Mystery Words | EL Education Curriculum

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Daily Learning Targets

  • Opening A: I can follow along in a shared text (poem). (RF.K.1)
    • I can count the number of words in a sentence.
    • I can point to the first word in a sentence.
    • I can point to the last word in a sentence.
    • I can point to words in a text.
    • I can move my finger under words as I read them on a page, left to right and top to bottom.
  • Work Time A: I can search in a text (poem) and find a word with three letters in it.
    • I can count the number of letters in a word.
  • Work Time B: I can use clues from the text (poem) to identify a mystery word.
    • I can count the number of letters in a word.
    • I can point to words in the poem.
    • I can recognize and read many high-frequency words in a text and in isolation (alone).

Ongoing Assessment

  • Observe students during the Opening and Work Time. Determine whether they demonstrate one-to-one correspondence with words.
  • Observe students during Work Time. Determine whether they can identify the sounds in the mystery words.
  • Record students' progress on the Snapshot Assessment.



1. Opening (5 minutes)

A. Poem Launch: "Fun in the Sun"

2. Work Time (10-15 minutes)

A. Clues to the Mystery Words

B. Mystery Words: "was," "his"

3. Closing and Assessment (2 minutes)

A. Reflecting on Learning

4. Differentiated Small Group Instruction and Rotations (40-45 minutes)

In Advance

  • Prepare:
    • Enlarged poem: "Fun in the Sun" (or write on chart paper/poster)
    • Poetry notebooks: Each student needs a spiral or composition book with a copy of the poem glued or taped inside, or else a loose copy of the poem in a plastic sleeve
    • Snapshot Assessment (optional; one per student)
  • Gather materials for differentiated small group instruction (see Differentiated Small Groups: Work with Teacher).


Key: Lesson-Specific Vocabulary (L); Text-Specific Vocabulary (T)

  • clues, frequently, mystery word (L)
  • glum (T)


  • Enlarged poem: "Fun in the Sun" (or handwritten on chart paper to display)
  • Large pointer (optional; for teacher to point to words in poem as the class recites)
  • Poetry notebooks (one per student; see Teaching Notes)
  • Poem: "Fun in the Sun" (one per student)
  • Snapshot Assessment (optional; one per student)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Poem Launch: "Fun in the Sun"

  • (Suggested transition song, sung to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot"):

"Now let's read the poem, line by line. We'll figure out the words used all the time. When we read together, we sound like one. Start with me to have a lot of fun!"

  • Begin the Poem Launch instructional practice:

1. Teacher says: "Listen closely as I read this poem, which contains our mystery words. As I read it, think about which words you hear frequently. Remember, our mystery words are words that are in the poem several times."

2. Teacher reads Enlarged poem: "Fun in the Sun" once or twice, pointing to each word as he or she reads it (with a finger or pointer).

3. Teacher says: "I saw many of you listening hard for words that I read several times in this poem. I bet you are wondering which words are our mystery words, and I am too! Let's read the poem together."

4. Teacher rereads the poem several times, encouraging students to read with him or her chorally. During the shared reading of the poem, teacher asks students to:

      • Count the number of words in each line.
      • Point to the first word in each line and then the last word in each line.

5. Teacher distributes poetry notebooks or copies of the poem: "Fun in the Sun" to individuals or partners.

6. Students follow along chorally as teacher reads aloud, pointing to the words on their copies of the poem as they read.

7. Repeat as needed to ensure that most students have memorized the words.

8. Teacher says: "Next we will learn the clues that will help us discover the mystery words!"

  • To provide support or practice with left-to-right directionality and one-to-one matching, consider inviting individual students to come up to the enlarged poem and point to the words as the class chorally recites.
  • Consider modeling how to count the words in each line for students who need help with this skill.
  • Consider acting out the poem, using motions and facial expressions to illustrate vocabulary such as "glum."

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Clues to the Mystery Words

  • Begin the Clues to the Mystery Word instructional practice:

1. Teacher says: "Both of the mystery words have three letters. I see several words with three letters."

2. Teacher asks:

"Which words do you see with three letters?"

3. Teacher asks students to search in their copies of the poem in their poetry notebook for the three-letter words.

4. Teacher asks student volunteers to identify the three-letter words in poem: "fun," "the," "sun," "bug," "was," "out," "his," "one," "day," "but," "saw," "run," "hot," "big," "him," "did."

5. Teacher circles the words.

6. Teacher says: "Great! So we know two of those words are the mystery words."

7. Teacher says: "This time when I read the poem, you will clap when I read a three-letter word."

8. Teacher reads poem, pointing to each word, while students clap on three-letter words: "fun," "the," "sun," "bug," "was," "out," "his," "one," "day," "but," "saw," "run," "hot," "big," "him," "did."

9. Teacher says: "Great! I heard clapping many times as I read the poem. There are a lot of three-letter words in our poem. We will need more clues to figure out our mystery words, so let's get started!"

  • Circling all of the three-letter words in the enlarged copy of the poem during step 5 will facilitate step 6 when students clap on all of the words that have three letters.

B. Mystery Words: "was," "his"

  • (Suggested transition song, sung to the tune of "Three Blind Mice"):

"Let's solve the mystery, let's solve the mystery. Clue by clue, clue by clue. The clues will tell you what to do. To make the word become clearer to you. We'll know the word, we'll figure it out. Clue by clue, clue by clue."

