Almost a year ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Melissa from Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late at a Virginia blogger meet-up. For me, it was like meeting a celebrity, because I found Melissa's TpT store long before I found her, and I had a particular obsession with her wonderful Mysteries because at this time last year, they were a fantastic tool for review, so much so that they are now a staple in my classroom when it's time to review one of the harder strategies, making inferences.
I must confess that I own all of her mysteries at this point, which makes for a super fun review. On "Solve the Mystery Day" I prepare 5 cases and set them up as rotations. I put each mystery in an envelope, with the answer sheets copied for each student, and the case printed out. I hold on to the mystery solution in a separate envelope. Students are assigned groups and then assigned cases in a certain order. As we begin, they sit down with their first case, and one student takes out the background information and reads it to the rest of the group. Then they look through the suspects, considering what they read, and having awesome discussions about why one suspect works over another. It is truly fantastic conversation, as I hear them reading, using their schema, debating, and coming to a final decision about the culprit. They realize that it is hard work, and as fifth graders, they really spend a lot of time analyzing the characters. so it's the kind of work that makes my teacher heart incredibly happy!
Since I own all of Melissa's sets, I do this once during the time that my students are learning about making inferences and then again at this time of year, to get that critical thinking going again before it's time for testing! They are excited the first time, but are ecstatic when we do it a second time, because they feel like their investigative skills have greatly improved, and they're right! The second round always includes better discussions, and more agreement in the end.
I highly recommend grabbing any or all of Melissa's Mysteries. You can even start out by checking out her freebie, The Case of the Missing Mascot, by clicking below.