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Young Readers' Series: Mystery Stories

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Open to: Grades 2-3

Prerequisites: Qualifying verbal score

Course Format: Web-based classroom

Course Length: Session-based: 10 weeks (fall, early spring, mid spring); 12 weeks (early summer); or 5 week (midsummer intensive); Session Dates and Application Deadlines

Course Code: YYMS

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Course Description   

Description

Everyone loves a good mystery! Things are not always what they first seem: Sometimes tragic accidents turn out to be murder, and it is hard to know whom you can trust. With settings that vary from a 19th Century London circus to a modern African wild animal preserve, the three books include danger, fantasy, suspense, sadness, and adventure. The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John, The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin, and Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars (The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas) by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin. Visit the Home Page of the Mystery Stories classroom.

About the Young Readers' Series for Grades 2 & 3

The Young Readers' Series is designed enhance a student's critical reading, writing, and thinking skills. Designed for enrichment, course assignments meet or surpass the Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading. As students participate in written discussion forums, they make inferences, determine motivations, evaluate arguments, and provide textual evidence to support their opinions. Creative writing assignments encourage students to take on different points of view, summarize details, compare authors, and discuss central ideas. 
 
Designed for children reading at a 5th grade level or above, students enrolled in the Young Readers' Series for Grades 2 and 3:
 
  • Read three or four thematically connected, age-appropriate books of increasing difficulty
  • Participate in online written discussions with gifted classmates from Boston to Beijing
  • Post writing assignments such as newspaper articles, letters, journals, dialogues, and editorials
  • Learn sophisticated vocabulary words and literary devices with the help of online games and puzzles
  • Receive individualized written feedback from their instructor about each lesson's work

Parents Ask...

  • Students typically read and share written responses every other day (fall, spring, and early summer sessions) or daily (midsummer intensive session).
  • Work is posted in the virtual classrooms at the student’s convenience as long as each lesson's deadlines are met.
  • It does not matter whether a student has already read one or all of the books before the course begins because the emphasis on citing the text requires careful re-reading.
  • Students must already be proficient in Standard Written English. [Instructors discuss grammar only when it affects meaning.]

About Readability and Appropriateness

Parents are encouraged to consider the information contained in About Readability and Appropriateness, Look inside the books, and Read the reviews for the books before deciding on the course that would be most interesting and appropriate for their child.

Readability

The easiest method to check readability for your child is the “Five Finger Rule.” Have the child begin reading aloud any page of a book at random and raise your finger each time he or she struggles with a word. If your child reaches the end of the page before you have raised five fingers, your child should be able to read the book independently.

CTY Online Programs simplifies this informal assessment by linking to pages of almost every book in the Look inside the books section. Please perform this “Five Finger Rule” assessment on the last or next to last book of any course you are considering.

Appropriateness

Parents should be aware that each course contains books with humor, mystery, adventure, and heroism as well as suspense and sadness. Overall, while our courses contain advanced grade-level material, we strive to select materials appropriate to the ages of the students. Please look inside the books and read reviews to decide whether these books are appropriate for your child. If you are still uncertain whether your child is ready for a course, please email ctyonline@jhu.edu or call 410-735-6144. 

Look inside The White Giraffe
Look inside Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars (The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas)
Look inside The Puzzling World of Winston Breen
 

 
 Parents are urged to review for appropriate content.
Read Reviews.

Reviews of The White Giraffe
Reviews of Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars (The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas)
Reviews of The Puzzling World of Winston Breen

Materials Needed

  • The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John (Puffin, 2008) ISBN 9780142411520
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars (The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas) by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin  (Orchard, 2009) ISBN 9780545069397
  • The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin ( Puffin 2009) ISBN 9780142413883

Detailed Course Information

Course Details

Lesson 1: The White Giraffe

Begin reading The White Giraffe
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 2: The White Giraffe

Finish reading The White Giraffe
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board questions.

Lesson 3: Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars [The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas]

Begin reading Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars [The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas]
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 4: Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars [The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas]

Continue reading Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars [The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas]
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 5: Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars [The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas]

Finish reading Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars [The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas]
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 6: The Puzzling World of Winston Breen

Begin reading The Puzzling World of Winston Breen
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 7: The Puzzling World of Winston Breen

Continue reading The Puzzling World of Winston Breen
Vote your Opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 8: The Puzzling World of Winston Breen

Continue reading The Puzzling World of Winston Breen
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Post ONE of the blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Lesson 9: The Puzzling World of Winston Breen

Finish reading The Puzzling World of Winston Breen
Vote your opinion in the Poll
Take a self-graded Quiz
Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board
Contribute two thoughtful posts to the Summary Discussion Board

Lesson 10: Summary Assignments covering all three books

Vote your opinion in the Poll
Post ONE of the Blog assignments (your choice) to the Blog forum.
Complete the Literary Terms Quest [Quest=More questions than a quiz, but fewer questions than most tests!]

