the bay.
- I picked it up and opened it up and what to my surprise
- Oh I discovered a (clap* clap* clap*) right before my eyes.
- Oh I discovered a (clap* clap* clap*) right before my eyes.
- I picked it up and ran to town as happy as a king.
- I took it to a man I knew who'd buy most anything.
- And this is what he said to me as I walked in his shop
- Oh get out of here with that (clap* clap* clap*) before I call the cops.
- Oh get out of here with that (clap* clap* clap*) before I call the cops.
- I picked it up and turned around a running for my life.
- And then I went to take it home to give it to my wife.
- But this is what she said to me as I walked in the door
- Oh get out of here with that (clap* clap* clap*) and don't come back no more.
- Oh get out of here with that (clap* clap* clap*) and don't come back no more.
We always wanted to know what the (clap* clap* clap*) was and have never gotten the answer.
- The moral of this story is if you are on a beach
- And you should see a wooden box and it's within your reach,
- Don't ever try to pick it up is my advice to you
- Cause you'll never get rid of that (clap* clap* clap*) no matter what you do.
- Oh you'll never get rid of that (clap* clap* clap*) no matter what you do.
By the second stanza we know he didn't take the box, only the object in the box and that it can be recognized at a distance. Line 3 of the second stanza make that clear because it states " and this is what he said to me as I walked in his shop, Oh get out of here with that before I call the cop."
The third stanza suggests that he has put the THING down because he picks it up. Why did he put it down? Was it heavy? Why was he running for his life? Why was his wife so offensive saying "...and don't come back no more?" Is he cast out?
In the final stanza readers are warned not to pick up a wooden box if by chance you see one at the beach, but isn't the problem what is IN the box? Also the song says that whoever picks up this THING would "... never get rid of that... no matter what you do?" Does two attempts to get rid of IT justify "never?"
Encourage students to visualize the verses to spot the inconsistencies.
Solving this mystery using all the skills presented and reviewed in this unit may be an excellent exercise to use to improve their analytical, reading, comprehension, DRP, and writing skills. These are Connecticut Mastery Test areas of concern.
This is the order in which the lessons will appear.
- Story Mapping
- Cause and Effect
- Fact or Opinion
- Inference and Drawing Conclusions
Words and Phrases used
- In Mysteries
|Clues, evidence, defendant|
|Columbo, Guilty, etc.|
Famous Mystery Characters
Pink Panther, Scooby Doo,
- and Authors
Encyclopedia Brown, Spider
Man, Batman, Agatha Christie,
Alfred Hitchcock, etc.
England, USA, Hospitals,
Haunted Houses, Attics,
Office Buildings, Cruise Ships,
Famous Mystery Movies,
Scooby Doo, Nancy Drew,
- TV shows, and Books
Spencer for Hire, Barnaby
Jones, Columbo, etc.
Key Terms to be defined:
1. bay 2. beach 3. compass 4. key/legend 5. geography
Check for Understanding
List all of the words on one side of a sheet of paper. List the completed definitions, out of order on the opposite side. Place the correct letter in the space provided.
___1. bay a. definition
___2. beach b. definition .
Continue until all the words and definitions are listed.
Teacher will help them make predictions by asking:
- *What is it inside the wooden box?
- *Why did it have such a negative effect on the shop owner?
Example: I want to know what is the thing in the wooden box.
At this point the students will be very curious and for many of them the wheels in their minds will be turning, wondering WHAT IS IT? We will leave the song at this time to develop important skills using other mystery stories and cases.
Inform students that the reading selection: "The Case of the Missing Garlic Bread," tells about a food snatching mystery set in a small neighborhood in America called Idaville and is solved by super-sleuth Encyclopedia Brown. Ask students to recall the elements of a mystery story.
The key terms to define are:
- *Who do you think took the garlic bread?
- *How do think they will find the culprit?
- *Example: I want to know who took the garlic bread.
The Case of the Missing Garlic Bread should be read to the class by the teacher as the students follow along. The teacher will model "Thinking Aloud" while reading, so that students will learn to how to use context clues to figure out difficult words, reread hard to understand passages for clarity, and draw conclusions based on what is known and what is given. The students will assist by giving some answers.
To help the students remember the story/case, the sequence, and key elements story mapping will be introduced.
Use a visual map with the students. An important scene from the story should be drawn by the teacher or a very capable student. Key items should be labeled with one of the elements like Characters, Setting, Events, Problem, and Resolution, but do not fill in these details until the story has been read by or to the students. This map is to be done as a class assignment, therefore, the Visual chart must be large and should be placed where all could see. For those who don't wish to draw a Visual, I have a Basic Story Map included in this unit to be copied.
