Mystery Hangout: New Jersey

I’ve written before about connecting classes through activities like Mystery Skype or Mystery Hangouts, so I thought it was about time I shared one of my activities.

I posted in the Mystery Hangout Google+ community in desperation. I had a PD session where I wanted to introduce this activity and my mystery person fell through. A teacher from New Jersey kindly replied but a bit too late for my session, so we ended up organizing the activity for our two classes, her 5th graders, and my 6th graders. It was the first time I was going to do this activity with them, so I had to walk them through. As I explained in my post on connecting classes, you need to think this through for it to be a successful activity. To my mind, the most important aspect is the role assignment. Each student needs to have a ‘job’ to do, otherwise, they get distracted, they are unsure what to do or might even get in trouble. I have a fairly small class of 17 students, so this was easy. I had the ‘clue keepers’, the ‘Googlers’, the ‘mappers’ and so on.


This is a great idea from Heidi’s class that I’ll definitely borrow: thinking time signs.

I had originally planned for 4 students to ask questions but then everyone wanted to ask!

The great thing about assigning jobs is that once the activity gets started everyone knows what to do and you can take a step back and supervise.


Why, oh, why did Heidi show them their class pet, a chinchilla?!? They’ve been asking for one for days!

As you can see, this is a fairly simple activity to carry out. There’s no mystery to it (yes, the pun is intended) All you need is to start connecting with people. There are hundreds of teachers out there looking for a class to connect right now. So get started. Your students will have a blast – and so will you!


Anne Frank – Project

I worked with my Grade 7 students on a project on Anne Frank. Very few of them even knew who she was, so it was a great opportunity to introduce this incredible story to them. We started the project in September.
In order to introduce the topic and work on their comprehension skills, I showed them a short animated clip with her story. This got many of them excited about Anne’s life, since I clipped the video up until her family was captured by the Nazi. Later on, they worked on a passage to be completed with information from the video. 
The next step was a group project. I really needed them to work in groups, since they have to share their laptops. They were to do some research on different aspects of the story: the secret annex, the people who lived there, the helpers, and the Nazi. 
I provided links with information on these topics on Edmodo and they had to answer a guide that would allow them to create a presentation. My main aim was for them to be able to get the gist and pour on a presentation. Each group prepared a presentation on Google Slides and then they presented it to their classmates on the IWB, thus working on fluency, pronunciation and speaking skills. 
To finish the project, we booked a visit to Anne Frank’s Museum. They got to see some memorabilia, and got to tour a re-creation of the Secret Annex.

Then they created own ‘museum’ with whatever caught their attention. They had to choose what surprised them the most, or something that represented Anne and her story, and portray it in any way they desired: a picture, a quote, a short passage. We created a crafty display and shared it with the rest of the class. 


I am always looking for new sites for my students with games, activities, videos or stories for them to use in class. I teach very young students (8 and 9-year-olds) with a wide range of IT skills. I usually post whatever we are doing on the blog of our school’s English Department. I have already taught them how to access the blog and all they need to do is find the post. But I have also found URL shorteners really useful when sharing a site, especially when the URL goes on for miles. 

The first shortener I ever used was I liked it because it has a clean image, it’s very user friendly and you can even personalise your new link. Above all, I love the Hitchcock-esque image you get when you shorten the URL. was quite useful for some time, until that is, I discovered the Google URL Shortener. Sold! True, you cannot choose the way your link will come out, there’s no bloody cut after the shortening, but it does store all your URLs for later use. So does, but you can access Google’s from any computer as long as you are logged in. 
There are many other sites that also offer these kinds of services, like or tinyURL, but having all my tools in one place has proven very helpful. 

Take your pick and shorten away!