Note: You are provided with a list of “Mind-Expanding Vocabulary Words” from each book that you can use to help better understand the book and increase your knowledge of vocabulary words in general.

OPTIONAL -Not required- Fun and Challenges:

  • Prepare for the Literary Terms Quest by playing the online Literary Terms games and puzzles.
  • Share your favorite stories and authors with other students in the Recommended Reading Wiki.
  • Print out and work on the crossword puzzles that have been provided to help reinforce your knowledge of the "mind-expanding" vocabulary words.
  • Use the Vocabulary Words Review Games to help learn the vocabulary words in a fun way.

Time Required

This course requires approximately three hours for each of the ten lessons. Students should expect to spend:

  • approximately 3 hours per week during the fall, early spring, mid spring, and early summer sessions
  • approximately 6 hours per week during the 5 week intensive midsummer session

Note: Students do not have to meet in the classroom at the same time. A student's written work can be posted in the virtual classroom at the student's convenience as long as deadlines are met.

About Summer Sessions:

The Young Readers' Series offers both a 12-week summer session that allows families to take a week or two of vacation and an intensive 5-week session. Both sessions cover the same course material and assignments.

While the 12-week early summer session courses allow for 2 weeks total vacation, students in the Young Readers’ courses are encouraged to work ahead or make up their work to try to keep up with their classmates whenever possible. Experience has shown that these courses are most fun when all students are working on the same lesson. Students must notify the instructor at the course's start about any planned vacation dates and must meet scheduled due dates when they are not on vacation. [Students who make up their work can finish their early summer course in 10 weeks.]

Due to the intensity of the 5-week intensive midsummer sessions, students should not take any vacation break or attend all day camps while participating in the midsummer courses. 

If you have any questions, please contact us before applying at ctyonline@jhu.edu.

Sample Assignment

Demo

Mystery Stories Sample Assignment

To give you an idea of the type of assignments involved, the following is the first of ten lessons:

Instructions for Lesson One

All work is due by the following Sunday at midnight. (That's the end of Sunday, not the beginning!) This means that your assigned reading should be started early and completed by Thursday night--at the latest--to allow you enough time to finish all the assignments (Reading, Quiz, Poll, Blog, and Discussion Posts) by Sunday night.

1. Begin reading The White Giraffe in the following chunks:

Chapters 1-3 (pages 1-21)
Chapters 4-7 (pages 22-45)
Chapters 8-10 (pages 46-66)
Chapters 11-13 (pages 67-94)

2. Read the pages above and then take this self-graded Quiz.

Directions: Read the pages listed above for this lesson before taking this self-graded quiz. If you don’t know an answer, refer to your book. To answer the last two questions, count how many questions you answered correctly without referring to the book. Feel free to click on the links to learn the definitions of literary terms such as “inference,” “simile,” “alliteration,” and “onomatopoeia.”

3. Vote your opinion in the Poll.

4. Post ONE of the following blog assignments to the Blog Forum:

a) Pretend you are Miss Grace and write a 50-250 word letter to Gwyn Thomas about Martine. Do you--as Miss Grace--want to tell Martine's grandmother that you are convinced that the girl has "the gift?" What suggestions would you make about how to treat Martine and what to tell her about her mother?

b) Pretend you are Lucy or some other member of the Five Star Gang who went on the class trip and you want to make sure that the teachers at the school learn about your version of what happened at the Botanical Gardens before they hear about events from Martine's perspective. As Lucy -- or some other Five Star Gang member who went on the class trip -- write a 50-250 word letter to Miss Volkner letting her know your side of the story.

5. Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board in response to any of the following topics. (Remember! At least one of these two thoughtful posts should be in reply to a discussion post made by another student.)

a) The letter from grandmother. In Chapter 2, Martine reads the letter from her grandmother, and she is bothered by it. There is something in the tone of the letter that doesn’t sit right with Martine. What do you think of the tone of the letter that Gwyn Thomas sends to social services in England? Based on the letter, what kind of person do you expect Martine's grandmother to be? Do you think Martine is right to be concerned?

b) The Caracal School. From what you learn in Chapter 7, what do you think of Caracal School? What do you like about Martine's new school? What do you dislike about it? Do you think you would make friends there? Would you want to attend this school? Why or why not?

c) Friendship with Ben. From the description of Ben given in Chapter 7, why do you think Martine made up her mind to try to befriend Ben? Would you have wanted to become Ben's friend? Are you surprised or disappointed that Martine ended up not pursuing friendship with Ben?

