Thursday, November 8, 2018

Put on Your Thinking Caps and Play Mystery Animal

When I was still in the classroom, we played Mystery Bag every Thursday morning during breakfast. I had a secret item in the bag, and my students used their questioning skills to try to guess the item. They could only ask yes/no questions--ten at a time. I recorded the questions on butcher paper, and they hung on the wall for everyone’s perusal. Every year, we started out with random, overly-broad or overly-narrow questions, but with a little coaching, my students soon began planning strategic questions to eliminate categories of objects.

One student with a guess was randomly chosen to try to name the object after each set of ten questions. If the guess was wrong, the Mystery Bag went back on the shelf until the next week. The first couple of items would sometimes take upwards of 200 questions before being guessed, but something amazing happened each year with our little breakfast game. Students began discussing strategy and thinking about how they asked questions. They used questions of elimination and categorization. They became critical thinkers!

Well, Google has reinvented Mystery Bag with Mystery Animal. Eric Curts at ControlAltAchieve always has great content, and I happened on Play “Mystery Animal” with Google on his blog this week. Of course, I had to play. Then I had to show some coworkers. You know how educators are when we find something cool! Next thing I knew, I could hear others challenging Mystery Animal from various corners of the office.

You can access the game through the website at:

I haven’t tried it, but you can also speak to a Google Home unit or to the Google Assistant app and play by saying, “OK Google, talk to Mystery Animal.”

The nerdy science teacher came out in me, and I gave the Mystery Animal a run for its money by throwing science vocabulary at it to see if it could really answer my questions. Let’s just say Google did its homework. The only question my animal didn’t quite understand was, “Do you live in an aquatic environment?” I don’t know if it was the word aquatic or my West Texas accent that threw off the Mystery Animal, but it quickly recovered!

Why not give Mystery Animal a try with your students? You may not be the science teachers, but our students need critical thinking skills in every subject area. I think this is my favorite Google Voice Experiment to date!

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