When I first heard of Mystery Skype a few years ago, my initial thought was that it would be great to incorporate it into geography units, especially in 2nd grade and 4th grade where U.S. geography is a focus in our standards. But as I started to learn more about how the game works, I realized that Mystery Skype is about so much more than geography. It encourages critical thinking, collaboration and communication which are all things we want our kids practicing in our classrooms everyday regardless of the content area. The other great thing about playing Mystery Skype is that it really is not a huge time commitment. Depending on a lot of variables, a typical call can last anywhere from 15-30 minutes.
How it works
- You call another class on Skype. You as the teacher will have arranged the time and day with the teacher from the other class, so you will know where they are located, but it is important NOT to share this information with your students.
- The classes take turns asking yes or no questions to try to narrow down where the other class might be. For younger students it is vital that you spend some time discussing questions that are broad (Does your state border another country?) vs. specific (Does your state start with an A?). Also, you will want to avoid questions that don't have a clear yes or no answer (Is it cold where you live?).
- Your class also has to be prepared to answer questions from the other class. It would be good to review some basic information about your state prior to expecting kids to answer questions. For example, here in Minnesota we have a tough time answering the question, "Is your state west (or east) or the Mississippi River?" Since the Mississippi River starts in our state this is tricky. In all the classes I've been in, we've said that we are west of the Mississippi since it runs along our eastern border.
- After both classes have guessed where the other class is, it is nice if you can schedule a little time for sharing facts about your own state or community. This can be as simple as the name of your school/town, how many students are in your school, your mascot, what your hot lunch is for today, the temperature outside, etc. You can also have your class do some research ahead of time and share facts about your state such as state bird, flower, animal etc., the highest and lowest recorded temperatures, or some unique facts about your area.
ManagementFiguring out how to structure your class during a call can be a bit overwhelming. While working with some 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teachers over the past year, we have come up with this plan:
It certainly isn't perfect, and every class is different so you may need to change up some of the roles to make it work for your students.
It is also important to provide your students with a variety of maps. For older students you could give them some links to online maps, and/or show them how to navigate Google Maps, but we found that for younger students having paper maps works well. Students can also use this website to "cross off" states they have eliminated. Here is a folder with some maps and other resources we have used.
OptionsMystery Skype is not limited to just figuring out the state the other class is from. Students can also try to guess the exact city or school the other class is located. This is much more time consuming and is probably best to do after you have some practice playing Mystery Skype. Another option is to play Mystery Number. In this game each class selects a number and tries to guess the number of the other class. This is a great game for developing number sense. If you are short on time, or can't find anyone to connect with, but still want to play a game, you can play the 5 Clue Challenge. These are pre-recorded videos where the person gives hints as to where they are. Students have to guess where in the world the person is in just 5 clues.
Mystery Skype is a fun engaging game that you and your students will love! If you would like some help getting started or want to talk with a colleague who has done it before, please reach out!