Next, have the students read the first case in You Be the Jury. They must complete a story map based on this case. Compare the maps of at least three students.
Finally, having mastered this activity, read the entire mystery song and map a story map of it.
- *See example below
Are you any closer to solving the (What Is It) mystery?
- *Example- Name The Case of the Dangerous Golf Ball
- Characters Jason Compson-plaintiff, Green Acres Development Corp, defendant
- Setting Green Acres Homes and Golf Course surrounded by the development
- Problem Mr. Compson was upset because when he purchased his home his patio overlooked wooden land, now trees were cleared and he was promised that all golf shots would point away from his property. He could see the sixth hole from his patio.
- Events Tried to get them to move the sixth tee, he got hit in the head by a golf balll shot through his window, as he was hanging an expensive mirror which he dropped.
- Resolution By looking at Exhibit A and B we see Mr. Compson had a bandage on his forehead but when the supposedly came through the window his back was to the window. He faked the whole thing.
Important Events ______________________________
The following lesson can be presented only after the phonetic lessons on hard and soft G & C and the initial consonant digraphs have been taught.
- To associate initial sh, th, ch, wh, squ, thr with the sounds they represent
- To decode and identify words containing /k/ and /s/ spelled by the letter c
- To decode and identify words containing /g/ and /j/ spelled by the letter g
- To identify a Who, What, and Where using the above phonetic elements
- Three large brown envelopes with one of the words, Who, What, or
- Where on each, pencils, three slips of paper for each student, a list of phonetic elements like consonant digraphs, hard and soft C and G
- 1. Assign a specific phonetic element to students.
- 2. Have the students write a word for each of the categories above that element. (If you assigned the soft sound of G, a pupil might write George, giant, Germany) (If you assign initial consonant digraph ch, sh, th, wh, squ, or thr, a pupil might write Charles, chair, China)
- 3. Have students put their word slips in the appropriate bags.
- 4. Have one half of the class check for the accuracy of the other half.
- 1. Ask two or three students to define the phonetic element(s).
- 2. Did over 80% of the students complete their slips correctly?
- 3. Change to another phonetic element and see if 80% are correct?
WHERE | ______________________________________________________________|
The students will work in pairs and read Chapter 1 of Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake! "The Case of the Missing Garlic Bread," again. Each pair will complete the attached Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer while they reread the chapter.
Some of the causes and effects are pretty clear like the cause touching garlic bread, effect touched parts smell like garlic and cause eating parsley, effect removes garlic smell. The students will pay close attention to details so the other effects and causes will be discovered. Clue words such as because, since, and as a result should be highlighted.
Materials: Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer, pencil, mystery song
- To develop causes and effects where they are implied
- To list the causes and effects presented in the reading material
- 1. Have students work in pairs and read the first of the song.
- 2. Give each pair a Graphic Organizer to complete after the verse is read.
- 3. Repeat the process as each verse is read. Use the same sheet.
- 4. Make a note when one (1) cause has multiple effects and visa versa.
- 5. Summarize your findings.
- 1. What happened?
- 2. Why did it happen?
- 3. Have at least four pairs share their answers out loud.
- 4. Were the causes and effects correct?
Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer
Read the first case in You Be the Jury by Marvin Miller. There are Causes with many Effects and Effects with Causes. Have each student or pair of students complete a Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer from the information in the first case.
Now have them complete a Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer for the mystery song taking one verse at a time and creating logical causes or effects when needed.
Be sure you support your decisions with logical proof. Plot
The Plot is how the story line is arranged. Stories can be divided into five(5)
Have the students list the main events of a story and then write them on the board. Ask them "What happened before _____ happened? "Why could it not have happened later?" To help them see that some events are more important than others, have them find the events that could have been left out of the story. Lead them to see that one event often serves as a Climax or High Point.
- 1. An Introduction where the setting and characters are first presented
- 2. Rising Action, which readers follow to discover how the main character or characters solve their problem
- 3. A High Point, in which the problem is resolved
- 4. Falling Action, which details the consequences of the resolution
- 5. An Ending
The Plot is usually a result of some Conflict. This Conflict could be between a person and self, a person and another person, a person and society, or a person and nature. As I read special attention will be given noting basic conflicts. As students read each story, time will be given to identify the source of the conflict. This may not be so easy to identify so the following questions might be helpful: What is the problem _____________ faces? How might ________ solve this problem? What does ________ think about the problem? What does ______ do first, second, etc.? Why does ______ fail to solve the problem? How was the problem solved? Who solved the problem? How would you have solved the problem?
Answer the above questions and fill in the blanks after reading " The Case of the Missing Garlic Bread."
