Monday, March 30, 2015

Crime Scene Investigation - Wo ist Ingrid?

I'm sure you've seen classroom activities that use crime scene investigations (if not, check out this pin - though unfortunately the link is no longer working - and this blog entry).  I decided to give it a try with my German 3/4 combo class this year.

The premise of the crime is that Ingrid - one of the pigs in my classroom, has gone missing.  There is a crime scene that students will have to investigate to gather clues, there are witnesses they can interview, and at the end they will have to come up with a hypothesis for what happened to Ingrid.

Here are the steps we went through during the course of this activity.

Step One: Introduce Ingrid

I have a lot of pig-related stuff in my classroom.  I have about twenty stuffed pigs plus a variety of other pig posters, toys, etc.  I picked one of them to be Ingrid.  The idea of doing a pig-centered activity is not new to my students, so it's a good fit.  If pigs aren't your thing, just find any old stuffed animal.  The wig, however, is important ;)

A few days before the actual crime scene, I introduce Ingrid by saying she's a new student who's joining our class.  I didn't do too much to introduce her - I did have her sit in any empty seat when students were absent and made sure she was visible.

Step Two: Ingrid's Disappearance

On a Monday morning before my students came in, I set up a crime scene.  I knocked over a table in the back of the room, threw down some "clues" (more on that in a moment), and then put up some police tape (available on Amazon).

For probably the first time ever, I wasn't in my room when the bell rang - I had my door closed and locked and students had to wait outside for me to appear.  I knew this would get their attention because it's unusual.

I told them as earnestly as I could that something terrible had happened over the weekend...  Ingrid, their new classmate, had gone missing and the police needed their help to investigate this disappearance.  As I let students into the room, they were obviously intrigued both by what I said and by the crime scene set up in the back of the room.

To investigate, I had students volunteer to come up one at a time.  Each student could name one specific thing that they saw.  The rest of the class, who couldn't necessarily see the crime scene that well, could ask questions.  Common questions were about the color of the object and the positioning.  Since we are currently practicing Two-Way Prepositions, students had to be very specific about the location - in front of, behind, next to, etc.

I had these student volunteers first visually identify as much as they could, then they could pick up the item in question to answer more questions.  I had plastic bags ready for them to put the evidence in once they were done.

As students went through the clues one by one, they had two responsibilities.  The first was to fill out their own copy of the Police Report.  They would also had to sketch out the scene, making note of what was where.  They'll have to refer back to both of these when they later explain what they think happened.

Here were the clues:

  • Overturned table and chair
  • Ingrid's hair/wig
  • "Blood" splatters on table (I used fabric paint because it peels off easily once dry); note there is no "blood" anywhere else in the crime scene
  • A screw driver
  • 1325 (I have a set I got from Teacher's Discovery - the amount didn't really matter, but I wanted it to be relatively high)
  • A notebook
  • Ingrid's ID (easily visible)
  • A second ID card (not visible - should be under another piece of evidence, only found when that item is bagged)

The first two pages of the notebook revealed more evidence.  Here's page one:

Here's page two:

We looked at the two ID cards side-by-side.  Students determined that they must be fore the same person since the handwriting for the signature was the same.  If you'd like a copy of the ID cards I created, click here.

I told the students that the "blood" would be sent to the lab for analysis but the results wouldn't be in until tomorrow.  In the mean time they would have to generate a list of "persons of interest" to interview.  Because of time limitations, they could only pick suspects to interview.  My students picked Piggeldy and Olivia (their names were crossed off the party list), Rocky (who supposedly met Ingrid for coffee), and Frederick (my students know Piggeldy and Frederick are brothers, so they assumed he'd have more info about Piggeldy).

Their homework was to prep a list of questions for each suspect.

Note: Next time I do this activity, I would add another piece of evidence.  I would create a map of the areas in question - the crime scene, Ingrid's house, the park, etc. with references to how far apart these locations are.  I didn't think of it until after the fact.

