Mystery Box Writing is a fun way to increase both reading and writing skills. I present my “Mystery Box” and explain to the children that they have to figure out what I have in the box by asking me questions. In this case it was an item that was named in their PWIM photograph.
It is not a guessing game. If they think they know the what is in the box they must ask questions that will help describe what they think it might be. I will answer yes or no and provide some detail. They take turns so as not to “step on each other’s thinking”. The rules are
Once the children have discovered 12 details (on the yes side) to describe the object in the box, we read through to reinforce the information we have collected. This example was a first try at the Mystery Box with this grade one class. I realized that we have work to do on questioning. They were pretty stuck on colours for a while , but the questions did improve as we went along.
When we finished reading the chart together, they were pretty sure they knew what was in the box. As a group almost everyone was sure it was ” a toque” and they were right. I pulled my toque out of the box and showed it to them.
We compared the toque I had in the box to the toque in the photograph. We could have written a compare/ contrast paragraph together but I thought that a descriptive paragraph would be more suitable . We used the information we had gathered in the yes no chart to create a paragraph together. One little girl came up with the title and the class voted to keep it.
This is the paragraph we wrote together:
I typed up the paragraph and the students filled in the last part alone and illustrated it. They were able to practice reading the paragraph to themselves and others in order to work on their fluency as well as practice reading commonly used words.
Here are some of their paragraphs from the class book: