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CSI In the Classroom: How I turned my classroom into a crime scene

My school has student “expeditions” which are week long deep dives into a particular area of interest for students.  The purpose of expeditions is to create a general learning experience that exposes students to a particular professional field.   I was assigned to create “CSI” in my classroom (despite no background knowledge other than what I’ve seen on TV...).  It’s an awesome idea, but it was difficult to find resources specific to this type of experience.  So I forged my own path. 

The Crime Scene Investigation lesson set the stage for students to utilize a number of skills such as sequencing, inferring, speaking and listening, and teamwork.   I broke the unit into three sections: skill builders, mini-cases, and “the big case”.  

Skill Builders - In order to set my students up for success, I created 5 different mini lessons to prepare for the case they would solve.  They learned about:
  • Fingerprinting 
  • Handwriting Analysis 
  • Footprints 
  • Tracking and Collecting Evidence 
  • Interrogating and Interviewing 
* I purposefully left out anything with blood and DNA because of the nature of my students’ experiences and my limited background knowledge.

Each student received a “training manual” with resources needed to complete the five skill builders.  I also incorporated pages for students to earn “gold stars” based on their participation and effort. 

Mini-Cases - My students lost their minds over these! Mini-cases gave students the opportunity to practice the skill builders before I assigned “The Big Case”.  Each student was given a clue (or two) and they had to work together (as a class) to create a timeline and develop theories about what happened.

The Big Case - All of the skills students learned helped them to solve “The Case of the Missing Mascot.” We transformed our principal’s office into a crime scene where students assigned stations to evaluate in small groups. After the investigation, we convened in our classroom where each group presented  the information they gathered with the rest of the class to solve the case.

Extras -  As I previously mentioned, the CSI lesson was meant to expose students to a professional field, so I pulled out all of the stops to make the most genuine experience possible.  These are not integral to the lesson and are truly bonuses to help get students into the CSI mindframe:
  • Badges - Each student had a personalized officer badge to wear during the investigations. 
  • Booklet - Students had individualized booklets to track notes and learnings.  
  • Nametags - To hook my students on the first day, I created name tags for their desk with their names scrambled.
My students were in love with this lesson and I will definitely incorporate it into my classroom again in the future.  My approach can easily be adapted, that said, if interested, check out my CSI Guide inclusive of all materials used in the unit. 

Tanesha B. Forman
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