More Mysteries

As my loyal fans will know, I am a huge fan of mysteries and I love using them in the classroom. Mysteries are fun for students. You can bring up fun topics like murder and mayhen in an acceptable way. They teach logic , inference, and connection-making. And they lend themselves to practicing speculation, modals of certainty, not to mention mixed verb tenses.

So I was excited, if confused to see a post about teaching argument writing with mysteries on the English Companion Ning. It included a link to this school textbook on Argument Writing (No idea how legal this link is, but it is hosted by the publisher so click at your own risk) by Heinemann that starts out with a mystery(And also a fencing metaphor so this is pretty much the perfect textbook for me)!

I had never thought about it, but solving mysteries also involves marshaling relevant evidence and sorting opinion from fact, important skills for writing an argument or opinion essay! This seems like the most brilliant idea in the world and if anyone wants to hire me or join me writing a textbook on using mysteries in the ESL classroom, I would be ecstatic!

A Cool Web Resource for Mysteries

In the course of looking up some of the resources referred to on the Ning site, I stumbled on: 5 Minute Mystery which has short mysteries that can indeed be solved in 5 minutes or so. It also has a points and ranking system which makes it fun for students–you can even set up a league. But what I really like is the scoring system that gives you points for not only solving the mystery, but also identifying clues that incriminate or exonerate suspects. Sort of a high-tech version of my Mystery Solving Worksheet from my own mystery unit.

I like warming students up to mysteries by writing Whodunit on the board and having students guess what it means. It’s also fun to discuss the bad grammar of the target phrase (Who done it?) and the reason for it; I don’t actually know but it sounds like it targets readers of pulp crime fiction who may not be incredibly well-educated and are anxious to get to the solution, in other words the people who read detective stories for fun. Which is what we want our students to do, right? Read for fun?

Reflecting on my EVO Course

My EVO session on Crafting the ePerfect eBook is done and I even have the certificate to prove it!

It’s been really interesting. I’m not sure what I had expected. I was looking to get some advice on writing and writing online and maybe some more experience. I came in with a few vague ideas that I have had for online textbooks but haven’t been sure are feasible. In the end, I went in a direction that was different from the majority–rather than an eBook for students, I ended up starting an eBook for teachers (based on some research I’ve done on cooperative or collaborative group work).

The best part of the workshop was probably all the moral support and all the examples. I got a lot out of looking at other people’s books. I also picked up a lot of Ebook Resources including publishing formats and articles and programs.

Most importantly, it was a chance to reflect on what an ebook is and what it can do. I recently posted here that for the main advantage of an eBook is its portability. I can read on my iPhone everywhere which I really enjoy. However, the idea of an interactive eTextbook never fully grabbed me. In fact, the last place I worked when they did eBooks, they very similarly basically scanned everything on to the Internet and added the listening files. I suppose my feeling as a teacher was that working with paper and working with technology are basically the same thing except working with technology often takes longer.

My eyes have really been opened. I see there are a lot of fun interactive toys on the Internet that can be used for education AND can be incorporated into an eBook. Another of my objections was that I like books to be, well, books–finite, concrete, holdable. There should be a thing there that is a book. Books don’t have to be linear but they shouldn’t be infinite or uncontained. So it was interesting to see how people embedded widgets or even links into PDFs and other ebook formats. That way you have a page that is self-contained but links out.

That’s probably the area I learned the most about: formatting. And the area that I would like to discover more about is design. I’d really like to find pages with concrete advice about fonts to use, how to space and align things and so on.

So overall I got a lot out of it and I plug away at my eBook from time to time. Maybe you’ll see it offered on this very site!