In this project, elementary students explore the structures and features of picture book mysteries and use this knowledge to write and illustrate an original collaborative mystery in a ’big book’ format.
Before producing their collaborative mystery, the Cycle Two students at Carlyle Elementary School in Montreal:
brainstormed what they already knew about mysteries (activated prior knowledge)
identified the features that helped them recognize a mystery by listening to Read Alouds and participating in class discussions
learned common mystery terms and vocabulary to help them read and discuss illustrated picture book mysteries with classmates
worked in pairs to explore how the images in the mystery added to the story
found evidence that their book fit into the mystery genre and shared their observations with the class
The students worked in small groups to build a mystery around a school-related problem. (The school secretary reported that candy was missing from her desk in the office.) They brainstormed possible plot lines and characters, thought about possible clues and red herrings to keep the story exciting and came up with ideas for the solution to the mystery.
Groups shared their ideas, and the whole class selected the story idea that would become the collaborative big book. They made decisions about the way the characters would look and dress, as well as the setting, so that there would be continuity throughout the book. A large chart was filled in with important details about the setting, characters, clues, distractions, plot and conclusion of the mystery.
The mystery was divided into 5 sections or chapters and each group selected the part of the story they wanted to write and illustrate and made a plan/storyboard.