d) The mystery of Martine's mother. Why do you think there is such an air of secrecy surrounding Martine’s mother? Can you imagine any good reason that Gwyn Thomas might have for refusing to talk about Veronica or her childhood days on the game reserve? [Spoiler Alert: Do not base your discussion on anything that you may have learned by reading beyond Chapter 13 (page 94)!]

e) Tendai's scars. Martine is horrified by the scars on Tendai's back and his story about the man who had whipped him. Does Tendai's story about what life was like for black people in South Africa during his youth sound believable? Is there any reason to hope that things are now different for black people in present day South Africa? Do you know of any other place in the world where people are treated badly for reasons as inconsequential as the color of their skin?

f) Martine's day with Tendai in the reserve. Even though Martine is disturbed when Alex shoots the kudu, she also experiences other emotions about the event. Describe her many different reactions and feelings during her day with Tendai in the reserve described in Chapter 13.

Note: You are provided with a list of “Mind-Expanding Vocabulary Words from The White Giraffe” that you can use to help better understand the book and increase your knowledge of vocabulary words in general.

OPTIONAL--Not required--Fun and Challenges:

  • Share your favorite stories and authors with other students in the Recommended Reading Wiki.
  • Print out and work on the crossword puzzles that have been provided to help reinforce your knowledge of the "mind-expanding" vocabulary words.
  • Play some literary terms review games.

Technical Requirements

This course requires a properly maintained computer with high-speed internet access and an up-to-date web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox). The student must be able to communicate with the instructor via email. Visit the Technical Requirements and Support page for more details.

This course requires that the student use a web browser with the Adobe Flash plugin. Note that many tablets and handhelds (particularly the iPad) do not support Flash and cannot view the lessons.

 

Reviews

"It is refreshing and motivating for my daughter to read the instructor's specific remarks (She is accustomed to receiving "good" as the sole comment on her efforts!)."

"The instructor was extremely attentive and very encouraging. We thoroughly enjoyed working with her this summer.  She was able to direct my son in such a positive way and leave him empowered to dig deeper into his thinking and writing based on what he read. He was always left more inspired to read more and write more after he read her constructive and encouraging words each week. My husband and I were extremely impressed by the caliber of this course (our very first CTY Online Programs ever!)."

"I really liked how my instructor gave me detailed feedback, which helped me improve further each week. She was very approachable (albeit via email).  I can tell she enjoys teaching and is very kind. I've learned to analyze books in more depth and write thoughtful discussions."

"The instructor’s feedback and instruction have increased my daughter's confidence with regard to her writing skills. My daughter is expressing a strong desire to become an author and wants to continue learning more about writing. She has always excelled in writing at school; however, after taking this course, her middle school teachers have commented on how much more advanced she is than others in her honors courses because of her style of writing."

"The feedback on the writing assignments was incredibly thorough and comprehensive. My son started the course and submitted disorganized work. The instructor's detailed commentary helped him to improve his work dramatically."

"The instructor provides positive feedback, individualized attention and tips that do not overwhelm the children. She motivated my child and gave her the confidence to express herself."

"My instructor's feedback was very helpful - always taking my thinking to a new level. She was thorough and asked good questions. She also was good at sending reminders regarding the work that was due. She made me a better writer and critical thinker. She taught me to ask more questions."

"The instructor’s feedback explained the strong and weak points in my work.  She did this by first mentioning the things she liked, but she wasn't completely fussy, saying my work was amazing just to make me happy. Then, she would point out things I could improve. She does this not by yelling and screaming (you know what I mean), but pointing it out politely, but in a way that I could understand what to do.  She was nice, but also challenges us.  She was also particular not only about the contents of my writing, but about the spelling and grammar.  Even though she challenged us, she also wasn't too hard. People do not learn when things are too easy. When things are too hard, their brains get confused and they don't learn either. My instructor wasn't too hard, but she wasn't too soft.  She really was an outstanding teacher."

"Before I started my young readers’ course, I both disliked writing, and was bad at it. Whenever possible I avoided it. When I started my course with my instructor, I realized a talent for writing I never had before.  As the course went on I realized I was actually getting impatient, waiting for the next lesson so I could write more.  Before I thought of writing as a chore, the way most people think of school (not me!). Now I like to write and do it like it's something fun, which it is. My instructor taught me not only how to write, but also how to like to write."

"The instructor's ability to give thorough constructive criticism through an email, while keeping the tone of the suggestions unfailingly positive was amazing. My daughter learned much about writing in this course. While she reads at a high school level, her writing is much closer to her age (9). Constant positive encouragement and insightful comments enabled her to expand on her thoughts each week."