+ Teaching With Mysteries

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From Kim Haynes at TeachHub, some suggestions for engaging the interest of students. 

She suggests that you try using Web sites which offer “Five-Minute Mysteries,” for example Mystery Nethttp://www.mysterynet.com/ ) or U-Solve-It Mysteries ( http://www.scholastic-direct.com/usolveit/audiofiles/mm1.asp).  These sites offer very short stories which encourage careful reading or listening.

How about Nancy Drew or Encyclopedia Brown?  Mysteries follow a predictable pattern, but keep the readers guessing.  Haynes suggests Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, or Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

You can get a student’s attention by just making the topic “mysterious.”  Kim Haynes suggests that you ask questions such as “Why is this species becoming extinct?”  “Who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays?”  Talk about “unexplained events:”  the Loch Ness Monster or the Bermuda Triangle.  (But she warns that you have to be prepared yourself to deal with whatever arises out of such a conversation!)

For practicing math, Haynes suggests Math Maven,           http://teacher.scholastic.com/maven/ ,  a site that offers “capers” that need solving.  Every story is at a particular level of difficulty.  Topics range from whole number operations to geometry and probability. 

For teaching plot structure, just working with mystery stories is useful.  Such stories follow predictable patterns, so concepts such as exposition, “inciting incident,” and rising action are fairly easily observable.

And for adding content knowledge, Haynes suggests http://www.teacher.scholastic.com/histmyst/index.asp for history; http://www.eduweb.com/pintura/ for art; http://www.marshallschools.com/teachers/aldredgel/mystery/ for science.  For more options, Haynes says searching “mystery options” might gather interesting results.  In addition to learning content, these exercises teach tech skills too.

Old fashioned language in classic books can be a challenge for today’s young people.  — Edgar Allan Poe or the Sherlock Holmes stories –these texts can be an entry point into Victorian language.   They are shorter than the Brontes or Austen, and their plots appeal to boys. 

CSI in the classroom?  Science and technology play significant roles in solving crimes.  So take advantage of kids’ fascination with forensic science with some Crime Scene Investigation opportunities at http://www.sciencespot.net/Pages/classforsci.html .

Build writing skills with mysteries’ easily recognizable templates: there are basic character types, basic sequences of events, etc.    Use them to demonstrate setting: many rely on stormy weather and creepy locations to set mood.  Help your students analyze mystery stories and write one of their own. Visit http://www.mysterynet.com/learn/lessonplans/writing.shtml  or http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/everyone-loves-mystery-genre-796.html.

Students learn about research through mysteries — it’s a little known fact that mystery writers do lots of research before they write.  They need to know about law, or medicine, or unusual facts, historical details…  Help your students learn research skills by looking up information.  Ask them to read a story and then do the  research to prove whether the details are accurate.  Haynes warns you though — some crime stories get gory; so use your knowledge of your students and be prepared.

Other suggestions: read a mystery that connects to your subject.  She suggests the Periodic Table Mystery Series by Camille Minichino for science, Suzanne Adair’s Revolutionary War-era mysteries, or Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series set during the period just after World War I. 

sole source: Kim Haynes’s “Elementary My Dear Teacher: Teaching with Mysteries” at http://www.teachhub.com/news/article/cat/14/item/349 .  Visit TeachHub.com for teacher resources of all kinds!

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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