ALEX Lesson Plan


Taking the Mystery out of Writing a Mystery

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Jean Etheridge
System: Huntsville City
School: Mountain Gap P-8
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 7047


Taking the Mystery out of Writing a Mystery


This mystery-writing lesson focuses on the structure of a short story and the elements of a mystery in particular. Students complete the entire writing process: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Students demonstrate the ability to write in a different voice for a different audience by rewriting their own mystery stories as a news article. Students then work together to create a newsletter about all the students' mysteries.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
Technology Education
TC2 (2009)
Grade: 6-8
5 ) Use basic features of word processing, spreadsheets, databases, and presentation software.

Examples: word processing—reports, letters, brochures

-  spreadsheets—discovering patterns, tracking spending, creating budgets

-  databases—contact list of addresses and telephone numbers

-  presentation software—slideshow

Technology Education
TC2 (2009)
Grade: 6-8
6 ) Select specific digital tools for completing curriculum-related tasks.

Examples: spreadsheet for budgets, word processing software for essays, probes for data collection

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 7
2 ) Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text. [RL.7.2]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 7
3 ) Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot). [RL.7.3]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 7
21 ) Write informative or explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content. [W.7.2]

a. Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information, using strategies such as definition, classification, comparison or contrast, and cause and effect; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension. [W.7.2a]

b. Develop the topic with relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples. [W.7.2b]

c. Use appropriate transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts. [W.7.2c]

d. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic. [W.7.2d]

e. Establish and maintain a formal style. [W.7.2e]

f. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented. [W.7.2f]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 7
22 ) Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences. [W.7.3]

a. Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator, characters, or both; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically. [W.7.3a]

b. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, and description, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters. [W.7.3b]

c. Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence and signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another. [W.7.3c]

d. Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events. [W.7.3d]

e. Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events. [W.7.3e]

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will demonstrate mastery of the elements of a short story and the writing process by constructing a short story mystery. Students will apply writing mechanics. Students will write in different voices. Students will collaborate as a group to construct a newsletter.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Students will develop critical thinking skills through the development of a mystery.

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

Greater than 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Teacher-made slideshow presentation (see attached), students' handouts--Mystery Story Skeleton and Newsletter Instructions (both attached), rubrics (attached)

Technology Resources Needed:

Computer with word processing and desktop publishing software, TV and scan converter or digital projector and screen for presentations


This writing lesson is one component of an interdisciplinary mystery unit. Other language arts activities include reading several mysteries (dramatizations) orally in class and reading a mystery novel while participating in literature circles.

1.)Introduce the assignment by showing students the teacher made slideshow to explain all steps in the mystery-writing project (see attachment, slides 1-7).

2.)Hand out the Mystery Skeleton Sheet (attached). Referring to the slideshow, explain how to fill in the skeleton. Allow students time to finish this step. Students may share the skeleton with classmates. Collect the skeleton to check for understanding of the parts of the mystery. Return skeletons prior to the next step (presentation attachment slides 8-16).

3.)Explain character webs. Model a character web based on a character from a previously read literature selection. Then make a character web together as a class on a made-up character. Assign character webs for each character on the student’s skeleton. Collect to check for understanding.

4.)Assign the writing of a rough draft. Allow students both in-class and out-of-class time to complete the rough draft.

5.)Have students work in peer groups to revise their stories. Teach or review elaboration techniques. Have students then work in peer groups to edit stories.

6.)Allow students time to complete final copies using word processing software. Stories might be compiled in a classroom book for sharing with other classes, teachers, or parents.

7.)Formally assess both the mystery story and the newsletter with the rubrics provided.

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Assessment Strategies

The rubrics attached will be used for final assessment. Interim assessments are recommended to ensure that students are completing components of the assignment (such as finishing the skeleton, the character webs, the rough draft, and the revisions).


Illustrations of the writing might be required. Stronger writers will be able to create more in-depth characters and more complex plots.


Less proficient writers may benefit from working with peers, particularly on the planning phase with the skeleton sheet and on the revision work. One-on-one help from the teacher or a tutor might also be necessary for ESL students or very weak writers. Shorter stories with simpler plots could meet could meet the requirements for weaker writers.

Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

Presentation of Material Environment
Time Demands Materials
Attention Using Groups and Peers
Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.