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Detective Mystery Unit Made Easy!

Welcome Super Sleuths!

If you are someone who loves classroom transformations and engaging students while they are learning, you have just cracked the case wide open! In this blog post you will get to go behind the scenes with us to see how we set up, planned, and operated our Detective Mystery Unit!
Crack the Case of an Engaging Crime and Mystery Unit WIDE OPEN HERE!
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We are ON THE CASE to help you with your Mystery Unit!

Let the Mystery Begin!

The first task that you face when you plan for a fun unit like this, is getting into character! We do everything as a team at our school, so the three fourth grade teachers plan and work together. We all participate in the events together! If you don’t do this with your team, this is a great time to start!

Transforming into Detectives

We started our Detective Mystery Unit by simply getting each teacher a badge off of Amazon. Our next stop was to the Dollar Store to find some fancy aviator sunglasses…. and just like that, we were transformed into Detective Brazeal and Detective Devlin!
We also made sure that we used detective vocabulary throughout the day for our gumshoes!
If you need some ideas, Click the button below for a Detective Vocabulary Freebie!
How to Create a Top Secret Crime Lab

Setting the Stage

The next thing that we decided that we HAD to have was a crime lab to book our evidence into. Instead of transforming three classrooms, we decided to have all three teachers set up one crime lab.  Our perfect spot was behind the curtains of our stage in our MPR. No one would even know it was there, except for our junior detectives. Also, if we wanted a small group activity, one class could go inside, but if we needed all three classes to participate, they could sit in the MPR and look into the lab. If this is not an option for you, maybe there is an empty classroom at your school that could serve the same purpose. We loved this idea because our unit was an entire week long, and this way, we didn’t have to be in this dark lab for an entire week!
Check our YouTube video out below to get a feel for it!

Making it Happen

This crime lab is not as hard to set up as it seems.  The first thing that you will need is black plastic sheeting. Here is what we used Click Here. We simply used a staple gun and lined the area. The only other thing we bought were our detective cardboard boy and girl and the footprint stickies from Oriental Trading. The rest of the supplies were found around our classrooms or school. We already had black lights, cation tape, and we found the cool items on our lab table in our science materials kits. The glowing liquid in the test tubes is made from glow in the dark paint that one of the teachers had at home. We already had the flashlights that the students are holding in the picture because we do Flashlight Friday reading, which we purchased from Amazon. Overall, it looks like a lot, but when you have three teachers making one lab, you have more resources to pull from!

Why We Set the Stage

The main purpose of the Top Secret Crime Lab is to build excitement for the students!
It is so amazing to hear them shout out,  “Wow!” “Ahhhh!” and “That’s Awesome!” Immediately, they are hooked. Buy in. It’s as simple as that. If students are engaged, they will be more motivated to complete the academic tasks that you present for them! Another reason is for your excitement! It is so rewarding! We were excited to get to work each day and pumped when it was time for our Lab time!
Get tips for setting up your crime scene HERE!

It’s Crime Time!

Okay, now it’s time for the good stuff. The first question you need to answer is, “What is the crime going to be?” If you are doing the unit with multiple classes, you will need to find something that all of the classrooms have in common. Since we were reading Bunnicula, we decided to buy a small stuffed rabbit for each classroom. We really wanted them to value the rabbit, so we made it our class pet. We brought in a pet carrier, gave him a blanket, laid out some food and water, and made sure he was securely locked in his cage every day before heading home. If you know the book, then you will get why there is a white pumpkin nearby. We also left the book for him to read at night. After we were done reading our book, it was time for the crime to occur! Bunnicula mysteriously disappeared overnight! When the students walked in to the crime scene below, they were devastated that their beloved class pet was missing! And just like that, we had The Case of the Missing Bunnicula!
Give Your Gumshoes Content During Your Mystery Unit with This FREEBIE!

It’s Content Time!

For those of you who have not read about our Year Long Plan, you might be unfamiliar with the way we teach. Each of our units lasts one month. If you are interested in seeing our Year Long Plan (which we highly recommend), check it out by clicking here . In each unit, we teach four main standards… one from each domain.
Here is what we were teaching during this unit.
Genre: Mystery
Key Ideas and Details: Character Traits
Craft and Structure: Elements of Poetry
Vocabulary Acquisition: Context Clues
Language: Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases
During our Engaging Scenario (what you are reading about), we complete one task from each domain each day. The Engaging Scenario lasts for a total of five days.

