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Lesson Plan

Expository Escapade—Detective's Handbook

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Expository Escapade—Detective's Handbook

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Fifteen 40-Minute Sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Gaines

Hoover, Alabama


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Instruction & Activities


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • recognize a form of literature according to its characteristics.

  • indicate personal preference by self-selecting a novel in the detective fiction subgenre of mystery.

  • practice predicting, deducing, and analyzing through oral and written discussion.

  • write in expository mode, as well as in descriptive and persuasive modes to a lesser degree.

  • develop and use an extended vocabulary by incorporating terms used by those involved in crime solving.

  • progress through all aspects of the writing process from prewriting to publishing.

  • use self-monitoring and feedback from peers and teachers to evaluate reading, writing, listening, viewing, studying, and research skills.

  • evaluate what they've learned from the novel and the writing project.

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Instruction & Activities

  1. Students select and begin reading a detective fiction novel. (For students requiring a modified curriculum, this is a good place to begin-guide students towards a text at their reading ability level. Due to the amount of writing involved, use discretion when guiding students towards texts that may be above their reading ability level.)

  2. Copy all handouts, distribute, and discuss. Reviewing the end result before beginning allows students to reach their goal by seeing the "big picture."

  3. View Murder She Purred so that all students are working from a common knowledge base. During the viewing, have students complete the "Flick Sheet." After the viewing, separate students into small groups and require them to compile their information. They should organize the clues in the order in which they led to the solution of the mystery. Then have them examine clues that were "red herrings" and explain, either orally or in writing, how they were used to throw the detective—and the audience—off track. This prewriting activity will prepare students for Detective's Handbook entries #9 and #10.

  4. Show interactive Detective's Handbook PowerPoint Presentation, broken up into seven different lessons. Each explains one entry that will go into the Detective's Handbook, using Murder She Purred as a concrete example. It also includes an expository writing review. Allow students a few days between sections to reflect, review, and revisit the new information they are absorbing, as well as to write the first draft of the corresponding entry. Load the PowerPoint on a computer which the students can access so that they can open and review it when necessary.

  5. Begin the writing process for each entry at the rate of approximately one every two days. Model each entry by writing it with the students, based on the movie Murder She Purred. (Be prepared! You will have first drafts, second drafts, self-revision, peer editing, and conferencing to contend with at the same time.) Conference with each student to make sure that no one is falling behind or struggling with a specific entry. Use the Self-Monitoring Worksheet to assist you both. For special education students, students with limited English proficiency, or students reading well below grade level, modify the number of entries required in the final Handbook. For example, do not require entries two, three, and eight.

  6. For the tenth entry in the Detective's Handbooks, students write a persuasive letter to the local Chief of Police convincing him/her who should be arrested and why. Use the Persuasion Map to draft the body of their messages and publish their letters with the Letter Generator.

  7. When analysis is complete, have students write the expository foreword (see the Detective's Handbook for details).

  8. Finalize and publish Detective's Handbooks.

  9. Set up a time with the school (or local public) librarian in which the students can make a videotape of their presentations. (OPTION: audiotape can be made in the classroom.)

  10. Host "Detective's Deposition" at which students record (either on video or audio) an overview of their self-selected novel, and evaluate how its characteristics, and the style in which it is written show that it belongs in the detective fiction subgenre of mystery.

  11. Each student will peer review two peers' presentations.

  12. Tapes are to be labeled and kept in the library so that other students, who are looking for a detective fiction book to select, can view or listen to them.

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Provide students with different "mystery shorts." Allow them time to practice predicting, deducing, analyzing, and solving each mystery. After modeling the first few, to show students how the process works, set up "stations." One station includes a computer with Internet access and directs students to MysteryNet's Kids Mysteries; one contains the book Dr. Quicksolve's Mini-Mysteries by James Sukach; one contains the sourcebook Scholastic's Investigating Mysteries These stations can be used for students who are finishing their written entries ahead of schedule. They can return to them as necessary.

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Students will share, on video or audiotape, their reflections about the project by providing an overview of their self-selected novel and evaluating, through the Detective’s Handbook, how its characteristics, label it a member of the detective fiction subgenre of mystery. In addition, each student will share, with the class, the part of the foreword that details the connection the student has made between this expository writing project and the novel. After all handbooks have been shared, they are displayed in the library for others to enjoy.

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