Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Crime Scene Investigation

A few months ago  I was in need of an activity that would include speaking and writing. I needed to push my ELLs to new levels. In addition, we needed to do something active. These same students had also been learning about their rights  in civics class.

We watched a few clips of popular TV shows where crime solving is the name of the game. My students also shared their favorite TV shows and how crime is portrayed in them.

Through these background building sessions we reviewed vocabulary that most of the students had learned previously in civics class or while watching television. We talked about procedures, the different people who are involved in solving crimes, and what are their responsibilities. We talked about the suspected person's rights, and the responsibility that the police has in solving the crime the right way.

Then it was time to give everyone their role in our staged crime and set the scene.


Someone had really messed up my classroom! Books were everywhere. There was even blood on my supply table. And can you see those little yellow crime scene investigator markers? We really wanted to follow protocol.


First impressions are very important. Everyone involved had to come and observe before beginning to take notes.


Then you had to take notes in a specific way depending on your job description. If you were the lead investigator, you had to develop questions based on your crime solving skills. If you were the suspect or the witness, you had to write down your notes of what you had observed and create an alibi for yourself.


Then came the interviews. Remember, when we are working with English Language Learners, we must develop our students oral language not just writing skills. Here you have the lead detective along with with his partner questioning the witness while the first officer on the scene is giving his input. The detectives are trying to determine if this witness is reliable and has pertinent information towards the case that they are building.

All in all, it was fun to watch students interact, take their role seriously and really get into to investigation part. I saw students speaking to each other, asking questions and asking follow up questions like real professionals. They were writing; taking notes and then turning those notes into a report writing. They had to listen carefully to others; especially to the witnesses and to the suspect. When working with a partner, they also had to read each other's writing. They were using all four language domains (and that made me very happy)!

Now I just need to plan a similar lesson for the end of the year. Any suggestions?


22 comments:

  1. Awesome!!!! I love this idea and it seems like the students did too! When I was in grad school, I took a class and one day as the professor was about to start class, the door flew open, someone ran in grabbed her purse and ran out. We all froze. As we started talking she instructed us all to be silent and write down everything we saw. She told us (I can't remember exactly when) that this was staged...I think it was after we wrote everything down. We compared notes and found we remembered and "saw" completely different things. It was memorable and interesting! :)

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    1. Michelle, that is so true! Maybe that is what I should do at the end of the school year. Would be fun!

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  2. What a fun activity to do. A very memorable lesson that will stay with them.

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  3. What fun...and what a great way to incorporate so many skills! I love lessons like this - and so do our kids, they'll never forget this crime scene, Jaana!

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    1. I wish we had more flexibility to do more assignments like this.

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  4. What a great idea. Your students must have had so much fun while they were learning.

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    1. It was definitely a change of pace!

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  5. That looks like so much fun! What a great way to get them to practice. For the end of the year, I'd be tempted to do it again, but have them take on a different role. Or do a mock trial: Is the Big Bad Wolf guilty? (Would use some of the same language...investigations, reports, interviews, etc.)
    Now I want to teach older students.

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    1. You have given me something to think about....

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  6. What a great authentic experience for your students to practice their speaking, listening, reading and writing, Jaana! I am sure that they kept practicing when they told other people what they had done in class!

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    1. I so hope that lessons learned in my class will carry over to other classes.

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  7. Such a great idea, Jaana. I've used it when I taught the newspaper staff, too. They practiced taking notes for different kinds of articles, etc. As for including speaking, too, I've had students write "A Day In The Life of _______". They had to interview a classmate, follow (or discover) all about his or her day, then present each other in a narrative piece. Usually I did this at the beginning of the year, but it could work for an ending 'celebration of'.

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    1. Great idea for the beginning of school year! Thank you Linda!

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  8. Oh I would have loved to participated in this activity. I bet your students are still talking about that day!

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    1. I also figured out a few things that I would do better/differently when prepping the scene. We needed a better suspect--or preferably two suspects!

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  9. What a great activity and one I am sure your students will remember for a long time. Learning is an active activity and not a passive one. This lesson seems like it really got them involved.

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    1. Getting high school kids moving works. I wish I could do it more often!

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  10. I bet there was a wonderful buzz in your classroom that day. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. Wow! What an awesome activity! This is so creative. I love how you have incorporated so many different elements into what seems like such an enjoyable (and beneficial) activity. I bet your students loved doing this! I am filing this idea away into my "teaching ideas" folder. :)

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  12. What an amazing idea. I love that you used language in a meaningful way. I bet they talked about your class for days!

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  13. So cute, Jaana! I love how you included the pictures of your students working. They do look so serious and engaged! Maybe afterwards they could be journalists and write newspaper articles about the investigation & trial?

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