Say to the students "In the case of the song in this unit the Conflict is between WHO? Have them write down their answer, then answer the above questions and fill in the blanks. You have already read the first case in You Be the Jury. Now fill in the blanks and answer the questions below to identify the Plot and the Conflict.
What is the problem ____________ faces? How might _______ solve this problem? What does ________ think about the problem? What does ______ do first, second, etc.? Why does _______ fail to solve the problem? How was the problem solved? Who solved the problem? How would you have solved the problem?
Have the students reread the mystery song. Fill in the blanks and answer the same questions below to identify the Plot and Conflict.
What is the problem ____________faces? How might ______solve this problem?
What does ________think about the problem? What does ________do first, second, etc.? Why does _______ fail to solve the problem? How was the problem solved?
Who solved the problem? How would you have solved the problem?
Are you any closer to discovering what was in the box after establishing the Plot and Conflict?
One key part of solving a mystery involves recreating the scene of the crime. This may include returning to the actual location, if that is possible, or someone making a model of the real thing. Often the crime scene is riddled with clues and evidence that would greatly assist the investigator in solving the mystery. If pictures are taken of the crime scene immediately after the crime is committed with no disturbance of or tampering with anything the probability of extracting helpful clues would be increased. In the Cases in You Be the Jury EXHIBITS A, B, and C give clear pictures of the crime scenes. Since we don't have the luxury of pictures to illustrate the mystery song it will be necessary to create a model. Different types of materials can be used to create the model depending on the kind of scene that needs to be made.
Have the students work in groups of three. Each group will draw a different scene on a large sheet of construction paper. Some of their choices will be ON A CITY STREET, UP IN A TREE, AT THE MOVIES/THEATER, AT THE ZOO, ON THE BUS, ON AN AIRPLANE, AT THE SUPERMARKET, AT THE LIBRARY, OR IN YOUR BEDROOM. After each group has completed drawing their scene have them write a paragraph about the scene and what the problem is. (Example: At the Zoo, someone could have given some food to an animal that made it sick. Crumbs may be left near the animals cage. OR At the library someone could have removed all the books from one of the shelves and they can't be found, but a silver women's wrist watch is found on the shelf just below the empty one.) Add all clues to picture.
- To create a relief map of the scene or scenes in the mystery
- To work together in pairs (socialization)
- To pay attention to details in the surrounding crime area
- Heavy tag board, dough or clay, markers, construction paper, paint, rulers, glue, pencils
- bay, beach, coast, sand dune, compass rose, key and more.
- 1. Decide the place or scene you want to map in relief form. It must be a spot or location that may help you solve the mystery.
- 2. Use heavy tag board as your map base.
- 3. Draw the shape of your location, in pencil, on the base. Create a key for your landforms, and a compass rose for directions.
- 4. Be sure to mark the spots for them on your base.
- 5. Use clay or dough to form any hills, mountains or other raised forms.
- 6. Draw in lakes, beaches, and other low spots, then fill them in with construction paper, or color them with markers or paint.
- 7. After the clay forms dry, paint them.
- 8. Don't forget to put the clues in the places you believe them to be.
- 9. Draw in footprints and other clues that would assist you in solving this "WHAT IS IT?" mystery.
- 1. Which scene did you create?
- 2. What clues did you place there?
- 3. What landforms did you create? What materials were used?
- 4. After making this relief map, are you any closer to solving this mystery?
The grid/graph has an X and Y Axis (see below). When charting out the location of various points on this graph always put the X symbol first, followed by a comma and then the Y symbol. Symbols may be letters and/or numbers. (3,B) see below.
____________________ A B C D E F
Special note: In most cases the order of the coordinate pairs is very important. When you use Letters for both axis or Numbers for both axis this would be particularly important. (3,8), (B,R) You could send someone to the wrong location and be unable to find the clues.
Write the coordinates for the above shapes on the graph.
%=(4,B) 0=(6,D) =(1,E) >=(3,F)
- To use letter/number pairs to make coordinate graphs
- To find key items, clues and locations in the mystery
- Centimeter Graph Paper, pencils
- coordinate pairs, graph, centimeter, units, points, parentheses, etc.
- 1. Remind students that the first number/letter in the coordinate goes to the right as many spaces as the number or letter indicates.
- 2. Emphasize that giving coordinates in the wrong order can cause the
- location on the map/graph to be wrong.
- 3. Have the students draw the map they drew for the relief map OR another map or scene on the graph paper.
- 5. Be sure all the key points are clearly marked.
- 6. Make sure a list of the coordinates that show where evidence, landmarks, and clues can be found.
- footprints (2,B) and (3,A), wooden box (5,A), water (2,C), 3,E), and (4,D)
- 1. Exchange your paper with a classmate. Using your coordinates, can they find your specific locations?
