Our 3rd grade classrooms love to mystery Skype. Have you tried it? In a mystery Skype, 2 classrooms connect with one another but don’t say where they are from. The two organizers of course know, but the students don’t. By asking a series of yes or no questions, students try to narrow down to a country, state, city, and even school if there is time. Mystery Skypes work best when students are prepared in advance and every student has a job to do. There are many example of jobs to assign in a mystery Skype such as greeter, researcher, questioner, scribe, and photographer.
Ms. Haley, a 3rd grade teacher, met with me to talk about some skills she hoped the students could work on in advance of a mystery Skype. I started planning a series of 5 centers for students to rotate through. Ms. Maher, our tech integration specialist, worked on scheduling mystery Skypes via Twitter and Skype in the Classroom so that all 3rd grade classes had a connection.
Two classes at a time came to the library to engage in the mystery Skype centers. This meant that me, the two classroom teachers, my library intern, and a parent or collaborating teacher could run one center each. This also meant hat about 8 students would be at each center for 10-ish minutes. It was very fast-paced, but it introduced to students to many aspects of a mystery Skype and they continued the work in their classrooms throughout the week leading up to the connection.
I made a Google doc with all 5 centers and teachers shared the doc with their students through Google Classroom. Each student had a copy to edit. Here’s a look at what happened at each center:
Center 1 Question Writing
I reference Pernille Ripp’s great post on good mystery Skype questions. Students read her examples and then worked on writing their own possible questions from narrow to more specific. My intern worked with students to think carefully about the kinds of questions they were writing.
Center 2 Google Tour Builder
Ms. Haley wanted students to have a sense of where they were in relation with the rest of the world, so I had students start a Google Tour Builder at either their home address or our school address. Then, students built a tour of places they have lived, visited, or want to visit in the world. This allowed them to be able to reference their current place in the world with other locations
Center 3 Georgia
A big part of a mystery Skype is sharing facts about your city and state with the connecting class. Students of course love to learn that there are McDonald’s in multiple places in the world, but it’s also fun to share unique facts that make your state what it is. A pulled a large stack of books about many aspects of our state from Weird Georgia to books about each region. Students gathered facts that they could share with our connecting class at the end of the Skype.
Center 4 The United States
Ms Haley wanted us to review cardinal and intermediate directions. I have a small set of National Geographic Kids Beginner’s United States Atlases. The atlas divides the country up into regions such as northeast, southwest, etc. so I asked students to look at each region and count the number of states in each region, name some of the states, and pick out some facts about those states. My hope was this would give them some familiarity with how the US is organized and lead to questions about specific regions or help them answer questions from our connecting class about the regions.
Center 5 Landmarks
Our 3rd graders study several important rivers and lakes as part of their social studies, so this center included books about all of those rivers and lakes as well as other landmarks around the country. Students used these books to identify landmarks and then write questions that could be asked using those landmarks. Example: Is your school west of the Mississippi River?
This was my first try at doing this kind of preparation for a mystery Skype. Each center was based on past experiences and skills that I saw a need for as well as the skills brought up by the 3rd grade teachers. We will see how this translates into our connections this week.
Looking back, I wish we had more time at each center in the library, but it was also nice to quickly go through the centers to get an understanding of each one and then independently work on them back int he classroom over several days.
What have you done to prepare for a mystery Skype? Leave a comment!