Step Three: Interviews

The next day in class we started the interview process.  I let students pick the order of who they wanted to interview first.  For each interview, they were limited to four minutes.  They could ask any questions they wanted, and would have to take notes on their Police Report (back page).

Again, going with the pig theme, there was a stuffed pig for each character.  I assigned four of my stronger students to be the suspects.  I had come up with basic outlines for each interviewee - general information to help them answer the questions I thought most likely to come up.  They had time to prepare for their interview in the hallway.  I told them that their role was to answer questions asked of them - they didn't have to volunteer more information than necessary.  I also warned them that other questions I hadn't accounted for might come up.  They were allowed to make up that information, ask me at that time, or just say they didn't know.  If any info from their character wasn't mentioned in the interview, they had to keep it to themselves.

After all the interviews were completed, I revealed that the "blood" work was in.. and that it allow it's pig "blood," it isn't Ingrid's "blood."  I then had students speculate with their group members what they think happened.

Step Four: Who done it?

The last section of the Police Report asks students to describe what they think happened.  I told students that whatever they put was fine as long as they: a. said what happened to Ingrid; b. said who else was involved (if anyone); c. specifically referenced clues from the crime scene; d. specifically referenced information from the interviews; and e. had a motive.

If you read through the interviewee notes and look at all the clues, there really is evidence to go against most of the suspects.  Olivia and Piggeldy were both arguing with Ingrid prior to the party. Rocky would have access to screw drivers and the money might have caused an issue.  Frederick might be covering for his brother Piggeldy.  Ingrid may have faked the incident and fled for unknown reasons.  I really let the kids individually come up with their own conclusions because that's honestly much more fun than having one definitive answer.  As long as they backed up their answer, they received credit.

This activity was a lot of fun.  I'd love to do it again and am thinking of adapting it for my German 2 students who are currently working on the Perfekt Tense.

What's great is that it ties into the Black Stories that students have already done throughout the year - they're used to the line of questioning they would need to "investigate" a death.  If you can fit this into your vocab/grammar topics, I highly recommend trying!  Or if you're looking for a fun way to come back from Spring Break, this is definitely something to try!

- Frau Leonard

Friday, March 13, 2015

Berlin Airlift Activity

This week our school had a World Language Fair in the evening.  Each of the languages at our school - French, German, Latin and Spanish - had students create displays and activities related to the language and culture that they're learning about.

One of the activities we did in the German area related to the Berlin Airlift.  The premise of the game was that students were trying to fly supplies into Berlin during the blockade.  We had a model Berlin set up and students made paper airplanes for the supply run.

I used the Brandenburger Tor model my students created last year, then made a "blockade" using a wall of index cards.

Here's how the activity worked:

  • If a student wanted to play, they first made a paper airplane.  We also had a few pre-made ones for anyone (like me) who doesn't really know how to make a paper airplane.
  • Students then took a short quiz on the Berlin Blockade.  There were seven multiple choice questions, all of them pretty basic.
    Questions included: How many sectors was Germany divided into after WWII?  How many people lived in Berlin during the time of the blockade?  What country controlled Berlin at the time?  How many supply runs were made during the blockade?  How long did the blockade last?
    Again, since this wasn't in class and based on a unit, they were multiple choice questions.  Most students got at least three correct.
  • We had three lines marked at different distances from the Berlin table.  If students got 5+ questions right, they got to stand behind the closest line.  If they got 2-4 right, they were behind the second line.  If they got 1 or fewer right, they were behind the last line.  Students got three chances to try and get their airplane into Berlin.  They had to get it OVER the blockade wall but it had to land ON the table.  
There were prizes for students who managed to land it in the correct area.  Even when students didn't win, they had a lot of fun just trying to fly their planes.  A lot of students came close, but most fell very short or overshot the table completely.  Overall, it was just a quick, fun stop for students who attended our fair.

If you're looking for an informative activity to do at a fair, or if you talk about East Germany with your students, this is a quick, fun activity to do with them.

- Frau Leonard