Mystery Skype

A teacher friend, Leanne, from a previous school asked me to be involved in the Mystery Skype that she was setting up for her 3rd grade students (she is the technology integrator). I loved the idea and we are ready to go on Thursday.

What is Mystery Skype

mystery-skypeMystery Skype is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms trying to guess the location of the other class using a 20 questions format. 20 questions is a spoken game which encourages deductive reasoning, critical thinking and creativity. They each take turns asking a question which can be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.”

Playing Options

Option 1: (Advanced) Find the country/state or province/city of the other classroom by asking only YES/NO questions. A “YES” answer allows to ask another question. A “NO” answer gives the opposing group the chance to ask a question. 20 questions maximum. After each 5 questions a CLUE can be given.

Option 2: (Intermediate) Find the country/state or province/city of the other classroom by asking only YES/NO questions. Alternating asking the questions. After each 5 questions a CLUE can be given.

Option 3: (Beginning). Students will find the location of the other class using clues that the other class gives. It can go back and forth with each team taking turns with questions and answers. This will help younger students stay engaged and keep the frustration level at a minimum.

Watch this great video from fifth grade teacher, Scott Bedley, to get an idea of what to expect.

Check out the awesome Mystery Skype by GoNoodle! You can download it to prevent buffering issues.


Prepare the Students

  1. Before you Skype for the first time understand the types of questions the students need to ask. Play deductive reasoning games like Guess the Number Between 1 and 500Guess My Country or What Famous Person am I? to help students understand how some questions narrow down the possibilities much better than others. When students ask “specific” questions too soon, it’s often a waste of a question. They only have 20 questions!
  2. Have students practice their map skills and how to use Google Maps, Google Earth, Atlases and Maps so they can narrow down a region. It is helpful if they understand cardinal directions, latitude and longitude, and where the oceans and continents are. Also helpful if they know about their own location: what hemisphere are they in, north or south of the equator, what ocean are they on or close to, etc…
  3. Think about the roles and responsibilities before and during the Mystery Skype. I would suggest to make sure every student has a job. Put up a list of jobs and lets students select the task they would like to do. I would recommend they choose a different job each Mystery Skype. Check out this 5th grade newscast as they explain their different jobs during Skype calls as they are connecting to the world.

Job Suggestions by Pernille Ripp

1 Greeter who greets the incoming class by speaking about the class and goes over the rules.  At the end of the call they are also the ones that thank the other school for the call.  Once their job is done they merge into the think tank.

As many as needed Think tank students sit in a group and figure out the clues based on the information they have. 

1 Lead thinker – the boss of the think tank –  needs to be a gentle leader that can keep everyone organized and on track.  They ensure the think tank runs smoothly.

1 or 2 Questioners who ask the yes or no questions, often it is beneficial if these kids have a decent grasp of geography and can come up with questions on the fly.

1 Answerer who answers yes or no to the questions and should have a good grasp of geography.

2 Google Mappers who help with questions or find the answer.  Should be connected to think tank.

2+ Filters assessing the questions that are coming from the runners to the questioners. They have to pay close attention to what answers are and what has already been asked as the think tank often misses an answer.  They can then use their common sense to filter the best questions to the questioners.

Wall map & atlas mappers – as many kids as you want – part of the think tank but are using any map tools they can to come up with more questions. 

2 or 3 Runners who are responsible for communication between all of the different posts.

1 Supervisor who oversees the entire operation and takes notes on what works and doesn’t work.  They lead the debriefing we have after every Skype call to discuss what we need to work on and be proud of.

1 or 2 Note takers who write down all answers and questions during the call for easy access by filters and if any confusion occurs. Recommended in a Google Doc….typing skills required.

2 Recorders who take pictures/video and notes throughout the call to then write a blog post on our classroom blog after the call is done.

