Mystery Hangouts – Connecting the Classroom and the Real World

Playing Mystery Hangout in Grade 4

Where in the world is Vancouver Washington?  This may sound like a silly question but what if you were in another part of the world?  Vancouver Washington may sound like an exotic place to learn about.  As you read on please feel free to go back and explore the hyperlinks.  They will lead you to resources regarding the project.

A 4th grade class at Harmony Elementary had begun the process of learning about their home state.  A Mystery Hangout was an authentic way for students to learn about Washington and the world around them.  In a Mystery Hangout (also called a Mystery Skype) students use a 20 question yes/no format to guess the other party’s physical location.  

Prepping for the Hangout

As the lesson was introduced the yes/no question format guided students’ learning.  Their own voices and choices emerged and there was high engagement as they researched and developed their own yes/no questions for the hangout. They focused on what kinds of questions might be asked of them so they could be prepared to answer correctly.  Learning about the continents, waterways, landforms, industry, climate and general map reading skills took on a new meaning because they needed the knowledge and skills to participate successfully in the Hangout.  They had a “why” behind their learning. Different roles were assigned so that everyone participated in the process at the best of their abilities.  

On the big day both classes were excited to learn about one another and make new friends. Students collaborated to question & answer.  This brought out note taking skills, research, deductive reasoning, cooperation and oral fluency.  The feeling of accomplishment when each correct answer brought them closer to their goal was palatable.  In the end both sides celebrated their discovery and had a chance to connect.  

At the end the teacher and I were a little emotional. The experience reminded us about giving kids high expectations and seeing them meet or go beyond abilities.   As an Edtech TOSA my job is to help with planning a Hangout and smoothing over the technology edges to have a transformational learning experience. Please feel free to email if you are interested in trying a Mystery Hangout.  Your Edtech TOSAs are here to assist you with planning and technology support.


The secret location of the other school?  You’ll have to start with a list of “yes/no” questions.  


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