Sunday, July 22, 2012

I Heart Mystery Readers

*Quick update: I have updated my blog address to: www.3rdgradethoughts.com. Be sure to update your bookmark and pardon the glitches during this transition time :)

I am always looking to authentically involve parents in my classroom and I am happy to say that this next activity fits the bill!

Mystery Readers!


Have you used Mystery Readers before? The idea is not new, but the best part is that it gets parents into the classroom, involves kids and exposes everyone (even the teacher!) to new and wonderful picture books :)

I have used Mystery Readers for the last three years and can honestly say it is the highlight of our week! Each Friday, I have a parent, grandparent, older sibling, neighbor, anyone (even other teachers and the principal!) come in to share their favorite picture book. They read it aloud to the class and we all get the chance to enjoy a read aloud- don't you just love being read to? Never gets old :)

Best part? Up until the reader walks into the room, it is a total mystery to the students who will be arriving- yay!! The suspense + the big reveal + a read aloud by a guest = happy parents, students & teacher- WIN!

Here's how I set up Mystery Readers in my class:


1.The first week home, I send an intro letter to the parents so they know all about Mystery Readers and what it entails. This describes who can be a reader, what to read, and the importance of keeping the secret :)

2. Then, a few days later during Back to School Night, I pass around a calendar with the times I have set aside for the whole year so parents can sign up. I have this available throughout the year, so parents can add/change their time if they need to. I continue to stress the importance of keeping this a secret- that's the best part!
 3. A week before a reader's scheduled time, I send home a reminder letter (in an envelope or email) of their date and time and I ask them for two things: the name of the picture book they will be reading (for my own knowledge, just so everyone doesn't read The Giving Tree all year!) and five clues about themselves.
4. These clues are very important and will be read before the Mystery Reader is introduced, building suspense and making the big reveal so so so much fun :)

I recommend the parents use clues like:
  • where they were born
  • their favorite sports
  • their favorite book when they were in 3rd grade
  • a fun fact 
  • not who their child is in class :)
These clues are then put into an envelope that is labeled and hung in the front of our class.

5. I read the clues aloud as our class door is closed with our Mystery Reader waiting outside. The kiddo usually always knows it's their parent by the end and it's so so cute :) I then open the door for the big reveal and have the child introduce their parent (or sibling, grandparent, whomever). If it's the principal or another staff member, I have a volunteer introduce them to the group (it's nice to practice that skill!).

They sit at our Author's Chair and share their book. It's awesome :)

When they are done, we will borrow the book for a week (or I will pull my copy) and we will display it in our class for later reading (during Read with Someone or DEAR time)
6. Later in the day, we write thank you notes to our reader and I send them home with their student. They are short and sweet, but a nice way to thank them for coming in to share with our class.
All of these pieces and parts are available now in my TpT Store at a discounted price for its intro.


I would love to give away a set to two people- in the comments, let me know a way that you incorporate parents in a meaningful way in your classroom. Remember to include your email address and I will chose a winner on Tuesday!

41 comments:

  1. I did Mystery Reader with my Kinders last year and they LOVED it!!! I think they might get tired of hearing my voice all the time :) I really like your idea of setting up the calendar for the entire school year and also having the mystery reader give clues so the kiddos can try to guess who it is. So fun!

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  2. I've asked parents to come in & read before, but I would love to use a mystery reader program in my classroom. This is a fantastic idea!
    Lisa
    Learning Is Something to Treasure

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  3. I absolutely LOVE this!! I sometimes have parents come in to volunteer but I love that his allows all parents a chance to choose when is best to come in..and it's not sacrificing a HUGE chunk of time on their part. It's always so hard when you can only choose one or two parents as chaperones for field trips. This is great to get all parents involved!! I've been thinking of how to get them more involved and this may just be the way!! Thanks so much!!
    Courtney
    Cmizufuka@gmail.com

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  4. I love this idea, Stephanie!! The documents you created for this are great, too!! How do you fit the mystery readers into your class schedule...what day and time do the mystery readers come to class?

    I am about to start my first year teaching but I can tell you what I plan to do to incorporate parents in a meaningful way. I want to have a star student each week but call it "Porter Patriot of the Week" (for my school name and mascot). I know a lot of teachers do different activities each day or during the week for the star student...I'm going to implement Beth Newingham's activities (http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/). One of the day's activities is called Parent Letter where the parent(s) writes a letter to the class about their child. The letter could be a silly or special story, a poem , or a short story with their child as the main character. Another day's activity is called Lunch Buddy where a parent, sibling, or other relative joins the student for lunch.

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    1. Ooo, I love Beth Newingham and I love your plan!

      For my Mystery Reader time, I usually have them come during our regular Snack & Read Aloud time on Fridays. It's a nice time and is always consistent, so it's easy to plan it all at the beginning of the year :)

      ~Stephanie

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  5. Stephanie I absolutely love this! My mentor teacher during my student teaching did this and it was so inspiring! The kids JUST LOVED waiting for their mystery reader. I will say that I would love to use this in my classroom this year, and part of our state standards are for students to ask questions, provide summaries based on facts, etc. I think it would be really fun to have a student walk to the office to retrieve our "mystery reader" and interview them on the way down! That way, along with the clues, the mystery reader could be presented to the class and the student could provide a brief summary of who they are.

    I work in a very rural school district, and it is very challenging to get parents involved. Many of them have wonderful intentions, but the number who are capable of volunteering is very very slim. I have always desperately tried to get parents in my room through volunteering, classroom parties, small group help, but its just never really worked! This past year I also tried Beth Newingham's Star Student of the Week, Gator of the Week in my room, and I got a wonderful response from parents about writing letters, sending goodies, but not alot of parents showing up to meet with their child. I think this would be a great way to get my parents super excited about coming into the classroom!

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  7. This year I had my parents come read their favorite Dr. Seuss Book on Dr. Seuss' birthday! I also had them come read with individual students during read to self. This was such a wonderful thing for my kiddos that didn't have involved parents because they could still have someone read to them.

    THIS year... I am going to do a regional studies unit similar to the one Beth Newingham uses. I am going to have parents come in and be tour guides or experts for the different places we "travel". I tell me parents from the time they meet me that they are welcome in my room anytime!

    daisydee226@gmail.com

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  8. Ooooh I love love this! Adding it to my new stuff to do this year! I am also inviting a parent or community member into our class each month (Or every two weeks if I can get enough) to talk about their career. So far I have a pharmacist, male nurse, police officer and florist lined up. I think it is going to be great for kids to hear from parents and members of the community about what they do! Mystery readers will be a great addition :)

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  9. Oh goodness forgot the email- 2newports@gmail.com

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  10. Hi Stephanie,
    I have Mystery Readers come in to my classroom, too. I give the children a clue a day about who the mystery guest might be. It is so funny to hear the children say, "That's my mom!" and another child say, "No, that's my mom!" The funniest time was when two children were certain that the Mystery Reader was their father when it was actually another child's mother. That child didn't even get the clues. Boy, was she surprised! I send the Mystery Reader home with a laminated bookmark thanking the reader signed by the students. I like the idea of borrowing the Mystery Reader's book for a week so that children can read it again. I will incorporate it into my Mystery Reader Activities. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

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  11. I did Mystery Reader a few years ago when my co-teacher friend and I had a combined class of 41. It was fabulous to know that relatives, including parents and grandparents, wanted to take part in this. I am going to use this again this year since I am the only ELA teacher in fourth grade now. I would love your Mystery Reader Activities! Thanks for sharing what you do!
    Jessica @ Fabulous and Fun 4th Graders
    jlynns26@yahoo.com

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  12. That sounds like so much fun! I have a small class of 14 3rd and 4th grade special ed students. It's always really hard to get our parents involved but one thing we've done in the past is free spaghetti or pizza dinners. We have info sessions for the parents related to different special ed topics and the kids get to show off some of the things they've been doing in class. Plus the food motivates more parents (and other family members) to come out and participate! It's always been a lot of fun!!
    I would love to start using the Mystery Reader activities with my class this year - I know my kids would love seeing their parents and family members at school! What a great idea!!
    Kelly
    kthompsondesign@gmail.com

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  13. I have never had parent volunteers because I worked in inner city schools and most of our parents spoke another language or worked. However, I have just moved across the country (DH's job) and am starting a brand new classroom, I will be teaching 4th in a district with parents who actively participate. I'm wasn't sure how to begin to schedule and plan around parent volunteers until I saw your blog. This program is genius for getting even parents who don't want to volunteer to feel comfortable coming to the classroom. I would love the opportunity to use your Mystery Reader.
    Juli
    tandju@gmail.com

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  14. I have never had parent volunteers because I worked in inner city schools and most of our parents spoke another language or worked. However, I have just moved across the country (DH's job) and am starting a brand new classroom, I will be teaching 4th in a district with parents who actively participate. I'm wasn't sure how to begin to schedule and plan around parent volunteers until I saw your blog. This program is genius for getting even parents who don't want to volunteer to feel comfortable coming to the classroom. I would love the opportunity to use your Mystery Reader.
    Juli
    tandju@gmail.com

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  15. I love to having parents in my room. Generally, by third grade the parents are nowhere to be found, but I try everything to get them to visit. The one thing they love to do is come in for Friday Cooking! Each week, as a behavior incentive, the students that have had a good week, and tried hard, get to participate in the Piscopo Cafe. I try to rotate and and all parents to come and help out. The activity usually takes about an hour, and we get to eat the goodies! Last year, one of my sweet (grand)parents made each child a recipe book, which included pictures of the treat, and many photos of the children. The first recipe in the book was the child's "Recipe for Me". Adorable!
    I would LOVE to use the Guest Reader Program. I think that it would be "icing one the cake":)

    Tally Piscopo
    1tallyho@bellsouth.net

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  16. Mystery Reader is one of those things that I did and EVERYBODY loved it..but...I haven't done it in a few years! ahhhh! Why do I stop doing some of the great things???? This is such a great packet to get me started again!

