The Mystery Event

The Mystery Event

The second year of RaD, the teachers’ implementation plan included buying classroom sets of Rohal Dahl’s Matilda. During the last few months of school each teacher read to their class the spell binding tale using the highly motivational technique of an interactive read aloud. As students silently read their own copy, the teacher read her copy to them out loud. While reading, teachers asked before, during and after questions, engaging the students in whole class and small group discussions. They primed their students for unfamiliar vocabulary using vocabulary support techniques, and used response journals for students to write down their ideas and impressions about the story, the characters, the plot, and the problem/solution.

Concurrently, students were also keeping track of how many minutes they were reading at-home. As notes from parents declared their child’s nightly reading achievement, a graph was built to show each classes total minutes read. Each class set their own goal of how many minutes collectively they would read. It was announced that once the goal was achieved they would go to a special “mystery” event. Students achieved their goals and then set higher ones, achieved those goal, and reached again for still higher.

The reading of Matilda came to an end at the same time that the race to read came to a close. A catalog of Rohal Dahl’s books were provided for the students, and students were told they could have their very own Rohal Dahl book to take home. They would receive the book at the “mystery” event. They were asked to provide first, second and third choices.

The day of the mystery event finally arrived and busses lined up in front of the school to escort the fourth graders to Utah Valley University. There they saw the movie, Matilda. Actors from UVU drama school visited them in full costume, performed scenes from the book, and represented the story’s characters as they visited with the students. Students ate chocolate cake (meaningful to the story), and received their Rohal Dahl book. The teachers were delighted that they were able to provide their students with mostly their first choice and a few their second choice.

Spontaneous conversations comparing the movie and the book broke out amongst all their students. Students could be heard everywhere talking about the book, the characters, the plot, Rohal Dahl, and the movie. Teachers listened in amazement as conversations were rich and deep. One reported, “I have never heard such thoughtful discussions. In the past, I would have to pull this type of discussion out of my students, but today they are doing it all on their own.”

Students reading on the bus

As the students boarded the busses to return to school another surprise met the teachers. In all four busses, students spontaneously opened up their new books and began reading. All the way back to the school, instead of a rowdy bunch of fourth graders, real readers were engaged in the act of reading.


Assuming no one would believe them, as proof, the teachers took pictures using their cell phones.