This month your child will call on their inner detective. They will spend them month solving mysteries alongside Cam Jansen, Encyclopedia Brown, The Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew. While spending time learning the ins and outs of a mystery they will continue to build on the knowledge they have gained through previous units they have engaged in. They will be asked to take notice of the traits that enable the main character(s) to solve the mystery as well as evidence behind those traits. Towards the end of the unit we will also focus on the skill of interpretation by figuring out the life lessons that can be learned from studying the characters’ and plot. For example, in the Boxcar Children, an overly friendly character often tricks or fools the children. This is also true in many Cam Jansen mysteries. After reading these mysteries, we might say that both books teach us that you can’t always trust people just because they are nice to you.
This unit also invites intertextual work. In third grade students need to be able to compare and contrast themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters. As children read one mystery and then another they will develop a sense for how mysteries tend to go, and if they are reading mysteries within a series, they’ll get a sense for a particular series (adding on to the work we did in the unit on series books). This means that children can, within this unit, learn to see how any one mystery fits within a set of other, similar mysteries. They will also be a part of a book club that will enable them to push themselves and each other to compare and contrast these elements as they read each mystery.
Lastly, through the use of their detective notebooks they will also be improving their ability to organize and record their thoughts about the books they are reading. We will create new ways to organize the clues, suspects, witnesses, and evidence about their thinking. These detective notebooks will support them in increasing their attention to important details to take note of in a mystery as well as the level of the discussions they have with their book club.
To support your child as home, read a little bit of the book aloud at home and talk deeply about it. This is especially helpful at the beginning of a mystery. You may also want to read the same book in sync with your child and talk about it. Some key words that can support your discussions are: witness, clues, detective, thief, setting, evidence, crime, suspect, red-herring, and motive.