    One thing I do at the beginning of the year is send home "Our Kissing Hand" bag. After reading the book and doing a few fun activities in the classroom, then the kiddos are super excited to take the book, stuffed raccoon, and a special journal home. I give each kiddo one Hershey Kiss and they tell us who they plan on giving it to when they get home. Then they use the journal to write and illustrated who they actually gave the kiss to (and yes, their original answer usually does change! :-) Then they bring the bag back and get to read their journal to the class. The BEST PART is that I have a little "kiss journal" for the parents in the bag too and they write a quick note to their son or daughter- I've had parents write poems, scriptures (I'm in a public school), amazing words of encouragement, and love words- which I read aloud to their child at family meeting. Each Firstie can hardly wait to hear their parents kiss journal- they treasure the journal all year!
    rachaelrsterling@yahoo.com

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  17. Oh my heck! What a fantastic way to encourage parent involvement!
    I like this packet you've created and hope to own it one day soon! I'm heading over to TPT to "reserve it" just in case I don't win it! :)
    Thank you
    Amy
    Where Seconds Count

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  18. I tried unsuccessfully to get this going last year...I had only two moms volunteer. (We have a large population of non-native English speakers, and many would be intimidated about reading a book in English.) But I am not giving up so easily and this year I will make it work. (And if I win this packet, I would be doubly sure to make it work! So cute!)

    tokyoshoes (at) hotmail (dot) com

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  19. Wow! This is an awesome program that I would love to incorporate into my classroom. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

    :) Nicole
    Tadpole Tidbits
    www.mrscorbitt.blogspot.com

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  20. I love this resource! I have incorporated mystery readers into my classroom for several years now, and it certainly strengthens the home-school relationship. I love how you have organized this pack and I hope I win it !

    Lindsey - lmburto@gmail.com
    http://phillipsecondgradestories.blogspot.com/

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  21. So cute! I've wanted to do this in the past, but have never been able to get it all organized. Now that you've done all the work for me, I think I'll give it a go this year! :)

    amynovellino@hotmail.com

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  22. LOVE this packet! I'm hoping to implement Mystery Reader this year. I worked on the intro letter etc. at the end of the year last year, but yours is WAY cuter. Last year we had a monthly family fun afternoon where parents were invited to come spend some time with our class. Usually we had freeplay during this time and the parents would coordinate a snack (milk and cookies was always a favorite). This was fun, but I'm hoping Mystery Reader is even more exciting for the kids. Would love to win your pack..... if not, I'll definitely be purchasing it!

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    1. oops.... left off my email:
      mmuntean@friendsbalt.org

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  23. You have fantastic timing! I am at a conference in Chicago and my teacher friends and I were just talking about mystery readers TODAY! I definitely want to incorporate mystery readers into my room this year. One thing that my friend does {that I just love} is she asks the reader to explain what role reading has in his or her daily life... I am sure it makes an impact on students! Your mystery reader pack looks great!!

    Kate
    EduKate.Inspire@gmail.com

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  24. LOVE THIS! What an authentic way to have guests join in your classroom! Thank you for the wonderful idea!

    miller_stephanie@asdk12.org

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  25. This is fantastic! Mystery readers are a great way to get your reluctant readers excited about reading, plus is helps build parent and community involvement in the classroom!

    Mindy
    mwells@ourwayschool.com

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  26. I also have Mystery Readers each week. I use www.signupgenius.com for my Mystery Readers and all of my classroom sign-ups. I love this tool and it even emails the reminder to my parents for me. I set it up at the beginning of the year and put the link on my website for parents to edit whenever they need to. I check it weekly to make sure we have a parent signed up. There have only been a few instances where it was empty and a quick email let the class know we had an open spot if anyone was interested. I have all the details for mystery reader on the sign up genius page and a place for them to list the books they plan to read (my parents bring 2-3). I also have a basket of books in the classroom that are just for Mystery Readers. This basket is off limits for the kids and they love it when a parent picks a book from this "forbidden" basket. This takes pressure off of parents that didn't have access to books at home or time to pick up a book from the library. For the books in my Mystery Reader book basket: This year I plan to ask parents ahead of time if they would be willing to record themselves reading the book for our listening center. Once a parent has read one of the books, I'll add it to our listening center along with a photo of the parent and child on the book bag. I'm starting Daily 5 this year and think this will be a fun way to add to our listening library.

