Project Organization and Timeline
Step-by-Step Schedule - Grade 3

Allison Bailey
Grade 3

Citrus Elementary School
Vero Beach, FL

"How Long Does Mystery Class Take?"

I have used Mystery Class with my third graders for many years now. Before Mystery Class even begins, I build students' background knowledge by teaching map-reading and geography skills, and the science behind what makes the seasons.

The First Half of Mystery Class:
During the first half of Mystery Class (approximately five weeks) when we are receiving sunrise/sunset data only, I spend about 15 minutes of prep time and 30 minutes of class time each Friday on Mystery Class.
  • First, I print out a copy of the weekly online update. I read through it, and highlight the information that I wish to share with my students. I calculate the photoperiod for each site so later I can use my answers to check that the students' answers are correct. (10-15 minutes)

  • Later, I go online to show the students the update. (My presentation system shows my computer screen on the TV in the classroom.) We read through it, discussing any interesting information or challenge questions. (10 minutes).

  • When we get to the part of the update with the sunrise/sunset data, I leave it up on the screen. The students work with their groups to record their sunrise/sunset data and calculate their photoperiods. I check student answers. If they are incorrect, they try again. If their answers are correct, the students move on to adding their new data to their line graphs. As the project progresses and the students become more experienced with calculating the photoperiod, this part starts to go more quickly. (10-15 minutes)

  • When everyone has finished their small-group work, we meet again as a whole class. I add their new data to the class graph. We discuss the trends and draw conclusions. (10 minutes).

The Second Half of Mystery Class:
Later, during the last six weeks of Mystery Class when the clues are posted, I spend about 80 to 90 minutes of class time and 20 minutes of prep time each Friday on Mystery Class.

To prepare, I print two copies of the online update. The first copy I use to highlight and calculate the photoperiods. I cut the clues out of the second copy, and attach them to each group's Mystery Class folder.

The students work in groups to record and graph their data as described above. (10 minutes.)

  • Groups read through their new clues, find unfamiliar words in the dictionary (or they can ask me what they mean) and write a brief action plan. For example: I need to look in the World Atlas for this; I need to find an informational book; I think we need to look in the encyclopedia, etc.) (10-15 minutes)

  • I take the class down to the school media center, and they browse through the reference books to research their clues. (30 minutes)

  • Before we leave the media center I debrief the students, asking them what they discovered, and what they still need to do. (5-10 minutes)

  • In the afternoon, each group does on-line Internet searches to research their clues during computer lab. (25 minutes)

Students may also work independently on their Mystery Class clues during the rest of the week as follows:

Students may use the classroom computer stations using resources on CD-ROM as their "center" work while the teacher is doing small-group reading. Students may go go down to the media center to use the reference books during recess or if they complete their class work early. Students may work on solving their Mystery Class clues independently at home.

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