Home School Years

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.

What Is A Mystery?

Related Posts:

Roanoke: A Mystery From History

Meeting Geronimo Stilton

Series: Stories

Fear & Anxiety

I Spy Nature Walks

Creating Mythical Creatures

Neighborhood or Community Helpers

Recommended Books:

  • Unsolved Mysteries from History book series by Jane Yolen
  • Jigsaw Jones Mysteries book series by James Preller
  • Geronimo Stilton book series by Geronimo Stilton
  • The Web Files by Margie Palatini
  • The Bear Detectives by Stan Berenstain
  • I Spy books
  • Kids Write!: Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Mystery, Autobiography, Adventure & More! (A Williamson Kids Can! Book) by Rebecca Olien

Target Vocabulary: ace, accuse, alibi, anxiety, case, client, clues, code, crime, criminal, curiosity, deduction, detective, disappear, evidence, fear, fingerprint, gadget, guilty, investigation, location, magnifying glass, message, motive, motto, mystery, notebook, observation, private eye, problem, proof, questions, ransom, riddle, sleuth, solve, spooky, stakeout, suspect, suspense, suspicious, tactic, thief, time, tip, top-secret, twist, undercover, witness, whodunit

Lesson Themes:

boy-detective-with-magnifying-glassWhat is a mystery? ~ A mystery is something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. Mysteries can be a crime, puzzle, riddle, novel/story or secret. People who solve mysteries by investigating clues are known as detectives or sleuths. They have a good sense of curiosity and strong problem-solving skills. Detectives generally carry a notebook to write down information/clues. Once, they’ve gathered all the details and asked all the questions, they begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together until they solve the mystery. A detective might work alone or have help from a partner, and they usually have a motto for their business. For example, Jigsaw Jones and his partner Mila have this motto: For a dollar a day, we make your problems go away. If you were a detective, what would you like your motto to be? Come up with one you like. To expand this lesson, you can discuss some words or gadgets associated with detective work and mysteries (case notebook, magnifying glass, disguises, binoculars, fingerprint kit, walkie-talkie, decoder key, tech gadgets, etc.)

The Five “W’s”: Who, What, When, Where, Why ~ Discuss how the five W’s are labeled (terms used) by a detective who is trying to solve a mystery and what each means. A detective uses these five W’s to make a list of key things that will help him/her find clues to solve the mystery case. It is important to ask the right questions to solve a mystery properly. The process of asking questions and finding clues is known as the investigation.

  • Who: Suspect (person you think did something wrong) and Witness (person(s) who saw what happened)
  • What: Crime or Problem (missing item or person)
  • When: Time crime occurred
  • Where: Location where crime occurred or Scene of the Crime
  • Why: Motive (the reason a person did something)

Critical Thinking Skills ~ A good detective uses strong critical thinking skills to help him/her do their job properly. Discuss what critical thinking skills are and why they are important to develop in detective work, as well as life in general.

  • observant: play close attention to everything that is going on around you
  • gather information: learn to ask the right questions and consider everything rather than jump to conclusions
  • big picture: even the smallest tidbit can be an important part of the process; a puzzle is made up of many little pieces
  • gut feeling: learn to trust your gut; it will guide you to find the truth
  • deductions and developing conclusions: learning to process all the information to develop the correct answer

Community Helpers ~ Detectives can be a private eye (explain this term) or someone who works within the police department. Discuss what police do as community helpers. Compare a private eye to a police officer to show similarities and differences between the two.

Difference Between Mystery and Spooky ~ Explain the difference between the two and offer examples of each.

  • Mystery ~ a mystery is something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. Mysteries can be a crime, puzzle, riddle, novel/story or secret.
  • Spooky ~ spooky refers to something that gives you a sense of uneasiness or fear, such as a frightening place or a weird/eerie sense. Sounds or descriptive words are key to building a spooky feeling. Discuss how spooky is presented in a story: squeaky doors, dark room, thunderous rain, etc. Once you discuss how spooky is woven into a story, you can expand the lesson by discussing fear and anxiety and ways we can overcome them.

Coded Messages ~ Sometimes a mystery includes coded messages. Discuss what codes and their key are. Ancient Greeks used hidden writing or codes they called cryptography. Romans copied that idea and added some of their own to create ciphers. To translate or reveal a code is called decipher. Some codes or ciphers are never cracked or solved. Use this Codes, Ciphers and Secret Messages template (based on a Roman cipher chart called blocked alphabet cipher) to come up with a few codes. Rebus stories are another form of reading symbols to decipher messages in a story, which can be a great exercise for this type of lesson too.


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