Here are some guideline/suggestions

  • Speak loudly and clearly
  • If you are not speaking, work in quiet whispers
  • Listen to what both sides are saying so you can track the clues
  • Do not shout out answers
  • Be polite when asking and answering
  • Remember you are part of a team
  • Ask for help when needed and give help when asked
  • Don’t over-cheer if you guess first and be happy for them if they guess first
  • Do your job and stay busy


Make sure the Sharers and Greeters never say the name of the school or city or state in their comments.

The teachers should call each other Mrs. S instead of Mrs. Smith to prevent students from looking up a teacher’s name online.

Have students turn shirts inside-out if they have the school name,  sports teams, or other identifiable information.

When Skype is opened, the name of the caller is prominently displayed.  It would be best to slide the window to the left so that the name is hidden.

Do a quick test with the teacher of your mystery class to make sure all the equipment is working properly. (Microphone, speakers, video camera, connect to the other Skype account)

Remember this is a learning experience for your class (and you). Your session will most likely not be perfect.

Send the mystery class an email afterwards thanking them and telling them any other information about your state you may not have had the chance to share.

Make sure that your scheduled time is taking into account time zone differences.  I always say, “Central Time Zone” after the time when I schedule, even if they are in our time zone.

So why do this?

  1. Builds classroom community
  2. Invites collaboration skills
  3. Grows communication skills
  4. Teaches empathy for others
  5. Utilizes innovative technology
  6. Engages every student
  7. Involves real world scenarios
  8. Creates problem solvers
  9. Improves critical thinking
  10. Educates students about places they did not know
  11. It is student led
  12. Improve geography skills

Possible Mystery Skype Questions:

1. Is your continent in the Eastern/Western Hemisphere?
2. Is your continent in the Northern/Southern Hemisphere?
3. Is your continent near the Atlantic/Pacific/Indian/Arctic Ocean?
4. Is your continent N. America/S. America/Africa/Europe/Asia/Australia/Antarctica?
5. Is it a big/small country?
6. Do you speak English as a first language?
7. Is it very hot in summer and cold in winter?
8. Is it north/south/east/west of………..?
9. Does your country border another country?
8. Are there mountains in your country?
9. Does your country have a coastline?
10. Is ………………….the capital of your country?
11. Is your country/state/province north/south/east/west of?
12. Is your city in the north/south/east/west of your country/state/province?
13. Is your city the capital of your country/state/province?

Possible Clues:

1. The time is…
2. The season is…
3. We are north/south/east/west of…
4. The beginning letter is… 
5. We also speak French/German/Spanish/Mandarin etc…

Posted in Global Connections, Map Skills, Navigating the Web, Social Studies

Google Forms + Required Questions

As I create by final for the CSP class I am teaching I know that I want to make the questions required but of course I forget to check the box consistently.

I love the feature in Google Forms, Quiz, which allows you  to make any form a quiz allowing you to select the correct answer, provide feedback, and add points to each question. I also love that you can decide to send the corrected quiz back immediately or at a later date to the student’s emails. What I do not like is that you have to click Edit Question any time you want to fix a mistake or need to go back and click the required button. It adds so much time to the task.

So instead of trying to skim through the 50 questions to see which one is not marked required I decided to check for an Add-on and of course there is one because every form creator wants this function which should already be built into Google but …. There is an easy Add-on called: All Questions Required is easy to install. In case you need a tutorial here is one from: Hopedale Public Schools – Technology Department


Posted in Google, How Do I?

Poems Using WeVideo

Previously I mentioned that the 4th grade students were creating poems and I helped the illustrate their creations using Google Draw (Poems + Google Draw). We are really advocating that students create their own work form the combination of words to the combination of shapes and designs.

Haiku, Limericks, Adverbs, Cinquains, Rhyming Pattern, Sound Collector, Adjective, Acrostic,  and Bio poems are all part of the collection. Nine to twelve poems later the students are ready to make a video recording their voices to share on Poetry Day with their families.

The students are going to create a title slide for the collection and then a title slide for each poem stating the poem name and poem type. This means there could be between 10-25 slides.

