Capitalize on the reading-writing connection with some mystery writing. As kids read mysteries, explain how to map the clues. Then, put the skill to use. As a culmination to your mystery unit, encourage them to map and write their own stories. Read on for a free mystery story and mapping template.
Before writing, teach kids to analyze mysteries. Start by analyzing the elements:
- a mystery: something missing, a crime, or another unknown
- solid clues that lead the reader to the solution
- red herrings (false clues) that make the story ambiguous, or unclear
- a main character who is not the suspect
- suspects who have motives, or reasons to have done it, as well as opportunity
Now it’s time to read and map a simple mystery. Click here to download “The Case of the Missing Cookies,” as well as an organizer for mapping the mystery.
After reading the story, ask students to find all clues and write them on the organizer. [Kids will probably not find all clues. That’s okay; they’re just starting out.] Discuss which clues were real and which were red herrings.
Mystery Writing – The Mapped Mystery
Now it’s time for each child to map and write his/her own mystery story. It’s narrative writing at its best!
- Explore ideas for writing. What problem, mystery, or crime will be the focus of the story?
- Choose a setting. Consider clues that might be positioned in the setting.
- Develop characters. Include suspects with motive and opportunity.
- Map the mystery. Include at least three clues and a red herring.
Just like reading mysteries, writing them requires critical thinking. Do the clues clearly lead to the solution? Do the red herrings provide just the right amount of obscurity? Does the dialogue provide insight to the characters and move the plot along? Your students will grow as thinkers and writers with this activity.
Mystery Writing – The Paper Bag Mystery
Do you want something a little more lively? Try paper bag mysteries. Here’s how it works: Kids pull character, setting, and situation cards from paper bags. Then they concoct a mystery story around those elements. This writing activity is a real crowd pleaser!
This fun project requires very little writing. Use it anytime to promote a little critical thinking.
- Select a photo. (It can be cut from a magazine or printed.)
- Paste the photo on the top of a sheet of paper.
- Write or type clues about the person, place, or thing in the photo on the bottom of the paper.
- Cut construction paper to cover the photo but not the clues.
- Cut a small peep hole in the construction paper to show a little of the photo.
- Staple the construction paper to the top of the paper.
- Hang on the classroom wall or in the hall. In just a few minutes, kids will be drawn like magnets to the mystery pictures!
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