  • Begin the Mystery Words instructional practice:

1. Teacher says: "Now we are going to use more clues to find out what the mystery words are. We already know that both of the mystery words have three letters, but they also have something else in common. They both end with the same letter. They both end with the letter 's.'"

2. Teacher asks:

"Do you see any three-letter words that end with the letter 's'?"

3. Students look through their copies of the poem individually or with a partner. Students turn to an elbow partner and point to the words they think are the mystery words.

4. Teacher calls on a student to share an idea.

5. Teacher says: "Wow! 'Was' and 'his' might be the mystery words. They both have three letters, and they both end with the letter 's.' Remember, the mystery word is a high-frequency word, which means it is in our poem several times. Let's count the times we see 'was' in our poem."

6. Teacher and students count the word. Teacher underlines the word each time it's counted.

7. Teacher says: "So now we know 'was' is in our poem six times."

8. Teacher repeats steps 5 - 7 for the word "his."

9. Teacher writes the words "was" and "his" and says: "Let's check our clues to see they are our mystery words."

10. Teacher asks:

"Do they both have three letters?" (yes)

"Do they both end in 's'?" (yes)

"Do they both appear in the poem frequently (a lot)?" (yes)

11. Teacher says: "Yes! 'Was' and 'his' are the mystery words because they both have three letters, end in 's,' and are in our poem a lot! Great detective work to find our mystery words!"

12. Teacher says: "These are important words you are going to practice. Whenever you see the words 'was' or 'his,' you can remember how we figured out our mystery words today!"

  • Observe students as they search the poem. Make sure they practice the left-to-right sweep. Encourage them to use their pointer finger to underline words as they search.
  • Some students may notice that the "s" is pronounced /z/ not /s/ at the end of both of these words. Acknowledge this important recognition and consider explaining that when "s" appears right after a vowel, as it does in both these words, it makes the sound /z/.
  • Consider asking students to use each of the words in a sentence. This reinforces the role of the word, helping to commit it to memory. In this case, "was" identifies that something has happened in the past, and "his" shows possession.
  • Consider extending the depth of analysis in this lesson by asking students to compare the new high-frequency word "his" to the high-frequency word "has" from Cycle 13.

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reflecting on Learning

  • Emphasize that successful learners think about what they've learned and why it's important. Consider using a metaphor such as a baseball player learning to keep his or her eye on the ball to know exactly when to hit it.
  • Asks:

"How can we practice learning our mystery words?" (Look for them in the poem and in other texts.)

"How will that help us with reading or writing?" (Responses will vary.)

  • For students who need additional support organizing their ideas: Provide sentence frames. Example:
    • "When I said the word 'his,' I _____."

Differentiated Small Groups: Work with Teacher

Suggested Plan: Teacher works with the Pre-Alphabetic and Partial Alphabetic groups. At this point in the year, the teacher may be ready to meet with three rather than just two groups per day. If so, the teacher should work with students in the Full and Consolidated Alphabetic phases at least once per week. The teacher may choose to guide students through the suggested independent activity or refer to the possible practice activities.

Note: Groups not working with the teacher at a given time should be engaged in purposeful independent rotation work. Refer to the Independent and Small Group guidance document (see K-2 Skills Resource Manual) for more details.


  • Practice activity: Teacher leads the students in pointing to each word in the poem "Fun in the Sun" in their poetry notebooks. Teacher has students identify and highlight or circle specific letters they might need practice with. Consider beginning with just initial letters/sounds. Consider asking questions such as:

"Can you find the letter 'b'?"

"Can you find the letter that makes the sound /f/?"

  • Alternative practice activity: Teacher leads students in a Letter/Name Matching activity.
    • Students are given a stack of Student Name Cards with their classmates' names and Alphabet Cards.
    • Students match the beginning letter of each name to the matching letter card. Repeat until all names and letters are matched.
  • Additional Supporting Materials:
    • Poetry notebooks or copies of poem: "Fun in the Sun" (one per student)
    • Student Name Cards (teacher-created; optional)

Partial Alphabetic:

  • Practice activity: Teacher guides students in a Mystery Word Search and Rainbow Write.
    • Students find the words "his" and "was" in their copies of the poem "Fun in the Sun."
    • Students circle the mystery words in the poem.
    • Students practice writing the words with different-colored markers, crayons, or colored pencils.
  • Additional Supporting Materials:
    • Poetry notebooks or copies of poem: "Fun in the Sun"
    • Writing tools (for Rainbow Write; colored pencils, crayons, markers)
    • Lined writing paper (for Rainbow Write)

Full and Consolidated Alphabetic:

  • Independent Practice activity: Students complete a Mystery Word Write.
    • Students count all of the mystery words "was" and "his" they find in their copies of the poem "Fun in the Sun" and record.
    • Students write a story using the words "was" and "his" as many times as they can, reinforcing the idea that "was" and "his" are high-frequency words used often by authors to communicate ideas.
  • Conference with students about Accountable Independent Reading.
  • Choose a lesson from the K-2 Differentiation Packets to extend the students' learning. (Refer to the students' assessment data and the Assessment Conversion chart to determine an appropriate lesson or group of lessons.)
  • Additional Supporting Materials:
    • Poetry notebooks or copies of poem: "Fun in the Sun"
    • Lined writing paper and writing utensil

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