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Write Your Own Mystery

Students will learn about the elements of a mystery story. Then they will select a scene, write character biographies and outline the plot. They will utilize these elements as they write their own mysteries.

PROCESS:

  1. Inform students that all stories have the same basic elements: characters, setting and plot. In a mystery or detective story these elements work together to create a puzzle for readers to solve.
  2. In a mystery, the cast of characters generally includes the main investigator, a sidekick-who doubles as the narrator-the victim, the guilty party and an assortment of others whose main job is to inform or mislead the reader.
  3. The setting can vary. Some mysteries take place in a single room. Others have the investigator and sidekick traveling around the world. That all depends on the plot, which is centered on a crime that the investigator must solve. A good plot is based on a central conflict that comes to a peak as the investigator unravels the puzzle. Well-placed clues guide the way to the finish.
  4. Encourage students to brainstorm ideas. Then give them time to write a mystery or crime story for their classmates to solve.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their mysteries with the class. Challenge classmates to solve each mystery before the story ends.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Divide the class into small groups. Encourage group members to brainstorm ideas for the characters, setting and plot of their mystery. Instruct them to create a brief biography of each character. What does the character look like? How does the character act? Challenge them to find a meaningful way to incorporate these details into in the story.
Grades 5-6:
Divide the class into small groups. Encourage group members to brainstorm ideas for the characters, setting and plot of their mystery. Instruct them to create a brief biography of each character. Then have them outline the plot. Challenge students to include two good plot twists that will keep readers guessing until the end.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs or allow students to choose their own partners. Before students begin to write, instruct them to create a detailed description of each character. Then have them map out the entire plot. As they do, challenge students to identify key clues, false clues and a clear and convincing motive for the crime.
Grades 9-10:
Divide the class into pairs or allow students to choose their own partners. Before students begin to write, have them select a setting, write detailed descriptions of their characters and create an overall outline of their plot. Then have them conduct research on the setting and specific items they want to include in the mystery to make their tale more believable and challenging to solve. Instruct students to find a way to include these details so they impact the story in a meaningful way.