Tuesday, January 17, 2017

You've done mystery location, now what?

I've had the lucky opportunity to plan and coordinate Mystery Location calls for all of our sixth grade social studies teachers in my school. It is so fun to help arrange their line ups and to co-teach the lessons as often as I can. I love watching the students try to solve the puzzle of where the other school can be from and the level of collaboration that is necessary for success. If you haven't done a Mystery Location call yet - definitely try it out. You'll be hooked. Want to know more? Check out Who Doesn't Love a Mystery?

Because of our success with sixth grade social studies, I had a few other teachers approach me and ask what kinds of global connections they could make. We also had a lot of fun with some Mystery Calls and wanted an excuse to call those same classes back. So I poked around and read about Mystery Number.

Mystery Number follows the same premise as a Mystery Location call. This time each class picks a number. The range of numbers can match the level of students. For very young classes you might limit it to 0 through 20. For our self-contained Special Education class we did whole numbers between 1 and 100. This year we are hoping to do 1 through 100 but to the hundredths decimal place.

Once each class has picked their number, each side asks a yes or no question. We tried questions like "Is the number even?" "Is the number prime?" "Is the number greater than 50?" We practiced the day ahead by having small groups pick numbers and ask each other questions. It was a great way to review academic vocabulary like even/odd, greater than/less than, and prime. Some of our students even tried using multiples and factors which was excellent. I'm looking forward to the questions our decimals class will ask.

Our students found it very helpful to have number charts that they could mark up. The classroom teacher I worked with had clear folders that we could slide the number chart into and then mark up with dry erase markers. This was definitely ideal.

I also found it helpful to have one class ask questions until they guessed and then switch and have the other class ask until they guessed. When we do Mystery Location we always alternate questions but with Mystery Number that transition seemed harder for the students. Play around with it to find a format that works for your students.

There are several reasons to try out a Mystery Number call. First of all, it is so important for students to have the ability to reach beyond their classroom. There is something about communicating with a class in a different part of the country that slowly opens their eyes to the world beyond them. Mystery call have sparked political, social, cultural, and economic conversations in our classes. Secondly, it is an authentic opportunity to put into practice something they've been learning. Suddenly there is a reason to know which numbers are prime beyond that "it will be on the test." Now knowing which numbers are prime helps you narrow down your choices, plan your next question and accurately answer questions from the other class. Thirdly, Mystery Calls give all students a place in the classroom. Students that I've never seen speak up in class have a chance to get in front of the web cam and ask a question to a class across state boundaries. Students that are careful note takers become invaluable because their number chart is the reference point. Each time I do a call there is a least one student who surprises the classroom teachers with their interest and level of participation. So, give Mystery Number a try. And if you are looking for a partner class please leave a comment below so we can get in touch!

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