Tunnel Vision: Critical Scenes through Tunnel Books

Well, we wrapped up our mystery unit. Might I say, this has felt like the most successful unit in my two years of teaching thus far for a few reasons:

1. Students were totally engaged. "Ahhhhhh, we're done reading already?!?"
2. Students were finishing books at a faster rate than before. (A book club comes running up to me, waving their book in the air,) "Mrs. Olson, we finished another book!!"
3. Students daily reading assignments were thorough and reflective of their reading.
4. Students were excited for independent reading time every day. Me: "Any questions before you head off for independent reading?" Student: "Can we read now?"


To end our unit, we decided to try something that I learned in college. Yes, you heard that right... I'm actually using something that I rolled my eyes at while in college when my professor said, "This could be a great way to integrate art into other subjects."

While in college, we had a class all about art integration: how to integrate art into other subject matters. My prof said how many schools did not have art teachers anymore. "Say what?!? Can they do that?" I thought. Fast forward 2 years, and I land in a school in just that situation- no art teacher. I WAS the art teacher. Oh boy. Anywho, we did this project in college for a grade. I just so happened to take pictures for a photo project I was doing. Who would've thought it all would come in handy during our mystery unit in 3rd grade? Here is my project from college:

Tunnel Books

This tunnel book was based on a book for reading.

This tunnel book was for a social studies unit. 
Tunnel books are 3-dimensional displays that you can create for any end of the unit project in any subject matter (now I'm the art teacher trying to push you to integrate art into your subjects... my how easy the table turns).

Last year, we did paper cubes and they were great- but a pain to construct. And really, the teacher has to do the construction with all those tiny flaps. I modeled how to assemble the tunnel books, but the students were fully capable of doing all the steps themselves. I also had fast finishers be my "teachers" meaning, I would show just 1 person from each table and they would be in charge of showing the people at their table how to complete it. It went very smoothly considering this was my first time actually doing it with 25 students in a real life teaching scenario. Here's documentation of our tunnel book journey!

Day 1: First, students had to focus in and identify the critical scene of any of the mysteries they read or we read during read aloud. We defined what a critical scene means, especially in a mystery. This was really good for them to identify one scene they felt was very critical to the story to depict. Once they chose the book they wanted to do, they met with other people who chose that book to discuss the critical scene. They wrote it on a post-it and reported to me so I could ensure they got it. Then, we began constructing the pieces of our tunnel book

  • Cutting out a front frame (you can use card stock, file folders, or construction paper)
  • Accordion folding the 2 sides
  • Our background

Day 2: Then, it was time to start creating the setting of that critical scene. Some students thought they should draw the setting of where most of the book took place. We had a discussion though that we are creating an actual scene from the book, so we have to image where our characters were when an important clue came about to change the direction of the story. It was a really great 'debate' for some groups.

Day 3: We thought about our characters who were there in the critical scene, but we also thought about how they were feeling and what they were doing to truly show the critical scene. This one is from one of our read alouds: A to Z Mysteries: The Falcon's Feathers 

Students had to do some trial and error to draw their characters a good size that would fit their tunnel book scene. We then cut them out, and attached them to tiny folded springs so they would "pop" out of our scene a bit.

Not the neatest work, but this student nailed the emotions of all his characters!
 Day 4: We added crucial details and finished assembling our tunnel books.
This student even made the floor speckled like it was described in the book. He also created a very small cherry blossom, which was a critical clue to help the characters solve the mystery in Kidnapped at the Capitol.
Once the details were added to the inside of the tunnel book, they picked out other details from the book to add to their frames. We had about 5 books that were being turned into tunnel books, so we brainstormed what details might be included for each book. Some students also included speech bubbles to their characters to give more details to their critical scene.

 Here are some of the final products. I didn't get to take pictures of many of them, but you'll get the idea.

A to Z Mystery: The Falcon's Feathers

A to Z Mystery: The Falcon's Feathers

Chet Gecko and the Mystery of Mr. Nice

Boxcar Children: The Pizza Mystery

To celebrate, we went on a gallery walk not only in our room, but to the other third grade rooms as well!

 Kiddos were really excited to go to other rooms and find projects that showed the same book that they did to compare!
 This was a popular one! This student in Kate's class did a superb job!

Our other teammate did the book box cubes we did last year. The students really liked getting to pick them up and view how this class showed their favorite mystery book.

I didn't do all the elements from the tunnel book from college, but it still worked out. Are they the prettiest? By no means! But they are completely authentic and filled with student pride and hard work. That fact alone made it the perfect ending to our mystery unit.

And now....

We prepare....

For our test prep unit.

Wish us luck.


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