Day 1 of our Detective Mystery Unit

For the very first day, our focus was on Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases. The students were given this
FREEBIE: REPORT AND SKETCHING. Click the button below to get it!
Their first task was to make a sketch of the crime scene. Then, students had to write a report describing the scene. In their report, they had to circle all prepositions and underline all of the prepositional phrases. Describing the crime scene is absolutely PERFECT for Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases!
*On a side note, this engaging scenario is done after the concepts have already been taught and practiced.
Here’s what we use:
Booking Evidence During Your Mystery Unit

The Evidence

The next step was to book all of our evidence into our lab! Students used gloves and placed items from the crime scene into baggies. All of the 4th grade classes came together and debriefed. We talked about what was seen in each classroom (all the same) and what we thought our next actions should be. As a group, we decided that it was time to canvas the campus and start gathering tips!
Set up a Tip Line during your Mystery Unit with THIS FREEBIE!

The Next Steps

Students created posters that listed basic information about the crime. In this poster, they had to include five prepositions and prepositional phrases. Again, the prepositions were circled and the prepositional phrases were underlined. On the posters, students advised witnesses to contact our Crime Hotline with any tips that they had. Each student made a poster and they were plastered all over campus! Talk about building excitement! The whole school was buzzing!

Day 2 of our Detective Mystery Unit

The next day, our focus was Character Traits. Again, our students had already been working on Character Traits. Here is what we used:
Want to try some of these activities for FREE???? Click Here!

Character Traits Tip Line

For the Tip Line, we wrote eight short scripts for eight different callers. Click the image below to get the script of the 8 callers for FREE!
 Various staff left these messages on our voicemail portraying eight different character traits. When our students came in the next day, they received the piece of paper in the image above. We also have it available for FREE by clicking on the image below!
We told them that we had several new messages that needed to be investigated! They were hooked! With each message, students had to assign a character trait and list the evidence that supported their claim.  Most of the messages were pointless and led nowhere, but several fed the students ideas about what they should do next in their investigation.
Keep the Suspense Building During Your Mystery Unit!

And the Suspects Are…

From the hotline, we created a suspect list. Our first thought was to make a list of everyone that had access to all three rooms. From there, we focused on the time of the crime. Our custodian report that he saw the bunnies at 4:30pm. This dwindled down our suspect list to six suspects.

Day 3 of our Detective Mystery Unit

The next day’s standard was Context Clues. Our students were already very familiar with Context Clues. Here’s what we used:

Top Secret

A Top Secret envelope was placed on each of our doors with a black light message inside. Students came together to examine the messages.  Students had to use their knowledge of Context Clues to decipher the messages! One of the notes said to check by the piano in the MPR for a very important clue. Students RUSHED over to discover it! This important clue was an invitation to a party that had a map on it. The students then interrogated the remaining six suspects and discovered that three of them lived in the area on the map. Our mystery now had three prime suspects!
Connect College and Career Readiness during your Mystery Unit!

Day 4 of our Detective and Mystery Unit

The next day, we focused on College and Career Readiness. We had an expert come in to close the case! Our forensic specialist came out and shared with the students all about the law enforcement career. Students took notes and asked some amazing questions! They loved this! At the end, we explained our crime to the expert and asked if he could pull prints from an item left at the scene. He pulled the prints successfully!  All we needed was to collect prints from each of the remaining suspects and make a match!
*If you are looking to add more College and Career Readiness to your classroom, you HAVE to check this out! Click Here!
Making the Arrest for your Mystery Unit

Making the Arrest

Our fingerprint match led to no other than our very own principal! The 4th grade class served our principal with a search warrant. After searching her office, our cherished rabbits were found safe and sound! Immediately, the students chorally read her her rights and our principal was booked!
When asked about her motives, our principal told the students to look inside the basket. We discovered that our cute little bunnies were holding rolled up papers! These rolls ended up being diplomas from Bunny Obedience School! When our principal explained, she told us that she heard our bunnies might be vampire rabbits (If this sounds a little crazy, read the book! You’ll love it!). She didn’t want anything to harm the students at her school because safety was her top priority. She decided that she would send them to a four day obedience training and she didn’t want to tell us because she wanted them to finish their training. Talk about an amazing principal, right?! Our students immediately forgave her and released her!

