Many of my fondest memories of elementary school occurred in my fifth grade classroom. Not only did my teacher constantly expect our best effort, but she made learning fun. When I was moved to fifth grade a few years ago, my goal was to emulate her teaching strategies. Not a day goes by where I don't think back to how I felt as a student in that classroom and how I want my students to feel - engaged, yet challenged.
One activity that stands out was her read-aloud of The Westing Game. Quickly, this novel became one of my all-time favorite books. I knew that I HAD to teach it in my own classroom. Thanks to Scholastic's Dollar Deals, I quickly acquired a class set of novels and we got right to work.
We also keep track of the characters in our Detective Case Files. In this file, we have a layout of the apartment building where the novel takes place (this is crucial to the story), as well as character notes. The students can also use this file to take notes on each chapter.
An extra activity that the students are allowed to do (on their own time), is to create character trading cards. These are so much fun to make! The students write down important information about each character on the back of the card and sketch a picture on the front. Side Note: these drawings came from MClaSSy on TpT. I have the students draw their own characters.
As we move into the novel, the students begin to play "The Westing Game" along with the characters. They each receive a $10,000 check just as the heirs do and, based on their excitement level, you would think it was real money!
The students also receive all the clues as they are revealed in the novel. I print them on different colored paper, so that the students can keep track of which clues belong to which set of pairs. This is their absolute favorite part.
Whenever they finish their work, they are allowed to pull out their clues to try to figure out what the answer to the mystery is. I have to say, it's my favorite part too! It's amazing to watch their minds work and hear their predictions. It is definitely a thinking-outside-the-box moment for my students.
The students also have a comprehension packet to complete as they read the story. We use this as a basis for our class discussions after each chapter. Oftentimes, I let them read and complete the packet in partners because I find that they get so much more out of the book when they are able to talk about it with someone else. They are also required to look up some of the vocab words from each chapter.
As I mentioned before, there is a LOT that happens in the book. And sometimes even I get a tad confused! To alleviate that, I keep a file of all my own notes. I use this just as a quick reference for myself, since I would rather let the students lead a discussion to share what they find to be important to the plot of the story. In my binder, I keep my chapter notes, a chart of all the partners and their clues, notes on each character and an answer key to the student comprehension questions as well as the vocab definitions.
My enthusiasm for this book is unrivaled and I think my students can tell. They get so into it every year and I love being able to bring it alive for them. When we use this novel, I feel as though I can see the wheels inside their heads turning as they are trying to figure out the mystery. It also creates amazing conversations and debates among my students. I highly recommend bringing this book into your classroom!