- Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Kristin Mulholland, a 3rd grade teacher at Shelter Rock Elementary School in Manhasset, New York, adopted online video-based discussion platform Flipgrid as a tool to assess students following a unit using mystery novels. The stories help students strengthen their vocabulary, work collaboratively and also learn how to annotate, she wrote for Edutopia.
- Using Flipgrid, both in-class and remote students made videos that integrated emoji, images and messages. The finished pieces served as teaching tools of their own, designed to show 2nd-graders how to make their own suspect lists while also including titles the 3rd-graders had loved reading.
- The 3rd-graders assessed each other’s work using a rubric designed by Mulholland. The project also helped connect remote learners to those in-class, building community with each other and with the 2nd-graders.
Mysteries are fun to solve, and by tapping into this genre, educators can get students to develop and use deductive reasoning and critical thinking skills in finding a solution. These lessons can also expand beyond mystery novels to further capture the attention of the class. Borrowing from the genre, educators can craft assignments that drip clues, encouraging students to develop a strategy on the path to a solution or answer based on the information provided.
One such assignment might have students match up couples at a picnic based on the food items they brought and how they traveled there. Math teachers can also adopt word problems that provide students with clues to guide them as they solve probability riddles, like helping a band manager keep musicians from misplacing their instruments.
English and creative writing teachers may want to challenge students to write a mystery of their own. In doing so, writers must use their own deductive reasoning to actually build the breadcrumbs and clues they hope readers will follow.
Younger students can work together as a class to guess anything from a historical event to an upcoming guest speaker by drawing clues from a bag and collectively problem-solving to find the answer. And educators could throw a murder mystery party in their class, supporting not only the use of investigative and critical thinking skills, but also collaboration.
In this way, K-12 teachers can encourage students to not only draw upon, but develop, crucial critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills that will serve them throughout their academic careers.