- 2. Were the letter/number pairs written in the correct order?
- 3. How many coordinate pairs did you use? (at least 4?)
- 4. Are you any closer to finding the answer to this mystery?
Read this to the students:
A fact is a statement that can be proved, and an opinion is a statement of feeling or belief. Words such as probably, perhaps, often, and sometimes are clues that a statement is an opinion. Knowing the difference between facts and opinions helps readers better understand and evaluate what they read. Three teaching models are presented in this lesson, Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic/Motor. Be aware of the most effective way in which your class learns. Modify when necessary.
Today is the second Thursday of the month. (F) It is the scheduled time for the class to take swimming lessons.(F) This is the best class ever. (O) Every student can float on his or her back. (F) Perhaps a couple of them will be future Olympic competitors. (O) The instructor, Ms. Clementine, an Olympic swimmer herself, won the silver medal in 1979. (F) There is probably no better swimming teacher than her. (O).
Discuss why each is a fact or an opinion.
Write down the facts in the first case in You Be the Jury.
Write down the facts in the mystery song. Are you any closer to what it is?
Write down your opinions about the song.
Inference or Drawing Conclusions
Because authors do not always explain everything that happens in a story, readers must sometimes combine what they already know with story details to draw valid conclusions. Knowing how to draw valid conclusions helps readers figure out the reasons behind story events and the behavior of characters.
These conclusions could be made:
I conclude that Sam did not continue to pursue the squirrel because the fence was too high, OR he was called back OR he was trained to not go beyond the fence. The correct conclusion is that Sam was trained to not go beyond the fence. Help the students to see why the other choice would be incorrect.
The formula to remember for this is:
- What you already know + The information given = Your valid conclusion
Jason Compson claims a golfer on the sixth tee accidentally drove a ball through his window? This was supposed to have happened while he was hanging an expensive mirror in his den. Could this be or did he stage the accident to dramatize his unhappiness with the new golf course? You, the students, have to read the case in its entirety and carefully examine the evidence in EXHIBITS A, B, and C. On page 11 of the book is the Verdict. The accident was faked by Jason Compson. EXHIBIT B shows Compson's forehead covered by a large bandage. If he had been hanging the mirror, his back would have been to the window. The injury would have been to the back of his head.
- plaintiff, jury, evidence, guilty, fabrication, defendant, justice, innocent, clues
Rewrite the Verdict to show how they used the FORMULA.
What you already know-The window the golf ball is supposed to have come through is opposite the location where he was hanging the mirror. His back had to be to the window when he was hanging the mirror. +
The information given-his apparent injury was on his forehead. That's where the bandage is =
Valid Conclusion-He faked the whole thing. The bandage should have been on the back of his head.
Now using the formula solve the next case in You Be the Jury.
Use this formula to help you discover or create what is in the box in the mystery song.
Are you any closer to an answer?
Have the students put together all their information concerning the song and see what they come up with.
Quiller faces the toughest assignment of his career-a job that takes him to the Sahara Desert to locate a downed plane, photograph its crew, and identify its cargo. -a suicide mission
McClure, James The Steam Pig. Harper & Row, 1972
Murder with a bicycle spoke. A technique perfected by Bantu gangs. "All quite simple if you have the stomach for it," Dr. Strydom explained. "You take your spoke, and slide it in here between the third and fourth rib." It looks like a fleabite. Theresa Le Roux was a pretty young music teacher, who gave very private lessons. But for a mix-up at the undertakers no one would have known she had been murdered. Story set in South Africa during the Apartheid years.
Parker, Robert B. Looking For Rachel Wallace, Dell Books, 1987
When Spenser accepts a job as a "bodyguard" for a beautiful young woman, he gets in over his head. (Spenser) gives the connoisseur of that rare combination of good detective fiction and good literature a better chance to indulge himself.
Solomon, Louis Great Unsolved Crimes, Scholastic Inc., 1976
This book contains six of the great unsolved crimes of all time. I guess you can call them perfect. The police files are still open. Your solution is as good as anyone else's.
This book contains 10 courtroom mysteries for you to decide. All the cases include Exhibits A, B, & C for you to analyze. Verdict is included too.
Sobol, Donald J. Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake! Scholastic, 1983
Encyclopedia Brown and friends solve many cases and cook up wonderful meals directly related to the case. Cook Book and Mystery Book combined.
Woolfolk, Dorothy. Murder in Washington & The Body on the Beach, Scholastic Book Services, 1982
This book contains two stories from the Donna Rockford Mystery series. In the first story Donna and Abbey's trip to Washington, D. C. turns into a hunt for a deranged killer. In the next story they find a body on the beach.
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