If you are in the AP Language and Composition group on Facebook, you have probably seen the many manifestations of The Murder of Allen Ripley activity. The basic premise is that students come in to find the room transformed into a crime scene. Then, they are tasked with solving the murder. It’s a great activity to practice synthesis and line of reasoning! (MAD Shout-Out to Patti Snowden, who created and posted the assignment).
Seeing all the cool posts and reactions, I was immediately sold. As a true crime fanatic… you know, the type that falls asleep to Forensic Files every night and squeals at every new crime docuseries on Netflix… I was so excited to try this out with my class. We are jumping into our next topic unit on gun violence, so it seemed like a great way to hook them. (Again - all credit to Patti Snowden. I just tweaked an already awesome learning experience).
For our version of this activity, we used two days. One day for students to act as law enforcement and study the crime scene, witness testimonies, and synthesize information to create an arrest warrant. The next day, they were handed another group’s warrant and asked to act as prosecutors or defense lawyers, composing a compelling opening argument. We use standards-based grading, so we decided to assess their opening argument on Evidence and Commentary. Here is how we describe proficiency for these opening arguments:
Now… if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am admittedly super “extra” when it comes to planning lessons like this. So in addition to the activity designed so wonderfully by Snowden, I added a few more curveballs and added bonuses. Here are some ideas (and materials) that you can take to your own classroom!
Day 1: Law
The first day, students are practicing synthesis and critical thinking. They treat the case file like the sources for Question 1 on the exam and make connections to defend claims about motive, opportunity, and means of operation.
Day 2: Order
The second day, students are practicing on-demand persuasive writing. They are also encouraged to engage in counterargument. This practice will help with both Question 1 and 3 on the exam.
Overall, I'd say it was an overwhelming success. In the afternoon of Day 1, I had students coming to class saying such gems as:
"I heard English was actually fun today!" (Eye roll.)
"I'm excited to solve a murder!"
And after the first day, they were asking if they could put the suspects on trial. (Had it been a more convenient time - not a couple days before the big music trip to Chicago - I would have added a full mock trial.) The fact that they were so excited about argument and reasoning is such a credit to Snowden and her great activity!
If you haven't already, I STRONGLY recommend you implement this in your classroom. Have a great week, all!