Teaching Mystery: Fun in the Fall or anytime of year

I'm the first to admit that I run a pretty serious class. That isn't to say we don't have a whole lot of fun. It's a very student-centered but also very focused class.  I have high expectations for my students, and they have high expectations for me. As such we don't spend a lot of time on what I call the fluff - clip art, crosswords, worksheets and holidays.  All the cutesy stuff just isn't my personal style (one of my best friends loves it...you should see her classroom at back to school, it looks like fall exploded in it.)  But I do like to play around Halloween, mostly because Halloween is perfect for a mystery unit.

About 6 weeks before Halloween I don my Sherlock Holmes style cape and hat and grab my magnifying glass. My students know instantly that something is afoot when I'm not in my traditional jeans and sweater or t- shirt.  I leave clues around the room and tell students that something big is coming, but they are going to have to figure it out themselves. 


Students work in small groups with their detective notes to discern the mystery.  Their solution: a set of different parts of the mystery unit that we are about to engage in. I love to start this way because not only do students get excited about the mystery unit but also they use inquiry to determine requirements and expectations. At the end we review and then the unit officially begins.

For the next 6 weeks students work on a variety of open-ended projects around the genre of mystery - they conduct fear surveys, read and analyze mysteries, write research reports and short stories and in general create an amazing museum about mystery.  We culminate the unit with a WHODUNIT? party and then for Halloween - we listen to James Earl Jones reading Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven.  Not to be missed for your Halloween adventures.  What will you do for Halloween?  

If you want to introduce your students to the fun of mysteries, the full unit is available here.

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