Tag Archives: authentic learning

March Mystery Madness

Thrillers, suspense, crime novels, detective fiction – whatever you call them, mystery books make for some of the most exciting literature out there. The mystery genre has been around for over two centuries. The Enigma Society has announced a new contest for teen writers to create a short story (or film or podcast) with a dastardly murder … a gathering of suspicious characters. WHO, with WHAT weapon and WHERE? 

That is all up to you. You will have the next three weeks to craft your story, plot the murder, and have your readers ask cunning detective questions. 

I wanted to go beyond a scenario and create an authentic challenge. I contacted my local public library to see if they wanted to get in on the literary action and expand this mystery writing contest beyond the walls of my classroom. Because librarians are the best, they agreed to participate and host this mystery writing contest. And who knows, if it is successful we might turn it into an annual event for all middle school students.  The director of the library and teen librarian have agreed to create an introductory video to launch the contest. In the meanwhile, here is the contest rules and regulations.

Students will have three weeks to write and create an original mystery. I also created a playlist to guide students through the writing process, focusing on the elements of mystery. Click on the image below to access the hyper doc that I modeled from the original Clue game board.

Murder Mystery Gameboad

Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last.

– Sherlock Holmes

And with that, my friends, you will have to stay tuned for more.

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Project Based Learning

This past week I spent three days in a project based learning (PBL) workshop with Jill Ackers-Clayton from Fielding Nair International (FNI) learning about effective 21st-century teaching and learning practices surrounding active learning spaces and project-based instruction. 

In turn, I have revamped my 7th and 8th grade media elective class to be a twenty week project based learning experience with my students. I have mapped out the project and authentic challenge based on the question: How can we develop an award winning movie short to highlight a problem in our world?

Students will have twenty weeks to direct and produce a 5 minute film (Documentary, Short Feature or Public Service Announcement (PSA)) about a real world problem that ignites them AND organize a film festival to present student created films to school wide community audience.

According to Dayna Laur and Jill Ackers in their book Developing Natural Curiosity Through Project Based Learning  there are five stages to guiding students through the process: (1) Authentic Challenge & Purpose; (2) Information and Prototyping; (3) Perspective and Point of View; (4) Actions and Consequences and; (5) Considerations and Conclusions.

MSK Syllabus 2019-2020-2

MSK Syllabus 2019-2020-3

MSK Syllabus 2019-2020-5

MSK Syllabus 2019-2020-6

MSK Syllabus 2019-2020-7

Since I want students to utilize the elements of cinematography that best illustrates this community problem and showcases your understanding of film production, the first ten minutes of class I will provide a View Now Do Now that introduces film history, vocabulary, and study of craft. I have outlined the View Nows Do Nows for the first month of school on the slide deck below.

If you do project based learning with your students I would love to know the authentic challenges and learning experiences. Please share your insight in the comments on this blog.

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