There's something about a good mystery that can intrigue even the youngest of students. While you certainly don't want to plan murder mysteries for young children, there are plenty of other options when it comes to making children think through a problem to find the solution that explains it all.
Learn the Right Ingredients
Before launching into any mystery unit, students of any age need to know the right ingredients that make a mystery a mystery. This activity will work well for a language arts session. Start by asking the students what they think makes a mystery. Answers will vary depending on the age of the students. Introduce any vocabulary words that weren't on their list. For example, students should know what the words clue, evidence, sleuth and suspect mean. Once the students have a clear understanding of the components of a good mystery, they can begin using that knowledge to create and solve their own mysteries.
Finish the Mystery
Read age-appropriate mystery stories, but stop before the end. Ask the students to write their own endings based on what they think the clues are pointing to thus far in the book. Of course, older students can provide more complex endings than younger students who might simply guess who the perpetrator is and state how they came to that conclusion. Finish the activity by reading the rest of the story to see if they're right. Another activity for older students is to have one child write the start of a mystery, then pass it to another student who writes the ending of the mystery. Younger students can do something similar by verbally starting a mystery and then letting another student verbally finish it. Give students a list of typical mystery plot elements and types of characters to help them get started. It may be helpful to walk through creating one mystery story, beginning to end, as a class.
Make mystery bags, suggests Education World. Fill each of several paper bags with several objects. Divide the class into small groups of three or four students, and then give one bag to each group. Ask the students to come up with a mystery based on the objects in their bag. Older students, generally middle schoolers or above, should include more complex clues and write their mysteries while younger students can work together to create a mystery that they verbally share with the rest of the class. Repeat the activity, but allow the students to gather their own items to put in the bags, and then have them swap with another group.
Solving a Mystery
Until crimes are solved, they are mysteries. Talk about different clues that detectives might gather at the scene of a crime, such as fingerprints and DNA, which are both appropriate topics for a science class. Show students of any age how to brush a fingerprint with powder and then apply a piece of tape to capture the print. Use a nontoxic ink pad and blank paper and teach the children how to make fingerprints. Encourage the students to observe different fingerprints and compare and contrast what they look like. Show students images of what DNA looks like, and discuss how everyone has a different DNA code and how this can be used to catch a suspect.
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