Transition Time Activity for Upper Elementary: Mental Clue

Transition Time Activity Mental ClueThe game of Mental Clue is a terrific transition time activity for upper elementary students. It provides a fun challenge for students while also being a great time-filler and mental exercise.

Mental Clue is the perfect whole-group transition time activity to use when there are just a few minutes of downtime in the schedule. One round can be played in about 3 to 5 minutes, so it works great in between lessons, or during wait times such as standing in line. My students love the game, and I love that it is quick and easy to play and set up!

I have always loved a good puzzle! If you’ve spent much time hanging around the Undercover Classroom blog, you know that puzzles dominate a good chunk of my educational products and activities.

Click here to read about 9 reasons you should use puzzles in your classroom!

Digital puzzles, Puzzle of the Day, and Escape Tales are some of my favorites. 

I love critical thinking games and projects. If you love them too, then you are in for a treat with Mental Clue.

Mental Clue holds a special spot in my classroom, as it is a go-to game that we frequently play whenever we get a few minutes here or there throughout the day.

How to Play Mental Clue

Mental Clue is a “Who Done It” type of mystery where students need to figure out the suspect to a crime, the location of the crime, and the tool that was used. No actual crimes are discussed in the game, and the lists of possible suspects, places, and tools are actually kind of silly.

To play Mental Clue, post three lists:

  • Suspects
  • Places
  • Tools
Whole Group Transition Time Game
Here’s a sample of lists from the Back to School Mental Clue game.

The game leader (who can be either you or any student) selects one suspect, one place, and one tool from the lists and keeps it a secret from the rest of the group

Then, one at a time, students make guesses using the lists of suspects, places, and tools. They guess one suspect, one place, and one tool.

After each guess, the game leader will announce how many of their guesses are correct. The leader will always respond with either a 0, 1, 2, or 3, depending on the number of correct answers in the guess. A response of “0” means that none of the answers were correct. A response of “3” means that person got all three correct (suspect, place, and tool). That person wins the round and becomes the new leader.

For example, if a student guesses “Mrs. Funjoy, at the library, with a stapler,” and the game leader responds “1,” then we would know that one of those guesses was correct. The challenging part is that we wouldn’t know which one was correct, so the students have to continue to make more guesses until they narrow down the correct combination.

The students will continue to make guesses one at a time until someone finally solves the case.

The best way to learn how to play this game is just by playing it. The kids pick up on how to play really quickly, and they naturally begin to use deductive reasoning without any instruction on how to do so! It’s actually really fun as the teacher to just sit back and watch their brains in action.

Also, the students begin to realize that they must listen intently to hear every guess and response from the leader. Tuning out can impact their ability to crack the case.

A Transition Time Activity for Every Month!

To make Mental Clue more fun, I like to change out the lists throughout the year based on different holidays and themes. You can use the same lists for a couple of weeks or even a month, then change them out to keep things fresh.

In each of the Undercover Classroom Mental Clue activities, I have included a new set of themed suspects, locations, and tools. Just print the mini-posters and post them in your classroom.

I like to have a special location in the room specially designated for this exact purpose. Every month, I just switch out the lists—that way, the students always know where to look to see their options.

My students always get so excited when they see the new lists on display!

Here are some of the Mental Clue themes that are available for you to use!


Transition Time Activity Mental Clue

Mental Clue is an engaging whole-group transition time activity that gets kids thinking. One round can be played in just a few short minutes, making it perfect for a brain break, a bell ringer, or as part of the morning meeting.

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