Saturday, November 21, 2015

Inference Investigation: Turning My Classroom Into a Crime Scene!

Tired doesn't even begin to cover it y'all! This past week was American Education Week. Now, if you are one of those lucky teachers that live in an area where American Education Week is nonexistent, let me break it down for you. AEW is an entire week where family members and family friends visit their students during the school day. Now in theory, AEW is great! I whole heartedly support connecting parents and guardians to the classroom and allowing family time to see their children during the school day. However, if you are a teacher, it is beyond nerve wrecking to have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, and who knows who else sitting in the back of your classroom for an entire week!

As stressful as this week was, I will say that I am happy it happens. It's only one week out of the entire year and it really pushes me as a teacher to create engaging activities for my students.  Although this may be easier said now that it is over!

I always save one of my absolute favorite activities for this week - I call it "Inference Investigation". 

Basically, I transform my classroom into a real, live crime scene and my students become the investigators! Without even realizing it, my students make so many incredible inferences as they uncover the clues and decipher what they mean. Here's the layout:

I complete this activity during my fossil unit in science so it works perfectly! However, you could easily adapt this activity to work with any unit or theme!

First, I set the stage for my students. I convince them that a real Paleontologist is coming to the classroom after lunch to talk to them about fossils and will be set up at the back table with plenty of samples for them to see! Then, when my students leave for lunch, I set up as quickly as I can! I mean, sacrificing lunch one day is worth it, right? I seem to think so ;)

The first thing I do is open the window and tape dinosaur footprints to the floor leading from the open window to the back table. The footprints are just printed on regular paper and taped to the floor! My students never seem to noticed ;) The perks of teaching second grade! I also flip over a chair and the trash can to make it appear as if the dinosaur knocked them over on his way to the back table!

Next I set up the back table to make it appear as if the Paleontologist was hard at work when the dinosaur broke through the window! I bring mulch from my garden at home to cover the table with dirt (this is where it pays off to be really tight with your custodian!) The plastic Paleontologist hat was found at the dollar store a few years ago and always comes in handy! The dog bone (uh, I mean dinosaur...), paint brush, and mask were also found at the dollar store! You could also include any other tools you have laying around!

Then I leave a trail of dirt from the back table leading towards the classroom door and use my shoes to make footprints! I also knock over another chair because I don't know about you, but if I were a Paleontologist running from a dinosaur, I would probably be leaving in a pretty big hurry!

Then I tape off the back of my classroom and classroom door with CAUTION tape (thanks Home Depot!) and voila! My crime scene is ready to go!

When the students return from lunch, I remind them that the Paleontologist should be set up at the back table and let them enter the room ahead of me. I almost immediately hear a murmur of whispers and the look on my kiddos' faces is always priceless!

I give them time to get close to the CAUTION tape and investigate on their own. I am always impressed with their investigation skills!

Once the excitement has dulled down, we work together as a class to identify all the clues and then the students work in small groups to identify the meaning behind the clues! Then students are given time to independently write a narrative of what happened on the back.

This year I got extremely lucky! Towards the end of the activity, a helicopter happened to fly by outside and my students came to the conclusion that the helicopter was looking for the missing Paleontologist!

Now, it is entirely your choice to tell your class the truth after the activity or not! Personally, I let my students continue to believe the Paleontologist is missing because I don't want to break their trust. But I typically tell them the truth at the end of the school year.

If you are interested in completing this activity in your own classroom, click the image below for the FREE download!

If you complete this activity in your own classroom, please share your experience with me! I would love to see how this activity has been adapted to fit your students' needs! :)


  1. I love everything about this! This sounds like so much fun AND it's a great way to teach inferences.

  2. I saw this once on Pinterest and forgot to save it, and have been hunting for WEEKS to find it again! I'm so happy to have finally found it. Thanks for sharing this activity. I've been nervous to introduce inferencing, but this seems like a blast!

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  5. I'm sure your students enjoyed that class. You can also teach them how to write an essay, they'll need this skill.

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