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Mystery Unit Lesson Plans

written by: Sylvie Colette•edited by: SForsyth•updated: 12/7/2011

This mystery unit lesson plan will introduce your students to the mystery story genre. This is an exciting unit that encourages reluctant readers and fires up their imaginations. Read, analyze, discuss and write to fully engage your early elementary students into mysteries.

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    Mystery stories are an exciting genre to introduce to children in elementary school. Mystery novels invite reader participation. Students are encouraged to pay attention to the details while looking for clues which is a great way to promote reading. Even reluctant readers are excited to try to solve the mystery.

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    Vocabulary Words

    This unit on teaching the mystery story will start with the common vocabulary words used in mysteries. These are words that are not generally used in day to day conversation and may stump the children. These ten words should be gone over together as a class. Then prepare a word match worksheet using the vocabulary word and the definition.

    • Alibi – An excuse and reason why the person could not have committed the crime.
    • Bias – An opinion that may not match the facts.
    • Clue – Something that appears to give information toward solving a crime.
    • Deduction – Collecting facts and drawing a possible connection.
    • Evidence – Something that proves who committed the crime.
    • Sleuth – An investigator or detective.
    • Spying – Observing closely and secretly.
    • Surveillance – A close watch kept over someone or something.
    • Suspects – People who may have committed a crime.
    • Witness – Person who has knowledge about the crime, they saw what happened.
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    Class Discussion

    Most children have some knowledge of a mystery, possibly from a TV program, movie or book they have previously read. Have a class discussion on what makes a good mystery story to set the stage for further mystery book lessons.

    Ask the class to participate in a discussion, or separate into small groups and have them gather ideas to present to the class.

    • What is a mystery?
    • What is your favorite mystery book, movie or TV show?
    • What do you like about mysteries?
    • What do you not like about mysteries?
    • Have you ever experienced a mystery? How did you solve it?
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    Writing Prompts

    In their journal, have them choose a suspenseful sentence to complete. Work on one of these prompts after each Mystery Lesson and watch their stories improve as they learn what goes into creating a mystery story.

    • I thought it was going to be another boring day until….
    • My teacher seemed normal, but then…
    • It was strange…one day the dog just…..
    • I thought it was just a mistake, but when it happened again….
    • Something always felt strange about that place…
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    Mystery Unit Lessons

    Using mystery stories in the classroom can help to capture reluctant readers. Students who excel in math are often drawn to mysteries since they allow them to use their strengths, logic and reasoning skills. Follow along in this series as we work through the following elements:

    • Foreshadowing Techniques, Catching the Clues
    • Hypothesis, Let’s Figure It Out
    • Writing a Mystery, Lesson One; Characters
    • Writing a Mystery, Lesson Two; Plot
    • Writing a Mystery, Lesson Three; Suspense and Clues
    • Writing a Mystery, Lesson Four; Putting it all Together
    • Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle-Lesson Plan for 4th grade
    • Mystery Book Club, an Overview of Mysteries for early elementary students; A-Z Mystery series, Encyclopedia Brown, Hamster of the Baskervilles, Murder My Tweet and others.