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Liberty ECS First Grade Detectives Look for Clues

What do police detectives have in common with first graders? They look for clues. This is what Janet Alsip’s class at Liberty Early Childhood School learned during a recent lesson in reading.

When introducing a unit called “Word Detectives,” Alsip explained that when you’re not sure how to say a word, you need to stop and look for clues. Just like detectives do when solving a mystery. “You want kids to take apart words and learn how to sound them out,” she said. Each student even received their own magnifying glass to aid them in this endeavor.

During the discussion, the class began talking about their school resource officer, Deputy Mike Williams from the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. The class invited Williams to stop by so they could learn more about his job. “It was a spur of the moment decision, but I will definitely incorporate it next year,” she said.

When Williams arrived, the class was ready for him. “I was really impressed by the number of questions they had,” said Williams. Once he answered them all, he explained why it's important to survey a scene in order to look for clues - just like students who are learning to read. Williams told them that “when we go to a crime scene, we start on the outside and work our way in to look at clues.”

If a student comes across a word they don’t know, “they should stop if something doesn’t look right or sound right,” Alsip explained. “We don’t want kids to just sound out words. We want them to really break it down, first by meaning,” she continued. “They need to look closely at the picture in the book, just like Mike looks for clues.”

Marlo Lodovico knows exactly what that’s like. “We have to go back to the beginning of the sentence,” she explained. “We skip the hard word and look for clues to help figure out the word.”

“He looks at different pieces of hair or if they dropped glass or if they touched the window,” recalled Rachel Alessi. The conversation about clues flowed into fingerprinting, which led to some very excited first graders.

Williams came to class armed with a fingerprinting kit. “I haven’t had my fingers fingerprinted,” said Keira Hill, who said that this was her favorite part of the day. Once they were done, each student used their magnifying glasses to examine their fingerprints. 

The students now use their magnifying glasses to help them be word detectives in class. In addition to using them in a fun way, like examining a picture when they are working on a difficult word, some use the glasses to slow down their reading speed. This helps students take their time and become a better reader.

Alsip continues to tie what Williams said in class when her students are reading. “This is a really critical unit. This is when kids are really learning to read.” While she was concerned about learning levels after being out of a classroom for five months due to the novel Coronavirus pandemic, Alsip said that the students have done amazingly well.

First-grader Darcy Green sums it up well: “The bigger the brain, the harder the word, so that’s why we have to be a word detective.”