Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Using Mysteries to Build Comprehension Skills

It is spring time. This is when I usually begin to panic about how well my kids are reading. We have been working at building decoding skills all year, but after looking at winter DRA data, the focus shifts to comprehension. The classroom teachers have all taught the basics; however, many of my struggling readers are having a difficult time pulling it all together. This is the time of year I love to introduce my students to the mystery genre.
Why do I love teaching mysteries? Well, most importantly the kids get excited. When I tell them they will get to be detectives wakes them up. My second graders who have struggled all year see a chapter book and feel like they have really accomplished something.

Here are some more reasons I love using mysteries in the reading classroom.

Mystery books work well for...
  1. Visualizing-The crime is usually described in great detail. What an awesome opportunity to have kids visualize.
  2. Character traits and interactions-The characters in mysteries often have exaggerated traits making it really easy to discuss how these traits impact behavior.
  3. Inference-You have suspects and clues and what you know, this works well for inferences.
  4. Predicting- When reading mysteries it is very natural to make predictions. Since the author often tries to trick the reader adjusting predictions while reading also just fits with mysteries.
  5. Sequence- Many mystery books have flashbacks. This helps kids work on sequencing events.
  6. Summarizing- The easy to identify problem, solution and events in mysteries help early readers build summary skills.
Some of my favorite mystery books for early readers are Cam Jansen, Nate the Great and A to Z Mysteries. Cam Jansen offers lower level books for early readers with the Young Cam Jansen series. My students also enjoy the Cam Jansen website.

When beginning the mystery genre we discuss the story elements that make a book a mystery.
While reading each student gets a detective book. This helps them to track the clues and suspects while reading.
The kids enjoy writing in the books and it is helpful to write about the book daily when first reading chapter books. When we finish the book each kid completes his or her case file and writes a summary of the book.
Here are some free resources for teaching mysteries.
Or click here if you would like to check out my Mystery Genre Product

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