Mystery Elements | Genre Study Vocabulary for Kids

As with other genres, mystery elements include characters, setting, and plot. Let’s take a look at the vocabulary kids need to know.

Ms. Sneed Introduces the Mystery Elements

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, stood in front of her class. “Today,” she said, “we’ll begin my favorite genre study: mystery.”

The students cheered. Any favorite of Ms. Sneed’s would be a favorite of theirs too.

“First,” the teacher continued, “we need to know the elements. Does anyone remember the elements of fiction?”

Several hands waved in the air.


“Characters, setting, and plot,” the freckled boy responded.

“Yep. Thank you, Cameron.”

Mystery Elements – Plot

Ms. Sneed pointed to a banner on the wall. “We begin with mystery, or something difficult to understand.”

Then she pointed to another banner. “The author provides us with clues, or evidence to solve the mystery.”

Next she pointed to a banner with some footprints. “Unfortunately, the author also provides false clues, or red herrings. But they make the mystery even more fun by leading the reader off track.

“The plot,” Ms. Sneed continued, “can usually be organized using a flow chart. The reader moves from one clue to another – with a few red herrings thrown in.”

The plot of a mystery is organized using clues and red herrings, or false clues.

Are you feeling “pinspired”? Feel free to pin images from this post.

Mystery Elements – Characters

Ms. Sneed continued to point out banners. “Mystery elements include several types of characters. Suspects are people thought to be guilty. Why? Well, they have motive – or reason to commit the crime – and opportunity. However, suspects who come up with alibis – proof that they couldn’t have done it – are no longer suspects.”

Mysteries generally have suspects. Each suspect must have a motive, or reason to commit the crime. To prove innocence, suspects provide alibis, or proof that they could not have done it.

Next, Ms. Sneed moved to a banner with two detectives. “Another type of character in a mystery is the sleuth, or detective. They solve the mystery. Generally speaking, they work to crack the case. As evidence is presented, they make deductions, or inferences.”

Mysteries generally have detectives, or sleuths, who crack the case. They use deductive reasoning to figure out whodunit.
Mystery Elements – Setting

Finally, Ms. Sneed pointed a banner with a detective searching a bush. “Then there’s the setting. While much of a mystery story may take place elsewhere, each case generally has a crime scene. The sleuth collects evidence from the place where the crime took place, as well as from other sources.”

Mystery elements include setting. The crime scene is the place where the crime occurred. Sleuths collect evidence from the crime scene (and from other places too).

Ms. Sneed’s eyes gleamed as she picked up a picture book. “Now put on your detective’s hats. We’re about to read our first mystery!”

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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