I met with all of the first grade reading groups last week. Membership in these groups is based on DRA levels from last spring. This trimester I am seeing first graders with DRA levels of 20 and above.
We didn’t waste a moment and started right in on our first unit — mysteries. To begin, I presented the students with a mystery: Someone stole all of the Smarties from Mrs. Green’s Smarty Pants. Who could it be? Billy has a lot of candy wrappers under his chair, so Mrs. Green thinks it might be him. But Billy was in library at the time of the crime. It can’t be him! Riley says she saw someone still the Smarties and it wasn’t Billy; it was Mrs. Halayko!***
***Despite eyewitness testimony, the students refused to believe that their beloved principal could have been behind the crime. They immediately labeled Riley as at best an unreliable witness and at worst an outright liar and criminal, speculating that Riley had pinned the blame on Mrs. Halayko to detract attention from Riley’s own guilt. Even at the end, when I told the students that Mrs. Halayko had indeed stolen the Smarties (though only to borrow them for a specific purpose and with the intent to replace them immediately), they were still dubious. Now that’s love and loyalty!
After I shared this mystery, I introduced some mystery vocabulary we will need during this unit. Most of the words were familiar to the students. The only one they’d never heard before was “red herring.” A couple students insisted that a red herring is a bird. A red herring is actually a fish that has been strongly cured or heavily smoked, turning it red. In the context of mysteries, a red herring is a false clue, something that leads the detective to an incorrect conclusion (like the candy wrappers under Billy’s desk in our mystery).
Why is a pickled fish used to embody this concept? According to wikipedia, “Conventional wisdom has long supposed it to be the use of a kipper (a strong-smelling smoked fish) to train hounds to follow a scent, or to divert them from the correct route when hunting; however, modern linguistic research suggests that the term was probably invented in 1807 by English polemicist William Cobbett, referring to one occasion on which he had supposedly used a kipper to divert hounds from chasing a hare, and was never an actual practice of hunters. The phrase was later borrowed to provide a formal name for the logical fallacy and literary device.”
Who knew?! I certainly didn’t, and I’m embarrassed to say that I never thought to ask. Just one of the reasons why working with kids is the best job there is. I never know what I don’t know until I’m in a room with ten first graders who are full of questions. (You realize that that last part was redundant, right? All first graders are full of questions. The challenge is to make sure you’re full of answers, or that you know where to help find them.)
The kids each took home a mystery vocabulary sheet, Case Report homework sheet, and a mystery book (I know they are reading books that are longer and more difficult than this, but I wanted it to be simple and straightforward for purposes of filling out the Case Report). Books and homework are due back Wednesday, September 17th.
Curious about what’s been going on at TJ? While assessments are completed and Tiger Pause groups are put together, Ms. Lang has been visiting classrooms at all grade levels. I joined her when she dropped in on Mrs. Smith’s second grade class. I loved seeing the second graders in action, and watching Mrs. Smith work her magic always leaves me proud and envious. You can read Ms. Lang’s write-up here.