I taught my first class today and this is what I learned

  • Stop rambling. I ramble and talk a lot. I get excited and keep on talking. I need to continually remind myself to be concise. (This is a daily practice and one of the main things I focus on when writing this blog… oh, and I’m rambling now!) I noticed that some of the students were tuning me out. I shouldn’t fill every quiet moment with more words.
  • Have a bigger goal for the lesson, so the quick students have something to work on while you’re helping the students who are stuck. Some students learn faster than others and the ones that are done early get bored and usually goof off. I can’t teach at a fast pace because the students who are stuck will feel overwhelmed, constantly feeling rushed to catch up to the rest of the class. Having a larger goal in mind when teaching is helpful, that way, the students who finish early can go back to chipping away at that larger goal. To put this in context, I was teaching a tutorial on making websites with WordPress. The larger goal for this class was to create a website explaining and promoting a video game. Ideally, if someone finished a task early, she could go back and create more content for the website. Unfortunately  I lead the class in a lesson manner, jumping from one lesson to the next. I noticed when a student finished something early, she became bored, because she was just waiting for the next lesson.
  • Frame the lesson. Tie the instructions together and make them building blocks to an end goal. Codeschool does this very well. Every instruction and example should have been framed as another step towards creating the website for the video game. Every image I uploaded, or piece of copy I wrote, should have been about the particular videogame. In reality, I wrote a lot of: “testing copy” and uploaded an image of a cat.
  • Having a teaching assistant is very important. One person leads the class and the TA walks around the room to field minor questions. If some of the students are having the same issue, the helper can see this and address the whole class.
  • Plan for an extra hour of teaching. I guestimated how fast our students would learn, and my guestimation was wrong. I planned an extra hour of content, and we went through all of it!
  • You may have to explicitly ask: “How can I help?” some students won’t ask for help. Also, asking: “Do you have any questions?” doesn’t work because sometimes they won’t know what to ask!
  • Have more class participation. This keeps students engaged and keeps an open dialogue.
  • Have fun. I was nervous, excited, but never frustrated when prepping for or teaching this class. Everything is more enjoyable when you’re happy. I was happy to share my skills.

Alright, now I have a question for you. I didn’t know what to do when I asked a brainstorming question and no one responded. I eventually caved and supplied answers. Should I have singled students out? Should I have waited until someone gave an answer (I hated when my teacher used to this!)? Please, give me suggestions in the comment section.

I’m a student, and I know I’ve got a lot to learn. This was my first teaching anything to a class and it was a lot of fun. Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing your opinion below :)

Free Murder Mystery Party Plan

Last month, I hosted my first murder mystery party. It was a blast! When I was preparing for the party, I was surprised by the lack of free murder mystery party plans. There are several websites who will gladly sell you well thought out mystery events but there are no free complete party plans! So, the purpose of this blog post is to explain how I planned my party and to share with you my Murder Mystery Party for free! The first part of the blog post is explaining the event and its outcome. You will find all copies of the emails and character information I sent to my detectives at the bottom of this post. 

The Murder Mystery

I didn’t have a lot of time to plan the murder mystery, so I decided to let my sleuth detectives/party guests create their own character’s backstory. I figured if I let them own the character, they would be more invested in the party and they would roleplay their character. I was right.

I told everyone the party was casino themed. I never mentioned for anyone to buy props, but most of them did. We had wooden baseball bats, scuba gear, water guns, and even a fake earpeice! I was amazed that everyone dressed-up like their character. But, I am getting ahead of myself… The characters will be explained later in this post, first I must explain the scenario.

Since the party was to be a casino theme I decided to have the murder mystery take place in a swanky casino bar. I was the owner of said casino.

Here is the basic scenario of the murder mystery night: All of the people at the party were guests at my casino. Everyone has gathered into my casino bar for the star performer, the best Elvis impersonator in all of Vegas. As the show starts, a gun shot echoes throughout the bar. The curtain comes up, and Elvis goes down. The casino’s bar doors slam shut and everyone in the bar is now a suspect to the murder of the Elvis impersonator.

