On the Smart Board, I display the image of the Mystery and Inference Readers' Theater worksheet the kids will use in the activity.
As a warm up, I ask them to think of a good mystery title to use as an example, and they come up with, "The Mystery in the Barn."
The next question on the Smart Board and worksheet is: What is the mystery to be solved? I say, "We're pretending the mystery happens in a barn, so who can give me a good question for this?" The created response? "Why are there three dead cows on the floor?"
Next, they need to give me a few clues which during the activity will lead to an inference. The clues for this example are: Poison was discovered, and there is blood in the corner of the mouths of the cows.
They then infer that the cows had been poisoned and this caused them to get sick and cough up blood. Sounds reasonable, and is an adequate example to guide them through the activity.
I selected three different mysteries to use for this activity, although upon reflection, it would have been better to use just one story. The kids were excited to participate, but with different stories it was frustrating to keep them even close to same place. My initial idea was for the groups with the two shorter stories to switch when they'd finished, but even that was out of synch with the longer one. Suffice it to say, one mystery readers' theater script would have been best.
The three mysteries are: The Case of the Ringing Doorbell, The Mysterious Copy Room, and The Case of the Mysterious Kidnapping. I've uploaded The Case of the Ringing Doorbell below. There are either five or six parts in each script (this includes a child reading the narrator/scene parts.) I drew sticks at random without worry about the number of male or female roles. Having spent WAY too much time doing something like that in the past, it saved me a headache. Not one child complained and they worked themselves into the characters fine.
They also had to keep track of the clues they discovered as they read. Not all of the groups did this the same way. I overheard one of the boys really take control and say, "Ok, now that was a big clue- we've gotta write it down," and that group did. Others preferred to read the whole script then go back and locate the clues that took them to the end. Either way was fine as long as they completed the assignment.
Here's a slide show of them working.
When they ALL eventually finished (as I mentioned earlier I would not do a variety of plays again) I gave the kids time to finish their clues and make inferences about what they'd read. What I hadn't noticed, believe it or not, was that inadvertantly, I'd forgotten to put, "What do you infer about this mystery?" at the bottom of the page. Although this mistake was made within my own class, we did talk about the different mysteries and their conclusions as a group. I went back to the resource and included the inference question at the bottom.
At least one volunteer from each of the three mysteries came to the front of the class and went over their mystery as well as the clues and what was inferred because of them. Here are some examples of student work that was shared:
It went fine, the kids had a blast, and much inferencing took place. Despite the good, I can't stress enough that the variety of plays and their differing lengths kept the activity from running as smoothly as it may have.