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From Robots to Rigor: Ordeal by Cheque

In 1932, (yes 1932!) a most fascinating series of checks (cheques) appeared in Vanity Fair magazine. The checks were published by Wuther Crue and they appeared to tell a mysterious story of Lawrence Exeter and some assorted business ventures with nefarious people leading to questionable ends.  These checks, checks with no apparent solution, lent themselves to variety of interpretations and musings.  As the checks were published in Vanity Fair with no solution, people were tasked with coming up with their own versions of the story.  Educators delighted in the opportunity to share these checks with students to elicit inferring skills.

Grab the 1932 version here!!

When I first had an opportunity to work with adults on the task of interpreting these checks I WAS ENTHRALLED.  The mere process of trying to decipher a solution and the fact that there were more unanswered questions than solutions had me hooked.  The embedded skills of inferring, analysis, sequencing and even the fact that the process was perfect for inductive learning helped me realize that this was something I needed to try with my sixth graders.

The checks, however, were a BIT too mature for my sixth graders.  It wasn't just the cursive handwriting (yep, that's right, they cannot read cursive) it was also the 'nefarious dealings' that I alluded to earlier that made it too mature for my taste.  So, of course, I came up with my own version!!

A More Modern Version

My ordeal leads with Mrs. Lana Hanniday getting her family a Disney Cruise vacation for Christmas.  THAT doesn't really sound like an ordeal!!!
Ordeal by Check
From there, Lana, her husband, children and a companion known as Miss Kretz, certainly have an ordeal in Jamaica, but that's for YOU to figure out!  Want to know more?  

Get the checks here!

Teaching Inferring
Teaching students the elements of a check and HOW to infer events from a check lead to a few surprises.  My students were shocked to learn that there needs to money in a bank account in order to be able to write a cashable check.  We learned about the features of a check through a neat overlay that I created in CoSpaces for the Merge Cube:

After learning the features, we evaluated how SEVERAL checks can allow us to infer an event:

I then partnered students together to sort the 21 checks into some semblance of a story.  

The task took about 2 class periods (1+ hours) and students were "head to head, elbows deep" engaged with the process.

This is a GREAT end of the year activity and really has students..