The guests must deduce who the murderer is. In order to win the prize they must make an accusation and tell me: WHO committed the murder, HOW they committed the murder and WHY they committed the murder. Some of the investigators had clues, these clues helped form the correct accusation. Some of the clues were not important to the murder mystery but would provide back story to some characters and lead some detectives on the wrong line of investigation.

I will now explain the events that led up the murder, this information is for your eyes only and will help explain the murderer’s intentions at the end of the night. This story can be determined through combining the clues, this will be explained later. One of the characters is ‘The singing coach’. He has been married to his wife for 15 years and has an excellent reputation in Las Vegas for turning no-name singers into stars. He has been teaching the Elvis impersonator for the last 5 months. The singing coach is at the casino bar on a weekly basis, watching Elvis perform. During the last 5 months the teacher and his protege began an affair with each other. Elvis wanted the coach to leave his wife and start a relationship with him. Coach promised Elvis he would, but he was lieing, he never intended to leave his wife. A week before the murder, Elvis threatens to expose the love affair. That night at the bar the coach sees “The Gun Nut” has left his trusty revolver on the table. He takes the revolver and promptly leaves. A week later the Coach uses the stolen gun to shoot and kill Elvis on stage. Since everyone is watching the stage no one sees the Coach fire the gun and he blends into the crowd.

How will your murder mystery guests every deduce this story? By following the clues.

  • The Escort”’s clue: “Elvis once paid the Escort to accompany him to a wedding. The escort tried to fool around with Elvis afterwards but he was not interested.” This clue is meant to imply Elvis is gay.
  • The Gun Nut”’s clue: “You lost your gun at the casino bar last week.” This clue is meant to imply any regular could have the gun, guests that have never been to the casino before will not have been able to grab the gun.
  • The Reporter”’s clue: “The reporter has been following Elvis for a story and he found out that Elvis was in a relationship with someone who was married.” This clue implies that guests who are not married would not have murdered Elvis.
  1. Is this character a regular at the casino?
  2. Is this character married?
  • Explicitly tell all guests that they are not the murder, there were some characters I created that were red harrings, (i.e: characters that could be the murder, but actually are not) and they thought they were the murderer.
  • Stress the importance of working together as a group to determine the murder’s identity, method and motive. Combining clues is the only way to determine these three facts. I also suggest acting as the lead detective if no one else takes the initiative. Simply asking: “What clues do we have and who would that rule out?” was excellent for narrowing down the pool of suspects.
  • the gun nut will tell everyone he left his gun at the club a week before (so any regular can take it)
  • The escort went on a paid date with Elvis and Elvis was not interested in her at all, he didn`t even fool around with her. This is supposed to suggest Elvis is having a relationship with another man, i`m not sure if they will pick up on this.
  • The reporter knows that Elvis was in a relationship with someone who is married, I am hoping most people will think he is having a relationship with a women, but in fact he is having the relationship with a man.

Subject: Your detective skills are requested for a Murder Mystery Party
Imagine this:

  • WHO is the murderer
  • WHY did she or he commit the murder
  • HOW did they commit the murder

Note: Some other guests have guns with them, they are meant to throw the investigators off the trail of the coach. However, if your party guests are wasting too much time trying to prove another guest with a gun is the murderer you can release the following clue: “The Gun Nut’s gun was the murder weapon”.

So combining these three clues your guests should have a suspect profile in mind: a married person who has been to the casino before.

Each character will have the following two characteristics in their profile:

Using these two traits and the suspect profile the majority of the suspects will be eliminated.

Email Templates and Character Information

The last section of this blog post contains Email templates and character information.

Have fun hosting your murder mystery party! Please, leave a comment and let me know how it went!

Here is a video of clips from the night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aULq18FI0YU

Mandatory Core Characters:

Investigator/reporter You are a resident bad boy and have earned quite a reputation for his ability to try any underhanded trick you can think of to get the latest scoop. Of course, your methods aren’t always legal…but that only matters if you get caught, right?

