CSI: Creative Scene Investigation

Learning in role empowers students to take risks and ask questions they might not feel comfortable to do as themselves.

Photo of Laura Desmond
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CSI: Creative Scene Investigation

Students arrive to class to find their teacher in role as a CSI Agent Coordinator. She welcomes them to their new assignment as agents charged with building a suspect profile from clues collected at the scene of a crime. CSI Agents are reminded that they are experts in their field and that the Agent Coordinator is there as support only. Agents are divided into groups and are given evidence bags full of clues. Their task as CSI Agents is to piece together a suspect profile, just like they've (probably) seen on TV. Who is this person? What makes you think that? What clue(s) led you to this assumption? What might this suspect do next? Where might this suspect be hiding? (Examples of clues could be an excerpt from a journal, a store receipt, a torn picture, candy wrappers, cell phone with a text on it, anything that gives a snippet of information about someone's life.) The Agent Coordinator gives CSI Agents a case file with a list of prompts to help them create the profile and to justify how they got the profile that they did. Each team shares out at the end and explains how and why they arrived at their conclusion. CSI Agents discuss the differences and similarities of the profiles and reasons why the same clues can be interpreted differently by different people. Finally, the group discusses what information is still needed to complete the profile and creates a list of questions that need to be answered.

CSI Agent Coordinator thanks them for their work and tells them that the profiles will be passed on to the field agents working the case, and that these will undoubtedly help catch the criminal. In the meantime….there is more work to do...

Next the CSI Agent Coordinator passes out a piece of text, perhaps a scene, monologue or short story and tells the Agents that now they are to work backwards and to create an evidence bag for one of the characters/suspects in the text. They must list each item and explain what specifically in the text led them to imagine this item would be in the bag. For example, was it something the character said? Or was said about them by another character or the author? Perhaps it was something from the time period indicated in the text?

Finally, the students are asked to be CSI Agents in life. How might they use these investigatory tools in “real” life. How might they make sense of different interpretations of the same clues? How does individual experience affect our perspective? Agents are asked to be on the lookout for “cases” to investigate from their everyday lives to discuss at future meetings.

How does this idea help to spark student curiosity?

Empowering students as the “expert” encourages freedom to make imaginative leaps and connections that might not happen if a teacher is perceived as the expert with the answer. The responsibility that comes from having expert opinions demands a personal commitment to ideas that will hopefully force students to dig deeper into how and why they arrived at their conclusions, and to continue to ask questions of themselves and others as they work to reconcile the different perspectives of the class.

What grade level is this idea most appropriate for?

  • Middle School (5-8)

Evaluation results

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1. Do you love this idea?

Yes! I love it. - 100%


Join the conversation:

Photo of huang sophie

I really love this idea and it actually creates lots of combined knowledge together. I'll try in my class.

Photo of Laura Desmond

So glad you like it! Let me know how it goes!

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