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Mystery Unit

Compiled By: Mrs. G

This is a collection of reading and writing ideas to use with your mystery unit.

mysteries unit
Posted by: Minasmom

I teach a unit on mysteries too, and I use three series for my various reading leveled groups. I can't say enough about the Meg Mackintosh series for my grade-level readers, especially the Mystery of the Locked Library. The illustrations have clues right in them for the readers to spot, and this title also has a written secret code that the children play with themselves after reading. Furthermore, the Meg Mackintosh series stops and asks the readers comprehension and reasoning questions periodically throughout the stories, so there are your written response or discussion prompts. Very enjoyable for them! For more struggling readers I'll use the Nate the Great series, and for faster readers I use the Boxcar Children series. I always begin this unit with a discussion/brainstorm of what a mystery is and discuss related words like "clue" and "sleuth," etc. During snack time or read aloud I read from those 5-minute mystery books, which are short and fun to solve as a class. They can be challenging, but the discussions get passionate and are wonderful to see. We might also have a week of genre-related spelling words to tie in. We end by trying to write a short mystery together as a class during writing time. Mysteries provide so many discussion and reasoning opportunities, and if you show how exciting and fun they are, the children will just pick it up from you and take off. I love this unit. Good luck!

Mystery Writing
Posted by: Lea

I just finished evidence and investigation unit with my 5/6 class. They loved writing the mystery stories. I started out with a general mystery write. I taped strange footprints all over the room and we discussed what was in our room, why etc. They wrote some of their best creative writing for that. We then spend a lot of time reviewing and pulling apart quick solve mysteries before they started writing. Go over the key concepts like setting, clues, red herring, suspects, etc as well as the humor like the names of the suspects.

Start small, and let them build on that. You may also want to do a quicksolve story together as a class.

good luck

Posted by: tia

one of my all-time favorite (child or adult) books is: the westing game by ellen raskin--excellent, excellent book! (a puzzle mystery that contains MANY false clues) i make sure to do it every year--HOWEVER, it is a pretty intricate book--i wait until a little later in the year to teach it, and i read it aloud with my students, as they follow along. there are many, many things to point out and discuss as you go along--there are about 4 things i feel the students need to discuss in just the first page! i use this book to teach my students to be critical thinkers and careful readers, always asking questions about plot, setting, and characters. if you are recommending this book to students, i would only recommend it to your gifted students.

a book that i use at the same time, in order to compare and contrast--(and there is a lot to c & c!) is the treasure of alpheus winterborn by john bellairs. 6th graders could read this on their own.

a book i always recommend to my students the month we focus on mysteries: the view from the cherry tree by willo davis roberts. i can't find a reading level for it, but my guess is it's about right. the only thing about it i don't like--the family cat named SOB.

Posted by: csteach

I too use the book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. I put the pictures on transparencies and have my students respond to the picture and the caption in their reader's notebook. I also purchased some Dr. Quiksolve books and have students try to solve the mysteries in the book. They were given specific mysteries to read, and discuss with group members. Finally, I went to the local library and checked out some old mystery books. I can't remember the name but the students really enjoyed reading the 3 page mysteries,(that was considered one chapter) and trying to solve the mystery before the solution was provided.

mystery book reports
Posted by: Jalon

We did a mystery/adventure book report in 1st quarter and did Story Skeletons. Also, using a "mystery bag" to give their report is also fun. Students put items in the bag that are representative of something in their book. When they pull it out of the bag, they share how it relates to a story element of the book.

I've gotten both of these ideas from Mrs. Renz's website and then tweaked them for my class.

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mystery book report
Posted by: tia

here is my book report (students choose activities to do and parents sign off on them)

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Mystery Book Report
Posted by: musicbean

I've used this one when the kids do an independent book report. It came from edhelper, btw.

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Mystery book report
Posted by: Lisa

You can have the kids make a poster that has a picture of an important setting in the story (like a house, car, forest, park, etc.). The poster will be made so that they can make "windows" in the picture that will open up to reveal important parts of their report. I usually include: Title and author, main characters, setting, what is the problem, brief summary of the story without telling how the mystery is solved, and a personal response to the book that includes rating its interest level and why they rate it that way. This obviously requires two papers!

Mystery book report
Posted by: PC

Each October my students read a mystery for their Book Report. On October 31, they turn in a board game having to do with their book. The board has to have settings on it, characters, plot, etc. I give them a rubric to use to complete the board game. The students play the board games in class while I walk around the room grading. The students enjoy this activity. Hope it helps.

write a mystery story
Posted by: daisy

In college we discussed a story starter where you bring in a garbage can containing several items: a gum wrapper, a movie ticket, a plane ticket, etc.... You explain to the students that this was all that was found in the room of someone who is missing. They must then write a mystery story about what happened that must include all of these clues.

mystery writing
Posted by: Lynne

After studying a couple of mysteries such as Encyclopedia Brown, Bunnicula, and The Box Car Children,we brainstorm characteristics found in mysteries and make a chart.We also use some sort of graphic organizer such as a storyboard or a flow chart. Then I give groups of children large baggies filled with items to use in writing their own mysteries. One baggie had opera glasses, an Italian lire(SP?) note, a long white glove, a silk rose, and a few other such items. It's fun to watch them force associations between the objects and then use them as clues or events in their stories. They are allowed to work in temas, groups or alone.

