Educator’s Page

Mystery Writers of America is dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition, respect for those who write within the genre, and general literacy. As part of our mission, we’ve created this educator’s page with links to mystery-based reading and writing learning exercises.

Where links are provided, the material has not been created by MWA and is not affiliated with MWA, though the sites were vetted by college-level educators at the time this page was created. All original material below has been created by educators who are also MWA members and is available for use and/or sharing with no restrictions.


Mystery Writing with Joan Lowery Nixon (Scholastic)
Area: Creative Writing
Age range: Appropriate for grades 4-8

Description: Joan Lowery Nixon was a famous children and young adult mystery author and four-time winner of the prestigious Edgar Award. This computer-based lesson begins with an excerpt from a Nixon short story, then describes the elements of a mystery, goes on to offer writing exercises and revision tips, and ends by giving students the opportunity to publish their self-written mystery on the Scholastic website.

Solving Mysteries! (Scholastic)
Area: Journalism
Age range: Appropriate for grades 3-5

Description (from website): Using the skills involved in solving mysteries, “students will learn about deductive reporting skills and how to reach logical conclusions while strengthening reading skills.”

Exploring the Mystery Genre (Scholastic)
Area: Reading
Age range: Appropriate for grades 3-5

Description (from the website): “Mysteries are a wonderful vehicle for teaching critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills in an exciting and enjoyable way. This unit is a study of the mystery genre in which students will act as reading detectives. They will discover the elements of a mystery including the typical characters, the common plot structure, and the vocabulary that they will likely encounter in mystery writing. They will work in small detective groups to solve cases and will even write their own mysteries.”


Murder Mystery Game
Area: Literature
Grade range: 9-12

Description (from the website): “The Murder Mystery Game is the culminating activity after reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Students will explain the process of elimination, demonstrate prediction skills, and show evidence of comprehension.” Essentially, the instructor turns the high school into a living “Clue” board. Students go from classroom to classroom and earn clues by correctly answering questions about And Then There Were None. The first group to solve the mystery wins. Although the formatting isn’t great on this website, this activity is a great example of active learning.

It’s a Mystery to Me
Area: English (literature, expository, and creative writing)
Grade range: 9-12

Description (from the website): Detective fiction is a genre of writing that provides a wealth of opportunities to incorporate critical thinking strategies and to improve reading skills. The goals of the unit are to introduce more sophisticated adult literature, understand the elements of the genre of detective fiction, apply the scientific method and powers of observation, and practice in writing opinion, expository, and persuasive essays.

The most difficult selection is the first, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe. Since this is the pioneering detective story, it seems the appropriate place to begin. The strategy suggested with this selection is meant to acquaint students with the unique elements of this genre. Here the background information can be integrated with specific instruction to provide a good overview of classic detective fiction. The second selection, “The Red-Headed League” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is much easier to read and understand. Students are required to focus on Sherlock Holmes’s powers of observation, which directly relate to his ability to make predictions about people and events. The final suggested reading is “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie. The task for this reading involves higher level thinking skills. Students are asked to develop a persuasive essay based on their interpretation of the appropriateness of the actions of Judge Wargrave.

Unsolved Mysteries: a WebQuest
Area: English (literature, expository, and creative writing)
Grade range: 9-12

Description (from the website): Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson often drew different conclusions from the same clues, the same pieces of information. They then looked for additional evidence to prove that something was true.

The process of solving a mystery and the process of writing a research paper have several things in common. Both require gathering and studying clues, evidence, and information; weeding out “red herrings” or irrelevant information; organizing thoughts; and presenting accurate conclusions.

You are a self-employed research writer. You have been hired by the Unsolved Mysteries Society to conduct background research for an upcoming documentary. It is very important for you to provide accurate information, because the people at the Unsolved Mysteries Society pride themselves on presenting nothing but facts. Your professional reputation (and your future paychecks!) will be affected by the quality of the report you produce for them.

Click here for the High School Curriculum

Click here for the Mystery Syllabi

If you have other mystery-related lesson plans you would like to share on this site, please contact Mystery Writers of America for consideration by our Education Committee.