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  27. I apparently posted my first comment in the wrong location. I am having trouble with your site loading. You have some awesome comments on this project whom I am sure will win, but I still wanted to say how incredible. I wish I could come up with such cool ideas. I can implement, but creating is not my strong suit.
    We are working on inferencing and what a great way to incorporate.
    I always have parents volunteer to come in, but during the year it fades out. This is a great way to keep up the excitement and also hopefully entice people to want to participate. Thanks for such a wonderful idea. I have already bookmarked your sight.

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  28. Sorry I was so excited about your project I forgot my email trstamping@yahoo.com

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  29. Love the idea! I have been trying to think of new ways to get parents/guardians into the classroom and this is awesome! Last year I was lucky enough to have two parents who came in throughout the year and helped with whatever I needed. What I appreciated the most was that we all worked together during the second half of school and got all my books labeled so that I have a classroom checkout...so happy! Hope you have a great school year!!

    Chris
    christopher.piper@cantonusd.org

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  30. Love the idea! I have been trying to think of new ways to get parents/guardians into the classroom and this is awesome! Last year I was lucky enough to have two parents who came in throughout the year and helped with whatever I needed. What I appreciated the most was that we all worked together during the second half of school and got all my books labeled so that I have a classroom checkout...so happy! Hope you have a great school year!!

    Chris
    christopher.piper@cantonusd.org

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  31. Thank you all! Your blog ideas and all the comments are great. As a "veteran" teacher, I'm still on the learning curve and loving it!

    I've used parent volunteers in lots of ways, as all of you do. One of my favorite activites was to include parents (and friends) in my Folk and Fairy Tale unit. I asked parents to read or tell a folk or fairy tale from their culture. Some of my families were first generation Indian, Phillipino, African or German. Others had maintained cultural traditions in their families. I was amazed at all the extra things that these volunteer parents did in addition to telling stories. Some wore traditional garb, some brought in food. It was fun and a fabulous learning experience! igs2276@gmail.com

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  32. I would love to start this again in my classroom. I did it off and on a couple of years ago, but I love your graphics and packet so much that I would love to try it again. It was a huge success because the kids love having someone different from myself read to them. Thanks for the chance to win!

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  33. This is great! I have tried it before but I ended up with one parent. I didn't think of asking teachers or other staff members. In my classroom we have lots of events that we invite our parents to. We do Readers' Theater presentations every other month. We have a Fairytale Tea and a Tall Tale Tea after studying these genres. In May we do a Reader's Cafe. Each student chooses a book that they want to read to our guests. We create menus for our guests, which are parents, teachers, and other staff members. For the menu, each student writes a summary of his/her book and illustrates a picture. We do this in the courtyard. Our hosts and hostesses seat the guests and give them the menus. The waiters and waitresses take their orders. The chefs get the books ready to take to the guests. We have readers that sit next to each guest and read them the book that they chose. We also serve refreshments. This is a favorite activity of mine!

    Elissa
    momma2mygirlies@aol.com

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  34. Thank you for this wonderful idea. I can't wait to try it out this year.

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  35. Yea for Pinterest! I just found your blog today! I am always looking for new ways to get parents involved in my classroom and I absolutely love the Mystery Reader idea! I teach 5th grade, but I have found that they love having books read to them, especially picture books, since this is something many of them do not read on their own any more. Last year I had parents who would come in to help with a variety of things. Some of those things included working on basic math facts, listening to students read, and helping with craft projects. We also completed a Hallway of Heroes project last year and were lucky enough to have some students' relatives come in to speak. Thanks for all the great ideas you've blogged about. I can't wait to continue reading them and to try them out this year!

    ~Amanda
    avollmer@smasd.org

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  36. I love your idea! I think it is of vital importance to keep parents involved. I have parents in the room, creating projects at home, helping with book orders, etc. I can't wait to try out some of your ideas as well.

    debinderry@gmail.com

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  37. Love, love, love this idea. I have parents come to school to learn math and spelling games. I also do craft projects at home to match the theme in class.

    Thanks for sharing your idea,

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  38. I forgot to include my email. Oh this summer brain

    siekd314@gmail.com

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  39. This is something I have been wanting to try for a few years.....sounds like a great idea. Instead of parents running copies, etc. they could do this too. I would love to get the materials to make this easier to incorporate. I communicate with parents through our PTO, classroom newsletter, school website I reated, parent conferences, one-on-one communication, open houses, and so on.

    kstrawn@lcps.k12.nm.us
    Ken Strawn

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Thank you so much for your comments! :)
~Stephanie

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