Note: You have never been to the casino before.

Clue: You have been following Elvis for a story and you know that he was in a relationship with someone who was married.

The Gun Nut You own several guns. You and your wife are a die-hard Elvis fans and you believe this Elvis impersonator is terrible since you have seen him before. You have been to several of his other shows and heckle him on and off stage. You are NOT the murderer.

Clue: You lost your gun at the casino bar last week.

Escort you attend to a good number of Cinema Magic’s most esteemed guests. You pride yourself on your class and would never associate with a hussie from the street.

Clue:Elvis once paid the Escort to accompany him to a wedding. The escort tried to fool around with Elvis afterwards but he was not interested.

Recently Fired Gladiator Actor: You and Elvis used to be best friends.You were previously employed by the casino to entertain the gamblers. Elvis ratted you out to the owner for drinking on the job. One night in a drunken stupor you told the dancer that you were going to stab Elvis in the back, like Brutus stabbed Ceaser.

The Singing Coach: You are the murderer.

You must tell others: You are a singing coach who has been coaching Elvis with his voice. You give him private lessons and are frequently at the casino to critique and watch him. You are married to your wife (who is not at the casino tonight).

You don`t have to tell people these next secrets but you CANNOT contradict them. You were in a sexual relationship with Elvis. You promised Elvis you would leave your wife for him but never intended to. Elvis learns you wont ever leave your wife and threatens to expose your love affair. You take the Gun Nut`s gun (he forgot it at the casino bar one night) and shoot Elvis when the curtain rises. You sneak away into the crowd and join the confusion.

Other people will have clues that may identify you:

Filler Characters

Bouncer You take care of a good majority of the owner`s dirty work. Although loyal, you are not very bright but very friendly. You are a bachelor. The professor is a regular at the casino and you are friends with him.

Clue: You know the scuba diver and Retired Cop are carrying guns because you patted them down as they entered.

Second act: Sugar-sweet, full of himself/herself and never seen without a purse-full of pills to get through the night.

Clue: You wanted to hang out with Elvis later tonight for late night drinks but he told you he was busy, he had to tell someone something.

Depressed Director is so depressed, and stays that way to inspire art. He directs all the shows at the Cinema Magic Hotel and goes so far as to call each one a “picture,” as if he was really creating a movie with each one. You has a habit of dragging down the party with his depressed whining and tends to overreact when people comment. “It feeds me,” he says, and walks away in a huff.

Clue: Elvis constantly ridiculed you and your art.

Dancer You have been a dancer since she was three years old. Your a showgirl for the hotel. You dream of being an opening act because she longs for broadway and you carry pictures of yourself from plays and pageants (don’t actually need pictures, this is just for backstory.). Your character is full of herself and will always lets anyone know when she enters or leaves a room, and sometimes throws in a little dance step for good measure.

Clue: ‘the recently fired gladiator actor’ was drunk and told you that he was going to kill Elvis by stabbing him in the back, like Brutus stabbed Ceaser.

The Lawyer is a up and coming lawyer and is on a trip to Las Vegas. You are slick, suave, and never go anywhere without a fresh shave, an expensive haircut and a shiny new pair of shoes. You have the reputation for being one of the finest lawyers in all of Ashton.

Clue: You hired Elvis for a corporate gig, and Elvis showed up drunk. You looked like a fool in front of the senior partners. You did not know Elvis was a performer at this casino until he saw his face on posters!

Scuba Diver / The Assassin: You are a hitman. Your cover is a scuba diver. You were NOT hired to kill Elvis or anyone else at the casino. You are simply here to gamble and have a relaxing weekend. You have a gun with you.

Clue: You were talking with the bartender during the shooting. This is your alibi for not shooting Elvis.

You can play this however you like, you can reveal you are an assassin in any way you would like.

