So You Want to Do Mystery Skype?

Mystery Skype is one of those ideas I wish I had thought because it just so fun but instead I was lucky enough to hear about it from Caren MacConnell.  The concept is simple:  classrooms Skype call each other and try to guess where the other classroom is located either in the United States or in the world.   There are many great resources out there but for my own sanity I am creating one list for future reference:Before the call:

  1. Sign up – there are many places to sign up and some are even grade level based.  I signed up a couple of places but also tweeted it out; the response was immediate as a lot of people are doing this.  If you would like to sign up:
    1. 4th Chat Mystery Skype
    2. 6th Chat Mystery Skype
    3. Mystery Country/Mystery State
    4. The Official Mystery Skype Community from Skype
  2. Decide on a date and time – don’t forget to consider in timezones.
  3. Prepare the kids
    1. We wanted to know facts about our own state so that we would be ready for any question.  We therefore researched the following questions: climate, region, neighboring states, time zone, capital, famous landmarks, geographical location.  All of this gave the students a better grip of what they might be asked.
    2. We also brainstormed questions to possibly ask.  We like the concept of the questions having to have yes or no answers as it makes the game a little harder and has the students work on their questioning skills.  Questions we came up with included whether they were in the United States, whether they were east of the Mississippi, Whether they were West of the Rocky Mountains, If they were in a specific region, whether they border other countries, whether they are landlocked etc.
    3. Give jobs.  I think it is most fun when the kids all have jobs, so this was a list of our jobs:
      1. Greeters – Say hello to the class and some cool facts about the class – without giving away the location.
      2. Inquirers – these kids ask the questions and are the voice of the classroom.  They can  also be the ones that answer the questions.
      3. Answerers – if you have a lot of kids it is nice to have designated question answerers – they should know their state facts pretty well.
      4. Think tanks – I had students sit ina group and figure out the clues based on the information they knew.  Our $2 whiteboards came in handy for this.
      5. Question keepers – these students typed all of the questions and answers for us to review later.
      6. Google mappers – two students were on Google maps studying the terrain and piecing together clues.
      7. Atlas mapper – two students used atlases and our pull down map to also piece together clues.
      8. Clue keepers – worked closely with answerers and inquirers to help guide them in their questioning.
      9. Runners – Students that runs from group to group relaying information.
      10. Photographer – takes pictures during the call
      11. Clue Markers – These students worked with puzzles of the United States and maps to remove any states that didn’t fit into the clues given.
      12. Problem solver – this student helped students with any issues they may encounter during the call.
      13. Closers – End the call in a nice manner after guesses have been given.
    4. Note my students have since then tweaked these jobs – here is a link to our new Mystery Skype jobs

During the Call:
During the call you just have to step back and trust the kids.  My students were incredible, both with their enthusiasm and their knowledge, I think I was more nervous than they were.  I did have to fact check some of their answers so I did stay close by but otherwise it ran pretty smoothly.  We decided which class would go first with their first question and then there were two options:

  • Yes answer: They get to ask another question.
  • No answer – Other team’s turn to ask a question.

Students were allowed to guess whenever they thought they had a great answer (and it was their turn).  In the end, both classes were able to guess each other’s location.
One note; Don’t allow kids to use the Internet to try to google the other class – it spoils the geographical purpose of the challenge.

A list of questions as created by my students to help you start.

For our preparation for this, I showed the kids this video on Linda Yollis’ blog – it really gave the students a concrete example of what to expect and they got very excited. Also Mr. Avery has a great discussion of jobs he had students do during the call.
Jerry Blumengarten also has a nice collection of links on one of his many pages that was helpful to me.

Here is a video of our first call with Joan Young’s class

We are already excited to try it again!


36 thoughts on “So You Want to Do Mystery Skype?

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