Monday, January 21, 2013

Can You Solve the Mystery?

This lesson is built around a Best Practices Strategy I learned from Tammy Elser and Julie Cajune.  I hope you enjoy solving the mystery.  This mystery has been laid out as a lesson plan you could use with students 4th-12th.  You will need 2 class periods

I.  Essential Ideas - Write Your Way In

Take 2 minutes and study one of the pictures.  Ask yourself what you see?  What people, objects and activities do you see? Do you know who is in the picture?  What is it?  When was it made?  Who made it? How was it made?  What can you infer from your examination?

2 Minutes:  Draw your picture don't worry about artistic skill.   You are welcome to use caricature and stick people.  Try to capture details and mood.  This is a great connection to your brain and the observations you have made.

3 Minutes Quick Write #1:  What is this?  What do the pictures tell us?  What do you wonder?  Write what you know or think you know.  This quick writing helps the writer activate schema and allows for reflection.

2 Minutes: (In class I have students share with a partner what they think they know.)  

II.  Build More Background Knowledge

Looking at this painting by Terpning use one of the two graphic organizer/worksheet to examine the picture.  (I put the students in a small group to do this section.)

Primary Source Thinking Triangle adapted from Dr. Berie Kingore's Thinking Triangle Strategy

Read the following articles/posts

The West

As you read you may find words that are unfamiliar to you.  Write them here and your “hunch” definition of the word based on context and your own background understanding.  Look for key words - ideas.  Write your working definition or best guess.  Compare your list to others after reading, then craft a revised definition.

WordI think it means ... “Guess-finition”Now I think ... Definition

Quick Write #2 (5 Minutes):  What is this about:  Summarize your passage here.

Second Class Period
III.  Landscape of History Video ( show in 5 minute segments this video is 20 minutes long). Video from Nez Perce National Trail

1st Segment 0- 5:08
 Pose question - Why did the US government want the Nez Perce moved from their homeland in Oregon's Wallowa Valley?

2nd Segment 5:08 - 9:00 minutes  Question:  What events contributed to the Nez Perce flight?

3rd Segment 9:00 - 13:00 minutes Question:  Describe what happened at Big Hole Montana.  Why were they trying to reach the Crow Tribe?

4th Segment 13:00 - 20:00 Minutes  Question:  What made Chief Joseph surrender?

Pause between each segment for a thinking review.  (5-7 min Repeated)
1.  Students in groups discuss what they heard.
2.  Student task is to draw conclusions, make inferences, pose additional questions and sometimes argue ambiguous points.
3.  Teacher listens, poses guiding questions (drill down method) clarifies confusion and checks for understanding.
4.  Repeat cycle 3 to 4 times as time allows.
5.  Students may develop a graphic organizer of anchor chart during these segments to capture their thinking.

IV.  Report out and final debrief. (10-15 min)
1.  Students in groups report out. They share their conclusions with the class.
2.  Teacher looks for development of understanding of the topic.
3.  Teacher continues to expand and clarify in response to student reports.

V.  Write your way out.  (3-5 min)

1.  Individual reflection.
2.  Now what do you know?
3.  Students write what they now understand.

VI.  Final Clues -  What is the connection to the first three pictures?  (Hand out these three articles for each group to read)

Seattle Star Sept 09, 1904 -Wa-win-te-pe-koet Laments the Mamaloose of the Great Indian


Terpning Painting


  1. Thanks for posting such a thorough lesson. I was thinking about doing a similar activity for Black History Month and Civil Rights using the New York Times Learning Blog. There is a slideshow of pictures here:
    Pictures are a good motivator for writing. Thanks again for sharing.

  2. So interesting! I often think about artifacts, as I love history. I love to visit museums, but they are filled with sacred objects. Was it right to remove them? Does the fact that they help us understand the past make it "okay" to have them on display for us to gawk at?

  3. Wow...thank you for this awesome lesson. I also love primary source artifacts and so do students. The articles...also thanks. I will definitely read. XO

  4. Great strategy for examining primary sources. The NY State Historical Society used to have so many fantastic resources for primary source examination. Not sure if they have info for teachers on their website, but figured I'd mention it just in case they do. (I used to go to p.d.'s there when I lived in the City.)

  5. This is a very deep lesson! I think all of the graphic organizers will support growth in understanding the mystery and help the students own their learning. How will you or will you need to differentiate the reading level of the articles to make them understandable and accessible to all students? Keep us posted on how it goes...

  6. Margaret

    I looked at the site you shared. What a great resource. I would love to hear the facilitator. Thanks for sharing.

  7. This looks terrific, Ruth. I have used many resources for oral history projects from the Library of Congress. I think lessons like these open up so many worlds for students that they didn't know existed.

  8. How timely as I am at DBQ training today. Loved the depth and simplicity of this assignment.


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