Day 5 of our Detective Mystery Unit

The next day’s focus was on Poetry Elements. We had fun with fingerprint poems and pulled out all of the elements from some detective poems.
On Day 5, we also did a ton of fun detective and mystery activities. Some of the activities were:
★Who Dunnit?
★Unlock the Mystery Writing
★It’s a Mystery? Graphic Organizer
★Acrostic Poem-Gumshoes
★Who Am I? Class Game
★I Was Framed Activity
★Shoe Print Art
★Shoe Print Art: Take a Deeper Look
★Master of Disguise
★3 Secret Code Activities
★Spy Spell
★Truth Serum
★My Spy Kit
★Mystery Scramble
★Secret Agent Name
All of these activities were pulled from our Detective and Mystery Activity Bundle


And there you have it. A Fun and Engaging Detective Mystery Unit. The students were able to practice and apply all four of our main concepts that were in our month’s unit, while having a blast! Want to know the best part? We can’t wait to do it again!
Need some Detective and Mystery Unit Resources? Check this out!



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Back to School BOOT CAMP STYLE

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This year, we decided to start our year off with a 4th Grade Boot Camp theme!
We always love a good theme and thought Boot Camp was the only way to go!

Here’s what the students walked into their first day!

We bought camo table cloth, dog tags, pencils, handkerchiefs, and sunglasses from Oriental Trading. As we were setting up our rooms, we felt like we were setting up for a party! It definitely changed our attitudes about the first day of school. When the students walked in, they felt like they were at a party! This was a great way to start our year off together!

Boot Camp FUN!

Our BOOT CAMP theme wouldn’t have been complete without a Ghillie Suit!

The students loved this!

The most important item that we purchased were the dog tags. These were key to our BOOT CAMP success! As we greeted our students out on the blacktop for the very first time, we handed each student a dog tag necklace. They put it on and we immediately had their attention! We had them walk to our room in BOOT CAMP style and the parents were blown away! Students were dying to know what was in store for them next! When we got into the classroom, we explained that they would be earning dog tags each day. As we taught each procedure, the students practiced them until they mastered it. As they mastered each procedure, we handed out their dog tag! Students loved the variety, color and images! Here’s what we loved… Students would wear their dog tag brag tags home and they would tell their parents all about our new classroom! When it came time for Back-to-School Night, the parents were already well informed about our room!

The icing on the cake was that our grade level was in charge of the first assembly of the year. For our assemblies, we decided to do an original 4th grade cadence. We got the idea from the cadence “Fired Up!” We found it on You Tube. We then took out most of the words and made them unique for our 4th grade classroom. Download our new version here!

The kids had a blast performing and the parents loved it!

Interested in trying out this BOOT CAMP theme with your students?
We have it available in our TPT store!

Looking for some fun Back-to-School Activities?

Check out these other blogs for more great Back to School ideas!

Market Day… The Classroom Event You Have Been Looking For!


You have found what you have been looking for! Market Day!

Market Day! Let the SHOPPING BEGIN! Click here to learn all about this amazing classroom event!
Want to provide your students with an amazing experience that they will never forget?

You will absolutely love it and here’s why…

If you use classroom money, like we do, it seems like you are constantly searching for ways for your students to spend money. You might find yourself constantly asking parents to make donations to your classroom store, or even worse, using your own money! Market Day is your solution!!!! Students get the opportunity to run a business with real life expenses!!! Talk about motivation! We have seen a HUGE improvement in student behavior and work completion because they want to earn money for Market Day!

So how do you start a Market Day?

Some of you might be thinking… “Will this even work for me if I don’t use classroom money?” Yes! You can distribute money just for this day, or have them earn it during the weeks leading up to your Market Day. The amount of money will depend on your prices. When we did our Market Day, our students had, on average, $600. The amounts that you see in this blog post will be related to that amount. If this large amount doesn’t work for you, just adjust based on your needs.
Market Day! Let the SHOPPING BEGIN! Click here to learn all about this amazing classroom event!

Becoming an Entrepreneur

The first step to Market Day is having students develop their business. This needs to start with a classroom discussion about the strategies of starting a business. Questions to consider are: Do you want a business partner or do you want to own your own business? If you want a business partner, what qualities are you looking for in a partner? Once students have brainstormed their responses to these questions, you can have students form partnerships. We do not allow our students to have a business with more than three people… most students choose to have a group of two. Once students are in their partnerships, the real questions start needing answers… How will we divide the work? When will we develop our products? How will we divide our earnings? Will we each keep the earnings from our own products we make or will we put all of our earnings in one pot and evenly split?
Market Day! Let the SHOPPING BEGIN! Click here to learn all about this amazing classroom event!

Let the Production Begin!

