An idea for the classroom - Who killed Santa?
“I‘d love to do more activities in lessons but we just haven’t got time – the syllabus is so full.”
Have you heard that said? Have you heard that said in your school? So often the end of term is a time when little useful learning takes place so why not use the end of this autumn term to do a ‘fun’ activity which also gives pupils access to some of the process skills in the curriculum and contributes towards their developing functionality.
A Christmas murder mystery always keeps people alert after the Christmas pudding, so at the risk of being a bit early – here is a murder mystery for the classroom which is perfect for the end of term.
Pupils are given a set of clue cards which define the task – of finding out who killed Santa – and give them all the necessary information to solve the mystery. Pupils have a map of ‘Santa Town’ where distances are measured in ‘reindeer miles’; the characters are simply called Red, Orange, Yellow etc.
How would I use this in the classroom? Ideally I would organise pupils to work in pairs, give each pair a set of the clue cards and a big piece of paper to work on, then stand back as pupils ‘sort out’ what they need to do, observing some of their useful strategies to feed back to pupils later in the lesson.
If pupils are not used to working in this way it may be necessary to ‘oil the wheels’ of the activity by scaffolding the problem. It is tempting to dive in and tell them what to do, but by doing this you have diluted some of the rich learning experience. So some useful teacher behaviours might be:
- you could stop the class after five to ten minutes to ask them to clarify what the task is (ie. find out who killed Santa)
- ask them to tell you some strategies they are using which might be:
- copying out the table
- copying out the map to jot down the positions of the colours
- putting different possibilities on the map
- putting distances on the map
- putting cards to one side after the information has been used
- ask pupils to suggest which is a useful card to start with
- ask pupils to suggest which may be the final card they will use.
Towards the end of the lesson, it would be useful to stop and ask pupils to talk through how they arrived at their solution but also to suggest some of the skills they have been using – it may be worth pointing out instances where pupils have justified their answers or worked logically. Finally, it may be useful to ask pupils if they feel they have done any mathematics. Do you think they have?