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|Grades||3 – 8|
Why Use This Tool
Everyone loves a good mystery, but what makes a mystery story work? Most mysteries follow a formula: There’s a crime or mystery, someone who’s trying to figure it out, clues along the way, and finally, a solution. This activity asks children to separate a mystery into its distinct elements, like ingredients in a recipe. By listing the elements—one on each side of a cube—children will begin to see how a writer constructs a mystery. They can even use the cube to cook up some mysteries of their own!
Children will use the online tool to identify the setting, the crime or mystery that occurs, the detective, the victim, the clues, and the solution. The cube template can be printed, cut out, folded, and taped together to form a cube (see sample). A planning sheet is available to help children prepare for the online exercise.
- During a vacation or field trip, enlist children as detectives who should look out for anything unusual. When they spot something—like a limousine waiting outside a fast food restaurant—ask them to use it as inspiration for a mystery story.
- When watching a mysterious movie, stop at key points so children can identify elements on the mystery cube. After the movie, discuss what they did or didn’t like. How would they change the setting or clues if it were their movie?
- Have children write their own mystery stories and then bring them to life using PowerPoint or video clips. See the PowerPoint Instruction Sheet and instructions for Windows Movie Maker for ideas and tips.
- In a mystery, someone attempts to use clues and reasoning to answer a question. Ask children for other occasions when those same strategies are employed to answer questions or solve problems. This can include their own experiences as well as inquisitive professions, such as research science, journalism, or cooking in a test kitchen.
We invite you to share your experiences with this resource and provide us with any feedback on how it can be improved.