Caped Crusader by day you are a very socially awkward individual. However you have an alter ego as a caped crusader crime fighter. You can play this any way you wish :)

Retired Cop You worked as a cop in newyork for 30 years.

Clue: You are retired and have lots of money because of your pension and an injury insurance payout from when you were shot in the arm on duty. You always carry your glock (police issued pistol).

UFO Conspiracy Nut You are convinced Aliens exist. You think aliens are responsible for the murder of Elvis.

Famous Cricket Player: You are a famous cricket player that does not know any of the rules, you have been faking it the whole time. In spite of this you are a remarkably good cricket player.

The Professor You are a professor at a local college. You are trying your luck at card counting. You are at the casino quite regularly and have made friends with the bouncer. He is very friendly.

Clue:You were talking with the bouncer when the gun went off. He is not the murderer.

Owner of Diner You have tried to hire Elvis to play at your 70s diner for over a year now. You came down to the casino to persuade him to play at your diner.

Clue: You came on the same LasVegas flight as the lawyer.

Template Emails

Invitation Email

You are a guest at an upscale Casino in Las Vegas. You have very rare tickets to the best night of excitement on the strip: the famous Elvis Impersonator. Its eight o’clock and everyone has gathered into the swanky casino bar for the star performer, the best Elvis impersonator of all time. As the show starts, a gun shot echoes throughout the bar. The curtain comes up, and Elvis goes down. The casino’s bar doors slam shut and everyone in the bar is now a suspect.

You are requested at the party to determine which of our friends is the murderer. Throughout the night you can talk to any of the suspects to see who they are and determine if they are the murderer.

One person will be the murderer, if you are not the murderer you can try and trick everyone into believing you are, or you can simply hunt for the murderer.

I will be giving everyone playing a short character back story, this will be arriving in your email box on Thursday. I encourage you to develop your character as much as you want. I`ve given you a lot of room to be creative with the character, the more you shape the character`s back-story the more believable it will be. Some of the character back stories will contain clues which you must tell everyone else at the party. Piece together enough clues and you may find the murderer.

In order to guess who the murderer is you must answer me these questions three:

Each person will be allowed one guess at 10pm and one guess at 11pm. All guesses will be made publicly. The first person to correctly guess these three questions will get a prize.

Party Details

Time:

Location:

Suggestions: Come dressed in typical upscale casino attire

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

-Sherlock Holmes

Character Profile

Subject: Murder Mystery Character

Good afternoon,

Just a quick email with your character information. But first, just a bit of important information about the party. It is best if everyone roll-plays their character, if you are uncomfortable with the character I assign you please let me know and I can do some switching around :) Its meant to be a fun time for all!

Also, as you know, every character has a backstory, I encourage you to develop your backstory as much as you would like. Some characters have a Clue section. You must share the information in this clue section with the other guests throughout the evening. You cannot lie or withhold this clue information.

Congratulations you will be the….

***[Character Name]***

Backstory:[Backstory]

Clue:[Clue]

Very few of us are what we seem.”-Agatha Christie

Note for reader: You must put in the Character Name, Backstory and Clue for each email you send (see section above for this information

My Trip to the Gun Range

Last Sunday my friends and I went to a gun range. First things first: sign this waiver that signs away any right to sue the range for any reason and also warns me of the immediate danger I am placing myself in. Oh. and don’t forget: Always point the gun DOWN range, bad stuff happens if you don’t. Okay. got it! Easy.

What follows is a fun-filled 3 hours and 200 bullets are shot between us four guys. A little over $100, so $25 a piece, not bad. Thats the price of a movie ticket and popcorn. You don’t get to fire at pictures of Zombies at the movies do you?! Well…. you actually do fire at zombies in the arcade games at AMC… but…. its a lazer gun, not a bullet gun.

The range we shot at was Wade’s Eastside Guns: http://www.wadesguns.com/range.html

The gun range was a lot of fun and they let me video tape. Plus, our instructor was informative. I made a video documenting the experience using Windows Live Movie Maker and put it on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECXOetzEv-8

Talk to you soon.