This is Atlantic Beach Elementary, where I first fell in love with school. I come from a family of teachers and want to make it as easy as possible to incorporate my books into your classrooms or libraries. Here are some activities, suggestions, curriculum guides, and a role playing mystery game you can play. Click on the titles for Framed! and Dead City to jump to those sections.
My wife Denise is a teacher and she told me that I should always look to do things for educators that are free and easy to use. That's what let tot he Classroom Digital Dossier, which includes a wide-variety of resources to support you if you're using City Spies with students. There are videos, activities, curriculum resources, downloads, and more. All you have to do is click the image to the right.
In Your Classroom
Adapted from the City Spies Readers Guide by Dr. Rose Brock in collaboration with James Ponti
For full guide see below!
ENGLISH AND WRITING
WRITE YOUR OWN MOTHERISM – “Motherisms” are sayings created by Mother to help the City Spies remember the keys to spy craft. They also offer problem solving for life. They’re brief rhyming couplets. Have your students come up with their own Motherism for life, school, or anything else. They can write them up as little words of wisdom signs.
MY SPEECH TO THE ENVIRONMENT – A key point in the book is when Sydney has to give a short speech about the environment at the Global Youth Summit . She’s given a strict time limit of 1 minute, 45 seconds. The shortness of it makes it harder for her to cover all that she wants to discuss. Have your students write their own 105-second speeches about the environment and deliver them for class.
FIGURE IT OUT – Deductive and inductive reasoning are both essential to how Kat solves big problems. Discuss the difference between the two and have your class solve a series of logic puzzles.
LINGO BINGO – The spy trade is filled with great and often colorful terminology. Have the class learn twenty-five spy related vocabulary words and study their origins. Afterwards play Lingo Bingo (A bingo game using terms in stead of letters and numbers).
JUSTICE IS… - The City Spies are motivated by the concept of justice and what it means to them. Both Brooklyn and Sydney talk about this at different times in the book. Have your students write short essays that define what justice means to them.
COVER TO COVER – It’s interesting to see how books are different in different countries. Show your students images of City Spies from different countries and compare how they differ. Pick five other popular books and show them the different covers. Talk about why the images would be different for different readers.
I AM POEMS – The City Spies are made up of five very different kids and two somewhat eccentric adults. Have your students choose one character and write an “I Am” poem from the perspective of that character.
BRITISH VS. AMERICAN – There is a running joke throughout City Spies regarding Brooklyn’s difficulty learning British terminology. Even though she already speaks English, there are many British terms she doesn’t understand. Have your students make up a comparison chart with British and American words that are different but have the same meaning.
OPERATION TRANSLATION – The City Spies speak a number of different native languages: English/Spanish/Portuguese/French/Nepali/Swahili. Assign your students a list of words and have them translate them into all of these languages. Compare how the different variations are similar and dissimilar.
CLASSROOM DOSSIER – In the back of City Spies is a dossier of the main characters. Using the same format, have your students write their own dossier descriptions and combine them into a book to make a classroom dossier.
COVER STORY – Everywhere they go the City Spies have to come up with cover identities. Have your students create their own fake identities with complete backstories.
FATHER HURRICANE – Classroom exercise about the amazing contributions of Father Benito Vines, the Jesuit priest who was the first person to successfully predict hurricanes.
MAP THE BOOK – Create maps to track the adventure in the book.
ORIGIN CITIES – Each City Spy takes the name of their hometown as their codename. Break the class into five groups where each picks one of the cities and comes up with an information poster. For a bonus, have a sixth group do the same for Kigali, which is where Paris lived before immigrating to France.
SPY BOOK – In the book, Mother mentions that he likes Roald Dahl in part because in addition to being an author he was a spy. Have the class study some famous spies in history.
CITY OF LIGHT – Much of the book takes place in Paris. Have the class create travel posters or promotional videos about Paris and it’s famous landmarks.
PRIEST HOLES – The City Spies have a secret room in a Priest Hole, have the class study the history of these and why they exist.
CODE BREAKERS – Study cryptology and code breaking and challenge your students to solve a series of codes.
RAINMAKERS – Rainmaking is a key plot line in City Spies. Study the different ways that people have attempted to and succeeded at manufacturing rain. Talk about the positives and negatives of trying to control nature.
METEOROLOGY – Weather plays a central role in City Spies. They live in a weather station and compete for a weather-based prize. Have the class study meteorology and try their hand at measuring weather over a specific period of time.
TABLE MAGIC – Rio is a talented magician and much of magic relies on science. Have the class learn and practice some basic table top magic tricks that rely on science (I.e., magnets) or math probabilities.
CODE – Teach computer coding with an activity like making binary name bracelets or Lego mazes.
WOMEN IN STEM – Monty is a cryptographer, Kat is a math genius, and Brooklyn is a hacker – celebrate the STEM-centric characters in City Spies by studying famous women in STEM from throughout history.
IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN – As a current events project go online and find ways that technology companies are coming up with “green” solutions to help the environment.
STAVROS PRIZE – The schools in City Spies are competing for the fictional Stavros Prize for scientific solutions to environmental issues. Have your students compete for your classroom's own Stavros Prize with a virtual science fair, in which they try to imagine green solution ideas. As a bonus, they can study real-life students who’ve come up with potential solutions for things like removing plastic from the ocean.
Host a Mystery at School
I've written a mystery that takes place in your school library! A spy has been posing as a substitute teacher and smuggling secrets in library books. Now your students have to solve the case and discover who among them has been helping him out. It's an all-new way to get students to investigate your media center. All you have to do is download the two files below and you'll have everything you need. (Average time to play the mystery game is 40-45 minutes.)