Monday, October 24, 2016

Slice of Life: Finding Joy in the Launch of a Mystery Unit

Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 

Last week, our district led a twitter chat around joy and its importance in classrooms, so I am admittedly paying extra close attention to what brings joy into elementary classrooms. There were amazing ideas passed around throughout the chat, and one of them involved the simple reminder of just talking to kids. This morning, as I was walking back to my office, I recognized a third-grader whose class I spent a lot of time in last year. 

"So Lola," I said. "How's life in third grade?"

She was walking with another girl I didn't recognize, and both of their eyes were wide. Her answer surprised me. 

"Not very good today."

The other girl nodded emphatically. 

"Why?" I asked. "What's going on?"

I was ready for anything--I was sort of expecting a lot of assessments, maybe (it's that time of the year), maybe classroom getting along issues. For a second or two, I was poised to hear an eight year-old's rationale for school not being so great as we walked down the hall. 

"Our classroom is a crime scene," she said, her voice lowered. 

"What?" I didn't have to pretend to be surprised. 

They went on to tell me about the police tape in their room, the knocked over desks, what they thought could have even been blood. (I'm pretty doubtful about the blood.) A footprint. Their search for fingerprints. 

As they described the scene, they listed some of their suspects, but also shared how some of these suspects didn't make sense upon their close examination of the evidence and clues. They completed each other's sentences as we walked, and I had enough thinking time to remember that their teachers had been excited to launch the mystery unit, so I put together a few clues. I'm sure they will put some clues together, also, in the very near future, and I can't wait to hear about how their mystery unit proceeds. 

In the meantime, they inspired me to think again about how joy exists in classrooms. Part of joy involves engagement and the learning that comes with it. Their joy will be that much greater because of the stage that was set up for them to figure something out. Kudos to their teacher for launching their mystery unit with a mystery. I have no doubt that these third-graders will recount and laugh about their classroom crime scene for years to come and they will have that much more inspiration to read like detectives, understand red herrings and suspects, and engage in the close reading necessary for crime solving. 

Happy Slicing,


  1. Wow! Love the idea of a district wide twitter chat on joy. How cool! And the mystery story is even cooler! Your post has inspired me.

  2. What a fun way to begin a unit! I think joy is a priority in your district. How many schools have a conversation on this? Not many, I think many are more about standards, objectives, and assessment.