I was again asked how to simplify the steps for the students. Ideally Google Slides would allow audio/voice-over to be added but sadly not yet. The teachers were advised to use Screencastify but immediately there are issues to consider. First was that 9 years-old cannot record 10-25 slides in one sitting. Second was that it records the entire screen and you cannot crop down to just the section you want. The students started the project and they were quickly frustrated with their mistakes and inability to fix them.

I tried a few options and decided WeVideo was the way to go.

Student Example

The school has an educational account so we need to create a group, set the teacher as lead and then add the students. As the admin of WeVideo for our school I did these steps for the teacher. While I was working with the teacher I did the following to ensure we were good to go. I logged onto WeVideo as the Admin and quickly added a group. Then over to the Members section to get a registration link to share with the students. I asked the teacher to do it first and once they joined I set them as lead. They then provide the link to their students. The benefit of the teacher being made the lead is that they can see the work the students are doing. They can check progress, listen to the audio files for volume and clarity, check transitions, etc…


A few things before you move on. Ensure both boxes are checked so you do not have to approve each user. Also adding them to a group helps you manage them better. Clicking on the group name appends the URL with the unique group code so make sure you click the correct group.


Share the link with your class. Students who have never created an account will follow JOIN WITH A NEW ACCOUNT link and connect via Google.

JoinGoogle by entering your school details (emails and password).

Answer the questions and review the Tutorial if you like.

Seems like this would take a long time but it only takes minutes.

Now that you are logged into WeVideo you can create your masterpiece!

Check out the steps to guide students for this particular project, WeVideo + Poems.

Here is an incomplete sample that I created to show the students.

Posted in Language Arts, Writing | Tagged ,

Artwork Makes Me Happy

We have some truly artistic students at my school and I appreciate all the hard work in their creations. Thank you to the teachers for exposing them to unique techniques! Gotta love collaboration that takes up an entire wall! (This is only a portion of the piece.)


Posted in Student Explemars | Tagged

Poem + Google Draw

Students in 4th grade are learning about poems and how to illustrate their work. I was fortunate enough to work in one of the 4th grade classes today. The students had written their first poem during writing class and I was asked to help fill in for the technology integration specialist who was out sick. Ok, I begged to help out. I really do miss working with the kids.

As I did not have the time to create my own poem I used Ladybug by Maria Fleming and illustrated the poem myself. The teacher was clear, and I totally supported, that it was to be all student created work.

I created a sample for the students to see what they were going to create and during the class I walked them through the creative process. The teacher posted the assignment, a blank Google Draw file, in Google Classroom so the students would have the file named and ready to go. I did 2 different mini lessons (text and drawing tools) as I did not know what they already knew and followed the instructions with hands on time. The mini lessons lasted 5 minutes each allowing 40 minutes to create.

Teacher sample:

We reinforced many technology skills and hopefully learned a few new tricks. The oohs and ahhs when I showed them how to duplicate an object, arrange 2 objects, and  group several objects brought a smile to my face.

While they finish their work I will continue to comment on the drawing and encourage them to add more details in their illustrations.

They will finish their drawings and then we will publish an e-book. I cannot wait to see the completed work.

Student Samples:

Our Youblisher e-Book is complete!

4A Illustrated Cover

Posted in Language Arts, Writing | Tagged ,

How does an Internet Innovation Affect Society?

Students in my Computer Science Principles class created an artifact about an Internet Innovation of their choice. Some created infographics while others created movies.

I enjoyed seeing their personalities come through their work. Here are a few of their projects.

Click on the image to see more…


fiber optics

Posted in Student Explemars

Newbery Book Challenge, 2017

Students in grades 4 and 5 participated in a Newbery Book Challenge. They were encouraged to read as many books as they could and then competed in a challenge to see who could answer the most questions.

This was a great project to work with the librarian  to hone both our skills. She had the students complete a Google Form with the title of the books they have read. She then took the books and created questions using GoodReads as a reference.

Posted in Language Arts, Reading