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Writing Detective® Level 1, Investigative Reporting Review by Ta’Neisha Kemp

Margaret Schouten
The Critical Thinking Co.
1991 Sherman Ave. Suite 200
North Bend, OR 97459

The Critical Thinking Co. is known for presenting various products geared towards helping students think and evaluate clearly.  Our 4th grader has been using Writing Detective® Level 1, by Margaret Schouten, to aid in thoroughly developing these skills via Investigative Reporting.

Writing Detective® Level 1, Investigative Reporting is a supplemental activity book comprised of opportunities for your child to practice identifying and evaluating evidence to guide decision making.  Each student acts as an investigative reporter that writes articles for the local newspaper.  The subject matter is different for each case, offering a variety of characters, unique clues, and the chance to present the information efficiently.  While compiling the story, your child has to carefully consider all that is provided just like a real reporter does. They learn what real evidence is and to infer or deduce what actually happened for the provided scenario.

The book has the same layout for each case and always starts with a reading comprehension story.  This introductory activity presents all the details that need to be analyzed to draw a complete conclusion about each incident.  Comprehension questions are provided to ensure your reporter understands what was presented and to help them decipher what should or should not be used. Next, students complete an outline detailing the When, Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the case.  Reminders are given throughout the text to encourage the student to pay attention to detail, reread the information, and make note of certain things. Then they subsequently use this to write their article to be printed in the local newspaper.  There are 18 cases within this book along with sample answers to give you an idea of how your child should answer the questions and write the article.  A scoring rubric is also included to assist with grading; however, when doing this keep in mind that the examples provided are only a guideline.  Each child writes differently therefore consider your student’s style as you grade the assignments.

We used this book with our 4th grader three times a week and also decided to name our paper The Kemp Academy Gazette. Initially, this workbook was used as a free write activity to get him introduced to critical thinking and the investigative reporting style of writing.  As he became comfortable we eventually turned it into our focus for approximately two months. Each Monday he would complete the provided reading comprehension activity which includes the information for the upcoming article.  On Tuesdays he would write his outline for the article while looking back at the story for details, clues, and quotes. Then, on Thursdays he wrote his article and I occasionally had him type it up to practice keyboarding as well.  We enjoyed the flow of the activities that were provided within the book as well as the creative mysteries and stories.  The difficulty and requirements of each story were updated throughout the book which definitely kept our son interested. Though the information was fully provided, he still had to identify key characters, find supporting evidence, and tie it all together in his writing.  After consistent use, our son’s comfort level and investigative writing skills increased tremendously so we have slightly adjusted our schedule.  Currently he completes the comprehension and outline on the first day and writes the article on the next school day.

Teaching various styles of writing is one of my favorite things to share with my children. Thankfully, The Critical Thinking Co. and Margaret Schouten have made that job easier with Writing Detective® Level 1, Investigative Reporting.  This mystery-based supplement was a grand addition to our writing time and consistent use has definitely improved our son’s thinking and organization skills.

-Product review by Ta’Neisha Kemp, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June, 2018