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Third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade students love reading and writing mysteries. When you add secret codes, fingerprinting, invisible ink, they’re really hooked! This 82-page set of mystery activities is guaranteed to motivate your little detectives!
Created by master teacher Brenda Kovich, this TPT Bundle is classroom tested and kid approved.
Read Like a Detective
Five inference activities and five short mystery stories help kids build critical thinking and inference skills. These materials are great additions to any mystery genre study. They can also be used as stand-alone reading comprehension activities.
Making Inferences - In order to understand mysteries, students must be able to pull subtle clues from the text and make inferences. For example, if a character’s eyes are red and puffy, kids can infer that he has been crying (or has allergies). Each page of inference activities focuses on a specific theme:
1. Inferring Professions
2. Inferring Age Groups
3. Inferring Relationships
4. Inferring Vacation Spots
5. Inferring Information About People
These short inference activities encourage readers to become more observant, pull small details from the text, and make inferences. They’re great for scaffolding to mystery stories.
Mystery Stories - Five short, simple original stories are included. Reading them helps students learn to locate subtle clues (including false clues, or red herrings). They can also act as exemplars for student writing.
1. The Case of the Missing Cookies
2. Mystery of the Missing Bike
3. The Case of the Missing Lunch Bag
4. The Mysterious Whispering
5. The Case of the Disappearing Pansies
A magnifying glass organizer can be found after the first story. Kids use it to jot down clues they have found. This helps them understand how a mystery writer “maps” a set of clues (and throws in some red herrings, or false clues, to make the mystery harder to solve). As the unit progresses, students may use the organizer to write their own mystery stories.
Write Like a Detective
Add some writing to your mystery unit! This set of activities was designed to let kids write their own mysteries. Choose from three fun projects: (1) a crafty mystery picture activity, (2) a choose-your-own-clues paper bag mystery, or (3) a traditional mapped mystery.
The projects are sequenced from simplest to most complex. If you want shorter bursts of fun writing, choose mystery pictures or paper bag mysteries. To really develop writing skills, select the mapped mystery. For differentiation, you can assign mystery writing activities based on readiness. Or, if you’re like me, have all students do all three!
Mystery Pictures - This little activity is more craft than writing. It makes a great classroom display. Kids print or cut pictures of well-known objects, animals, or people. Then they write clues beneath the picture, cut a small viewing area, and staple the paper on top of the picture. Classmates can view a small piece of the picture, read the clues, and guess what it is. They can lift the paper to see if they’re right.
Paper Bag Mysteries - To prepare for this activity, cut and fold three sets of cards: character, setting, and situation. Place each set in a labeled paper bag. Students pick one card from each bag then develop a mystery story around them.
Mapped Mystery - Kids develop their own mysteries. First, they read and analyze “The Case of the Missing Cookies” (included). Then they use the planning sheets to organize, develop, and write their own mystery stories, like this:
• Choose a mystery/crime.
• Explore setting.
• Develop characters - including suspects with motive and opportunity.
• Map the mystery with at least three clues and one red herring.
• Experiment with beginnings and endings; choose a pair.
• Edit with a peer.
• Mystery Pictures - directions
• Paper Bag Mysteries – directions; setting, character, situation, and blank cards; labels for paper bags, two sets of student planning sheets (with and without red herring); rubric
• Mapped Mysteries – directions, sample story, sheet for mapping story + answers, planning sheets (choosing the crime, developing setting, developing characters, developing plot, mapping, beginnings, endings, and rubrics
• Two different sheets of detective themed writing stationery (footprints and little detective)
Think Like a Detective
Now add some fun to your mystery unit! This set of mystery activities lets kids explore how a detective thinks ~ and makes them do a little thinking of their own. Your students will love decoding secret messages, analyzing fingerprints, trying different types of invisible ink, playing observation games, and working logic puzzles.
Secret Codes (5 pages) - Students are presented with five different codes. For each, they decipher an encoded message and write their own messages too. (An answer key is provided.)
Fingerprints (2 pages) - On the first page, kids learn about fingerprint patterns and try to identify some patterns themselves. The second page gives kids an opportunity to make their own set of fingerprints. You can use an ink pad or pencil lead colored darkly on a paper for this.
Invisible Ink (1 page) - Five “recipes” for invisible ink are provided. Try one ~ or for maximum fun, let students try all of them to determine which works best.
Observation (3 pages ) - Try this set of three activities to see how observant your little detectives are:
• Each day for five days, move five objects in the classroom before school starts. Have students list objects that have been moved.
• Stand out of sight. Kids must answer questions about you.
• Place 30 items on a tray. Let them look at the tray for 20 seconds ~ or as you walk by. Remove the tray and ask them to write as many items as they can remember.
Deductive Reasoning (6 pages) - Let students work on their deductive reasoning skills with a set of five logic puzzles. For an extra challenge, have them make their own puzzle. (It’s easy if they write all checks and exes after they write each clue.)
Click PREVIEW for a sample.
For a complete mystery experience, add a novel!
• The Maze of Bones - Discussion questions, a detective's journal, and character cards let your little detectives dive into this popular mystery book (fourth grade reading level).
• The Westing Game - Discussion questions, a detectives journal, character cards and sheets, and additional support material help your students unravel this complex mystery novel (fifth grade reading level).
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