Kids love puzzles, and I suppose that’s why they love mysteries! Each mystery is like a new puzzle that has to be solved in a different way. Luckily for us, that makes these stories (fiction or true) a great vehicle for teaching all manner of reading skills. At the top of the list, I suppose I would put making inferences and drawing conclusions, since that is exactly what you have to do to solve any mystery – put two and two (and maybe two more, and two more . . .) together and start making inferences about what conclusion it all might lead to.
Mysteries are useful for teaching many more reading skills too, to name just a few –
- cause and effect
- using context clues
- main ideas and details, and
- using text based evidence.
And of course, a nice mystery would be a great tool to base a writing or editing lesson on too.
For teaching skills, I like to start with really short passages, just long enough to illustrate whatever skill I want to teach and then move on a little later to applying those skills to full-length stories and articles. Just one paragraph is often enough to start with!
Just for this purpose, I put together a little set of Mystery Task Cards. You can download a free set HERE. Card 1 asks kids to make inferences, answer a cause and effect question, and make a prediction.
In fact, cause and effect is another great skill to work on with mysteries. With all the clues, they’re perfect for asking how and why questions for the kids to think about as they put it all together. And, as with most any narrative passage, sequence of events works well too. Here are a few more examples.
And mysteries aren’t only found in fiction. Once you start looking for them, you can find little mysteries for the kids to think about everywhere. I like the idea of using short passages from history and science since there’s so much interesting content there, plus you’ll be supporting your history or science colleagues at the same time as you’re teaching comprehension skills.
Of course you don’t have to use these fun passages for reading skills. Here’s one that includes an editing activity. All of these cards are included in the FREE Task Card – Mysteries set, just to introduce you to the task cards in my store. There are twelve cards in the set, and you can download them now.
Here are just a few of the Task Cards Sets from Classroom in the Middle. Check out all the choices and see the previews here.