Book Report With A Surprise
Posted by: Jennifer

Hi..I just assigned my 5th graders a Mystery or Scary Story book Report to tie in with Halloween/October. They read a mystery book or scary story and create a "hidden" book report that is full of "surprises". First, have them read the book and take notes on story elements(plot, characters,setting.) Have a notes checking day where you check their progress. Then have them draw a large picture that represetns something in the story.(ex..Haunted House). Require that the illustration be detailed amd colored. Have them create hidden "doors or windows". I have seven "secret windows". Behind each window have them write the book report items. Here are the items I have them do:
Door 1: 5 adjectives describing the main character.
Door 2: A significant quote with a reason for choosing it.
Door 3: A simile that compares something in the book to something else.
Door 4: A new title for the book with a reason.
Door 6: 3 unfamiliar words with definitions.
Door 7: A rating of the book with reasons. I have them use stars. (*****)
This is a great book report because it gets away from the standard story map and it lets the kids be creative. Let me know if you have any questions. Email me.

Posted by: pjm

One neat thing I did as an introduction when I was teaching mysteries a few years ago was to invite a mystery guest into our classroom. Obviously it has to be someone the kids don't know. Then using questioning they have to figure out who the mystery guest is. I happened to be at a new school that year so my mystery guest was my husband. He came in a suit, a raincoat, a top hat and carrying a brief case. It was great but it did take almost an hour for the kids deduct who he was so you might want to brush up on your kids questioning skills if you try this. My class loved it and I would do it again.

Posted by: Mandy

I am also planning on focusing on the mystery genre during October. We are going to have our Literature Circles that will each be mysteries. I will discuss with the students the elements of a mystery, making predictions, drawing conclusions, ect. We have a bunch of resources here at school. I am planning to use some of the Encyclopedia Brown books, the Tree House Mysteries and a few others. I try to have about 4 different circles running at once. In writing we will actually work on writing mysteries and I will also have activities at my writing center where students will be able to to pick a magazine picture of a suspect, a setting, and a missing object and then write a story. Things like that. I hope this makes a little bit of sense!

fun fun....
Posted by: ChristyB

This is such a fun book to read as a class!!! My fifth grade teacher used it, and I am enjoying reading it with my class now.
I set up the "mystery" by having a countdown. I write "14 days until Frankweiler..." on the board, and countdown while the class works itself into a frenzy trying to discover who exactly this Frankweiler is. I leave clues hidden around the classroom, such as a copy of the letter prefacing the novel or a guide to the NYMOMA, and let them some up with some theories. By the time I unveil the books, they are antsy to delve into the book.
I also try to take the class on a virtual tour of Manhattan, especially interesting to my class because of the recent tragedies. I color copy pictures of sights in Manhattan and New York (downloaded off the internet) on transparencies, line up their chairs as if they're on a tour bus, and show the pictures on the overhead, while I assume a tour guide voice explain the attractions.
I really have a great time with this book; it explores so many themes and places relevant to the fifth grade child...

Posted by: Lynne in VA

I LOVE Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!(And I also teach third VA) Have them work in small groups to create another character who could also go through the factory and come to a bad end. Also, they can create another candy with magical powers and an unusual taste. I used this book in conjunction with several more with a chocolate theme such as Chocolate Fever, The Chocolate Touch, Cam Jansen and the Chocolate Fudge Mystery( I THINK that's the name) and there's even a Carmen San Diego chapter book with chocolate in the title. We received a kit from Hershey's with a great video that shows how chocolate is grown and how it is processed into candy bars.I tied that into geography by finding the countries on the map where cocoa beans are grown. We graphed which countries in the world eat the most chocolate too. There is a wealth of information on line! We also used the M&M's and Hershey's bars books that help to teach graphing and fractions and other math concepts. There's even a riddle sheet with different candy bars as the answers. We had a wonderful time. Hope this helps!

Van Allsburg
Posted by: kate

If you use "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" you will find it contains great story starters for students. I photocopy the pictures and captions, then let them choose which story they want to finish. You would be amazed at the stories they dream up. Don't forget to read the introduction by the author to the students, as it really hooks them in to the mystery of it all. Also, they will really enjoy "Two Bad Ants" (I think that is the title). You could have them do art projects from different perspectives with this book. The perspective is amazing in the illustrations. Good luck!

Mystery Unit
Posted by: bostonsmom

I completed this unit at the end of March. The students really enjoyed the mystery genre. I had 4 groups and tried to choose books that were at their respective reading levels. My "low" group read Nate the Great and the Missing Tortoise. My other groups read Jigsaw Jones, Cam Jansen and the Calendar Club. I tried to use all of Beth Newingham's sheets that went along with the unit. I may try to modify some of the sheets next year, as they didn't always go along with the info in the books. I also created a test to assess the students knowledge. All in all, the students really enjoyed the unit, and many more are now choosing to read mysteries for their independant reading.

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Cam Jansen assessment
Posted by: bostonsmom

Here is the test I made for Cam Jansen.

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Calendar Club
Posted by: bostonsmom

Here is the test I made for the Calendar Club.

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Jigsaw Jones
Posted by: bostonsmom

Here is the Jigsaw Jones assessment.

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