Monday, October 26, 2015

Calling all Secret Agents!

Are you ready to help us find the nation's missing laptops with top secret government information on them? My kids were, and this led to probably the best lesson to date in my teaching career. After my visit to the Ron Clark Academy (post on that below or here), I have been filled with ideas and inspiration on ways to engage my students. In math we have to give our students time to practice the skill we are teaching them, and I could've given them a worksheet to practice, but that wasn't going to fly. I saw Hope King's Set the Stage to Engage series this summer, and she did a spy lab for non-fiction texts, so after looking at her pictures, I made it my own for my kids. We were working on adding and subtracting fractions, and their skills were tested during this unit.

I'll start with the set-up, and it was easy. The hardest thing for me was figuring out how I wanted to set up my desks! Oops! I made my desks into three groups (math groups) because my activity was differentiated and I wanted them to be able to talk to their math groups throughout. I made a spy area in the back of my room using string and black lights. This is where the clues were housed. I had all of my lights off and my window blacked out with black butcher paper from our art teacher. They saw by using push lights from Walmart. I got all of the set up idea from Hope King! 

I had my art teacher bring my students to me from specials, and I was standing outside my door, in my black sunglasses and black blazer with my iPad ready to let my fellow agents in. They were asked to sit on the carpet when they entered the room.

I filled my students in on the issue the government had called for our help on. After that we were on the clock to figure out who stole the iPads from our school that the government was housing top-secret information. 

Every student had a file folder with a letter about the situation, their first clue, and a clue tracking sheet. Once all the expectations were given, the agents were off to work. I put on a little background music to set the stage, and intensify the situation! They had to solve each problem using their yellow notepad and when they finished with a clue, they went on to another with my approval. 

My favorite part of the room was the clue area. I have a wide range of abilities in my classroom, so I differentiated for my three groups. 

Most students ended around the same time, and they had to work with their group to make a final decision about who they thought stole the laptops. I had an idea during the lesson to have my dad call at the end and say he was with the White House. I told my kids they had to come up with a final decision because someone would be calling us from the White House. "THE WHITE HOUSE?? Like where Obama lives??" So I texted him and never heard back so I didn't think he could but left my ringer on loud just in case. At the end of my lesson, my ringer went off, and it was madness in my room. "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!!" Once they got quiet, I picked up and my dad asked who they thought the culprit was, and my students told him the clues led them to believe it was our principal. He said,"Agents, thank you for your hard work, I'll share this information with the president. Hopefully we can work again soon." Their reactions were great, "Did we seriously just talk to someone from the White House?" "I cannot wait to tell my mom!"

As a result of my RCA experience, I am trying my hardest to find ways to engage my students in different and unique ways, and I learned its importance through this activity when every single student is working hard and independently. I hate to admit this, but I was fighting back tears because of how hard they were working! 

I am working on getting this made into a product for my TPT store. So check back soon!

If you have any questions on anything I did for this lesson, feel free to email me at 


  1. Is this posted in your store?

    1. Currently working on how to make it more generic. I made it specific to my school. Hoping to have it done in the next few weeks!

  2. Replies
    1. It was posted today! YAY! I hope this helps!

    2. Thank you so much for this, Meredith! I purchased this, but when I tried to open the PP, I received an error message. I've tried on several different computers. Any tips for me?

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  4. About how long did this take your class to complete?