Everyone loves a mystery!

As a classroom teacher, I never focused on the mystery genre much. Oh sure, I would introduce different series to my students when we added new books to our classroom library, but I never truly engaged them by teaching them all about mysteries. What a mistake! Now that I am in the school library as a media specialist, I can see how much students of all ages absolutely devour mysteries! As a reader, I myself love getting wrapped up in a great mystery. So why do teachers neglect the mystery genre? Perhaps it is the lack of quality resources out there to guide us along. Or maybe it is because there isn’t a separate standard on the end-of-year test that measures a student’s mastery of the mystery genre. No matter the reason, I think all teachers should strive to include a mystery genre unit in your ELA instruction. Mysteries are such a versatile genre, because they can also be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, science fiction, historical fiction and more.

As I looked for resources to teach my upper elementary students (grades 3 – 5) about mysteries, I was somewhat disappointed by what I found. It was easy to find lots of cute lessons featuring detective clip art, but I needed something more “meaty”. So I created my own unit.

pinterest pin for mystery unit


I based the lessons and activities on our state standards as well as the AASL standards that guide my instruction in my library/media center. To introduce our mystery genre study,  we began with a discussion of what a “mystery” is. Since this can be a multiple-meaning word, I like to see what they already know and go from there. While many students mentioned Scooby Doo and Cam Jansen, others immediately thought of UFOs or unexplained paranormal events that they have read about or seen on tv. Some recognized the genre title from Netflix while others had amazing personal insight such as, “My mama says it’s a mystery how my daddy keeps a job since he is so lazy!” I didn’t EVEN go there! 🙂 Following our conversation, I shared The Case of the Broken Vase on Youtube with them. It was a great way for them to visualize many of the elements of a mystery, plus the detective is ADORABLE!  Following this, I taught the essential vocabulary for the mystery genre using a PowerPoint that I created. I love teaching vocabulary using real-life photographs because students are such visual learners. Once I taught the vocabulary, we returned our focus to the Case of the Broken Vase and as a group, we completed our Detective Case Report on it. They loved this, and I felt like it was a great way to really help them acquire the new vocabulary.

detective case report

Following this activity, I selected several mysteries to do short “book talks” on to hook my readers, and it truly worked! On my shelf tops, I had already displayed lots of mysteries that would appeal to a wide variety of students on many different reading levels. The students couldn’t wait to check out the mysteries!

The unit that I created features so many more engaging activities for teaching the mystery genre, as well as detailed lesson plans, a teaching PowerPoint, assessment activities, interactive notebook resources, and more. Click here to learn more.

I’d love to hear what you do in your classroom or library to teach the mystery genre! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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