So, how does Murder, She Wrote fit into a history class? The answer is – perfectly! We start with the basics in my history class… fact, opinion, inference, and corroboration. We could go through a boring PowerPoint in that first week defining all of those terms, do a formative assessment where I can see if they understand the difference, blah, blah, blah… that’s not my style. I want these kids to get into the mindset of history, have fun while they’re at school, and do activities that will trick them into learning. Angela Lansbury comes through with Murder, She Wrote and never lets me down.
So, many years ago I thought, how can I make this… not boring. It just so happened my daughters were little… watching Beauty and the Beast… and I heard the voice of Mrs. Potts. I was like, “Oh my gosh… I know that voice, but how? It’s the Murder, She Wrote lady!” This was way before Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and YouTube. I went to the public library… sure enough… they had the whole series. I knew I needed to give it a try.
I went to work that Saturday and put the video in… took pictures of all the characters… and the rest, as they say, is history. It honestly wouldn’t matter which episode you use. If you want to use the one from this example.... it is called Coal Miner's Slaughter. I've used many different ones over the years, but this is a surefire hit. Murder, She Wrote is available on Amazon Prime. I, of course, recommend viewing the episode before you use it so you know when to stop.
If you use Coal Miner's Slaughter... I stop at 16.51 for Inference #1 (then you can burn through the advertisements with the projector and sound off). This is where you'll ask students to share their facts, opinions, and inferences. I then stop again at 33.04 for Inference #2... and ask for facts, opinions, and inferences. Finally, I stop again at 41:35 (this is critical! When the phone line is cut...STOP!) This is where students make inference #3 and I ask questions using the same tactics as before. It's fun to say, "OK, well...let's finish this tomorrow" and you'll hear a "NOOOOOO!!!" in unison, which is always fun.
Once they learn who did it there's a lot of fun conversations in class. I promise you, no matter what you do for the rest of the year... you can always refer back to this lesson and the terms fact, opinion, inference, and corroboration. This is the sheet I give students. You can make the same for yourself by just playing whichever episode you'd like to use and take pictures of each character.
It really is a lot of fun and a great way to get the kids involved right away!
Matt @ Surviving Social Studies
Don't forget to keep your students safe by having them come up one at a time for help this year! Works like a charm! Just click on the image.