The next step is having students choose a product or products to make and sell. In our Market Day, we only allow our students to sell handmade crafts, rather than foods or services. You have the option to include these items, however, we find it easier not to. The only rules that we have for the handmade crafts are that they have to be handmade by the students and they cannot spend more than $10 in real currency on the supplies to make their crafts.
Choosing the right product for Market Day! Find out how!
We print out pictures of crafts for students to choose from, or they can come up with their own ideas. We get the pictures of crafts by simply going onto the internet and typing in “handmade crafts for kids.” We then copy paste pictures into Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, print, and cut them out for students to “shop” through. They take their pictures home, get permission from parents and it’s that simple! Parents love this because they don’t have to come up with an idea and it’s already teacher approved! We like to have students decide on a product to sell at least three weeks before Market Day to allow time for production and for them to work out any kinks that may arise. Prices also need to be decided on. Based off of our dollar amounts, most of our students chose to have their products range from $10-$40, depending on the product.
Market Day! Let the SHOPPING BEGIN! Click here to learn all about this amazing classroom event!


The next step is to have students develop their marketing techniques. Students need to come up with a business name that reflects their products. They also need to come up with a logo. They love this part! Student creativity soars! We have our students create around 10 business cards (or more) for their business. We tell them to include their business name, logo, and then list their products with costs on the back. Students also need to design a store sign and an open/closed sign to use for their store on Market Day. In our classroom, we allow our students to advertise through a 45 second commercial for their products/business the day before Market Day. Students then leave their business cards on the counter and students pick one up if they are interested. Another idea is to put together a classroom catalog or bulletin board displaying their businesses and products.
Market Day! Let the SHOPPING BEGIN! Click here to learn all about this amazing classroom event!

A Helpful Tip

Now, your students are prepared for Market Day! We HIGHLY RECOMMEND that students bring in their items three days before your actual Market Day! We have had students come to school crying because their little brother spilled water on their product or their business partner is absent and they have the product, etc… If students bring in their crafts beforehand, you are able to prevent a disaster with upset students and parents.

So how do students use their currency on Market Day?

The first way that students spend their money is by having them purchase a Business License. We charged $200 based off of the fact that students had around $600. Of course, you will get some of your students who have not earned enough, so in this case, we purchase their business license for them, and then they split their profit with us 50/50. We have the discussion that this is what happens in real life, and most people have to take out a loan. Another way that students spend their classroom currency is that we require them to pay for their commercial. They also have to rent the space that they are selling in. We charge $50 a space. Students also have to pay taxes on their profit.
Market Day! Let the SHOPPING BEGIN! Click here to learn all about this amazing classroom event!

The Day is FINALLY Here!

On the day of Market Day, students bring in their shopping bags and get ready to shop! Before we begin, we have a discussion on how they will both sell and shop. We have found it easiest to leave it up to the students. You can ask them if they would rather have their store open first and sell, or have their store closed and go shop? Some students decided to write a shopping list based off of the advertisements the day before and send a shopper out to go get the items, while the other stayed and sold products. Another way to do this is numbering students and having odds shop while evens sell, switch and then a free-for-all at the end.
During the buying and selling of goods, we have our students write receipts and keep a record of their sales and earnings. Our receipts are simple… just the item(s), amounts, and total. The record of sales is useful when it’s time to pay taxes.

The Room is Buzzing with Excitement!

While students are selling, you will be amazed by what is actually going on in your room! You will hear students asking and answering questions (great for your English language learners), making change, using customer service strategies, and teamwork! You really need to just sit back and watch your students become completely immersed in the world on entrepreneurship, or better yet, go out and shop yourself!
We are Deserae and Michelle, also known as The Rigorous Owl! We have been teaching 4th Grade for many years and love creating life-long learners. Our passion is fun in the classroom and reading! We have many interests in common including the outdoors, being moms of boys and creating resources for our classroom and TPT store!
Be sure to follow us on our TPT Store, Blog, and Instagram!


Exciting Santa Sighting Writing Event!

We had an amazing time today getting into the Holiday Spirit! We just posted a fun and engaging product to our TPT store that we had a blast with! All the writing materials and bulletin board clipart/ lettering are included!
 The students got so creative and loved coming up with a new
Hideout for Santa!!
We discovered that the Paparazzi found Santa’s Workshop and published all about the location in their latest tabloid! Poor Santa had so many sightseers that he had to relocate!
Because we are studying setting, this writing prompt was perfect!

Students were able to discover just how important setting is!

At first, students kept wanting to draw the traditional Santa scene. They wanted elves, reindeer, etc… It took a while to get them to notice that all of those props are dependent on the North Pole’s setting! They were finally able to come up with a wetsuit for Santa, a submarine pulled by seahorses for his transportation, a sandcastle for his workshop, and fish for his helpers! You should have heard the discussions!

What holiday traditions do you have in your room? This is sure to be repeated year after year in ours!