Mystery Elements – Special Detective Vocabulary for Kids

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

Mystery elements are reflected in detective vocabulary.

Ms. Sneed Loves Mysteries

Our favorite fourth grade teacher sat at the side table with her teaching partner. “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Our next genre study is mysteries. As you know, I love this unit!” she exclaimed.

“In addition to reading mysteries, kids write them too. For extra fun, they participate in detective activities, such as fingerprinting, experimenting with invisible ink, breaking secret codes, exercising powers of observation, and solving logic puzzles. And for the grand finale – full-length novels!”

“Okay,” said Mr. Frank, smiling. “But first things first. Tomorrow we’ll introduce mystery elements and work on vocabulary.”

Ms. Sneed Introduces the Mystery Elements

The next day, 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.”

Elements of Mystery – 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.

“So, the first three terms in our detective vocabulary are mystery, clue, and red herring.”

The plot generally involves three forms of detective vocabulary: the mystery itself, clues, and red herrings.

More 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. Isn’t that a great detective vocabulary word!”

One type of character is the suspect. They have motives and alibis.

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.”

Mystery elements involving the sleuth (or detective) are the case and deduction.

The Setting

Finally, Ms. Sneed pointed a banner with a detective searching a bush. “Another set of mystery elements involve the setting. While much of a 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.”

The setting for a mystery is generally called the crime scene. Evidence is collected from the place the crime took place.

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

Previous Post
Logic Puzzles for Kids – Deductive Reasoning & Make Your Own!
Next Post
How to Teach Constructed Response Writing – Hamburger Style!