Support your students as they tackle The Westing Game
, a complex puzzle piece mystery. A detective’s journal, discussion guide, character cards, and support material help kids piece together clues (and improve comprehension).
• Detective's Journal
– Kids take notes and make observations in this 24-page foldable booklet. They find roles of the selected tenants, analyze the obituary and the will, find clues for each pair of heirs, take notes on characters, and wrap up by identifying the mystery and its solution. Additional pages for notes and observations are also included. [Teacher/Parent Directions: Print the booklet back-to-back on six sheets of paper; fold.]
• Discussion Guide
- Whether you discuss in small groups, as a class, or at home, these questions help students understand details of the text. They are designed to promote discussion and keep kids focused. [Note: Not all questions can be clearly answered due to the ambiguous nature of the text. These questions were designed for discussion only.]
• Character Sheets
- To promote greater interaction and deeper understanding, display these paired heir sheets. Students share their findings for each character with the class.
• Character Cards
- Let your kids create their own character trading cards! Each of the 24 cards has space for a drawing and character information.
• BONUS: Support Materials
– Three pages of teaching notes will help you navigate The Westing Game
. The lyrics for “America the Beautiful” can be offered to students when they’re ready to combine all their clues. Brief rules for the game of chess will help them understand how Ellen Raskin has woven an elaborate game of chess through this book.
Would you like to add more mystery activities? Try Think Like a Detective
! It features secret codes, fingerprints, observation activities, and deductive reasoning.
Note to Teachers and Parents:
I’ve use The Westing Game
as a mystery novel study unit for more than 25 years. Why? It challenges my students to think critically and flexibly, consider every detail, and become better readers.
By nature, mystery novels have many characters and complex plots. This requires concentration and close attention to detail. Students in my classroom love mysteries but sometimes struggle to keep track of those details. I’ve found that taking notes in a journal, discussing with targeted questions, and creating character posters or cards really helps.
Mystery books have the power to boost kids’ critical thinking and close reading skills. Reading The Westing Game
by Ellen Raskin in class or at home is a great choice for advanced readers. If you’re looking for something a little easier, try The Maze of Bones
. I use both books for one mystery novel unit. That way, I can differentiate for two reading groups my classroom.
Brenda Kovich, NBCT
Looking for more novel units? Try these:
• Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
• Little House in the Big Woods
• The Black Stallion
• Ella Enchanted
If you’d like something short but challenging, try The Cat Who Went to Heaven
(1931 Newbery Medal Winner).
The Westing Game
was the recipient of the 1979 Newberry Medal. The prestigious Newbery Award is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, designating the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."
Detectives clip art was created by Educlips.