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February 03

In 1927, Joan Lowery Nixon was born.

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In 1927, Joan Lowery Nixon was born.

Grades 3 – 8
Calendar Activity Type Author & Text





Joan Lowery Nixon wrote more than 100 books for young readers. In addition to many state awards, she remains the only writer to have won four Edgar Allan Poe Awards for Juvenile Mysteries. A mystery-writing competition for children and teens was named in her honor after her death in 2003. According to Nixon, she often got her ideas for mysteries from newspaper stories or experiences she had. Besides mysteries, Lowery also wrote historical fiction, as well as adventure and suspense tales.




Kids love mysteries! Take advantage of your students' interest in mysteries by completing a genre study. Select several mystery texts to read as a class. Combine short stories or picture books with chapter books to expose your students to multiple authors in this genre. Before reading, brainstorm the elements that make a good mystery and create a chart. As you read and discuss, fill in the chart with specific examples from the texts you are reading.

Have each student read a mystery book of their own choice, as well. After reading, students can explore the elements of their mystery using the Mystery Cube. Visit the Mystery Cube page for more information about this interactive tool and how it can be used in the classroom.

To conclude your genre study, discuss the elements that made the mysteries you read successful. Which books did students like best? What made them good? The characters? The plot? How did the author keep you in suspense?

Finally, have students use what they learned about the genre to plan their own mystery using the Mystery Cube. They can then write the mystery as a short story, graphic novel, or other format of their choice.



  • Mystery Writing with Joan Lowery Nixon

    Scholastic offers this online workshop with Nixon. In it, she provides tips for writing mystery stories.


  • Author Profile: Joan Lowery Nixon

    This article about Nixon offers some interesting anecdotes about how she got ideas for her books. Read parts of the article to your students to help them find inspiration for their own mystery stories.


  • Great Books: Mystery

    This site recommends mysteries appropriate for older and younger children. A brief description of each book is included.


  • Millennium Mystery Madness

    This ThinkQuest site, created by students in Illinois, provides information about the history of mysteries, the elements of a mystery, and more. Students may enjoy the mystery scavenger hunt or the mystery story starters. A student-selected reading list is also available.



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Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Everyone Loves a Mystery: A Genre Study

Students track the elements of mystery stories through Directed Learning-Thinking Activities, story maps, and puzzles. Then they offer clues for other readers as they plan and write original mystery stories.


Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

What's in a Mystery? Exploring and Identifying Mystery Elements

Students identify the characteristics of mystery writing, outline a mystery story using a graphic organizer, write and revise their own mystery story, edit each other's work, and share their mysteries.


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Expository Escapade—Detective's Handbook

Students create a Detective's Handbook based on a detective mystery they have read. The handbooks include expository and descriptive writing, as well as a letter.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Ghosts and Fear in Language Arts: Exploring the Ways Writers Scare Readers

Students analyze scary stories to 'break the code" of horror writing and use what they learn to write scary stories of their own.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Investigating Genre: The Case of the Classic Detective Story

After critiquing a list of conventions for the genre, students read, view, or listen to a classic
mystery, and then produce a mystery of their own, reflecting on the purposeful ways in which
they adhered to or altered the genre conventions.


Grades   5 – 9  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick: Using Illustrations to Guide Writing

Students use illustrations from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick as a guide to write mysteries
and then present their stories to the class for students to discuss to which illustration each
story corresponds.