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Lesson Plan

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

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Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Eight 45- to 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Betsy Brindza

Shaker Heights, Ohio


International Literacy Association



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Mystery stories make popular reading for elementary-age students; teachers can take advantage of this interest to help students engage in a genre study. This lesson teaches students about plot structure, character, and setting. Students identify the characteristics of mystery writing in class discussions, outline a mystery story using a graphic organizer, write and revise a mystery story on their own, and edit each other's work. Students are then given opportunities to share their mysteries and to evaluate how clues are laid out to come to conclusions.

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Mystery Graphic Organizer: Students use this helpful handout to outline and plot a mystery of their own.

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Buss, K., & Karnowski, L. (2000). Teaching mysteries. In Reading and writing literary genres (pp. 3154). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • Reading mysteries promotes student participation because these stories encourage readers to deduce a solution from provided clues.

  • Mysteries provide an opportunity to discuss many aspects of literature including setting, characters, and plot.

  • Begin instruction about mysteries by brainstorming what students already know about the genre. Reading mystery stories aloud and reviewing common mystery terms will help develop students' understanding.

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