Detective Mystery Unit Made Easy!

Welcome Super Sleuths!

If you are someone who loves classroom transformations and engaging students while they are learning, you have just cracked the case wide open! In this blog post you will get to go behind the scenes with us to see how we set up, planned, and operated our Detective Mystery Unit!
Crack the Case of an Engaging Crime and Mystery Unit WIDE OPEN HERE!
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We are ON THE CASE to help you with your Mystery Unit!

Let the Mystery Begin!

The first task that you face when you plan for a fun unit like this, is getting into character! We do everything as a team at our school, so the three fourth grade teachers plan and work together. We all participate in the events together! If you don’t do this with your team, this is a great time to start!

Transforming into Detectives

We started our Detective Mystery Unit by simply getting each teacher a badge off of Amazon. Our next stop was to the Dollar Store to find some fancy aviator sunglasses…. and just like that, we were transformed into Detective Brazeal and Detective Devlin!
We also made sure that we used detective vocabulary throughout the day for our gumshoes!
If you need some ideas, Click the button below for a Detective Vocabulary Freebie!
How to Create a Top Secret Crime Lab

Setting the Stage

The next thing that we decided that we HAD to have was a crime lab to book our evidence into. Instead of transforming three classrooms, we decided to have all three teachers set up one crime lab.  Our perfect spot was behind the curtains of our stage in our MPR. No one would even know it was there, except for our junior detectives. Also, if we wanted a small group activity, one class could go inside, but if we needed all three classes to participate, they could sit in the MPR and look into the lab. If this is not an option for you, maybe there is an empty classroom at your school that could serve the same purpose. We loved this idea because our unit was an entire week long, and this way, we didn’t have to be in this dark lab for an entire week!
Check our YouTube video out below to get a feel for it!

Making it Happen

This crime lab is not as hard to set up as it seems.  The first thing that you will need is black plastic sheeting. Here is what we used Click Here. We simply used a staple gun and lined the area. The only other thing we bought were our detective cardboard boy and girl and the footprint stickies from Oriental Trading. The rest of the supplies were found around our classrooms or school. We already had black lights, cation tape, and we found the cool items on our lab table in our science materials kits. The glowing liquid in the test tubes is made from glow in the dark paint that one of the teachers had at home. We already had the flashlights that the students are holding in the picture because we do Flashlight Friday reading, which we purchased from Amazon. Overall, it looks like a lot, but when you have three teachers making one lab, you have more resources to pull from!

Why We Set the Stage

The main purpose of the Top Secret Crime Lab is to build excitement for the students!
It is so amazing to hear them shout out,  “Wow!” “Ahhhh!” and “That’s Awesome!” Immediately, they are hooked. Buy in. It’s as simple as that. If students are engaged, they will be more motivated to complete the academic tasks that you present for them! Another reason is for your excitement! It is so rewarding! We were excited to get to work each day and pumped when it was time for our Lab time!
Get tips for setting up your crime scene HERE!

It’s Crime Time!

Okay, now it’s time for the good stuff. The first question you need to answer is, “What is the crime going to be?” If you are doing the unit with multiple classes, you will need to find something that all of the classrooms have in common. Since we were reading Bunnicula, we decided to buy a small stuffed rabbit for each classroom. We really wanted them to value the rabbit, so we made it our class pet. We brought in a pet carrier, gave him a blanket, laid out some food and water, and made sure he was securely locked in his cage every day before heading home. If you know the book, then you will get why there is a white pumpkin nearby. We also left the book for him to read at night. After we were done reading our book, it was time for the crime to occur! Bunnicula mysteriously disappeared overnight! When the students walked in to the crime scene below, they were devastated that their beloved class pet was missing! And just like that, we had The Case of the Missing Bunnicula!
Give Your Gumshoes Content During Your Mystery Unit with This FREEBIE!

It’s Content Time!

For those of you who have not read about our Year Long Plan, you might be unfamiliar with the way we teach. Each of our units lasts one month. If you are interested in seeing our Year Long Plan (which we highly recommend), check it out by clicking here . In each unit, we teach four main standards… one from each domain.
Here is what we were teaching during this unit.
Genre: Mystery
Key Ideas and Details: Character Traits
Craft and Structure: Elements of Poetry
Vocabulary Acquisition: Context Clues
Language: Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases
During our Engaging Scenario (what you are reading about), we complete one task from each domain each day. The Engaging Scenario lasts for a total of five days.

Day 1 of our Detective Mystery Unit

For the very first day, our focus was on Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases. The students were given this
FREEBIE: REPORT AND SKETCHING. Click the button below to get it!
Their first task was to make a sketch of the crime scene. Then, students had to write a report describing the scene. In their report, they had to circle all prepositions and underline all of the prepositional phrases. Describing the crime scene is absolutely PERFECT for Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases!
*On a side note, this engaging scenario is done after the concepts have already been taught and practiced.
Here’s what we use:
Booking Evidence During Your Mystery Unit

The Evidence

The next step was to book all of our evidence into our lab! Students used gloves and placed items from the crime scene into baggies. All of the 4th grade classes came together and debriefed. We talked about what was seen in each classroom (all the same) and what we thought our next actions should be. As a group, we decided that it was time to canvas the campus and start gathering tips!
Set up a Tip Line during your Mystery Unit with THIS FREEBIE!

The Next Steps

Students created posters that listed basic information about the crime. In this poster, they had to include five prepositions and prepositional phrases. Again, the prepositions were circled and the prepositional phrases were underlined. On the posters, students advised witnesses to contact our Crime Hotline with any tips that they had. Each student made a poster and they were plastered all over campus! Talk about building excitement! The whole school was buzzing!

Day 2 of our Detective Mystery Unit

The next day, our focus was Character Traits. Again, our students had already been working on Character Traits. Here is what we used:
Want to try some of these activities for FREE???? Click Here!

Character Traits Tip Line

For the Tip Line, we wrote eight short scripts for eight different callers. Click the image below to get the script of the 8 callers for FREE!
 Various staff left these messages on our voicemail portraying eight different character traits. When our students came in the next day, they received the piece of paper in the image above. We also have it available for FREE by clicking on the image below!
We told them that we had several new messages that needed to be investigated! They were hooked! With each message, students had to assign a character trait and list the evidence that supported their claim.  Most of the messages were pointless and led nowhere, but several fed the students ideas about what they should do next in their investigation.
Keep the Suspense Building During Your Mystery Unit!

And the Suspects Are…

From the hotline, we created a suspect list. Our first thought was to make a list of everyone that had access to all three rooms. From there, we focused on the time of the crime. Our custodian report that he saw the bunnies at 4:30pm. This dwindled down our suspect list to six suspects.

Day 3 of our Detective Mystery Unit

The next day’s standard was Context Clues. Our students were already very familiar with Context Clues. Here’s what we used:

Top Secret

A Top Secret envelope was placed on each of our doors with a black light message inside. Students came together to examine the messages.  Students had to use their knowledge of Context Clues to decipher the messages! One of the notes said to check by the piano in the MPR for a very important clue. Students RUSHED over to discover it! This important clue was an invitation to a party that had a map on it. The students then interrogated the remaining six suspects and discovered that three of them lived in the area on the map. Our mystery now had three prime suspects!
Connect College and Career Readiness during your Mystery Unit!

Day 4 of our Detective and Mystery Unit

The next day, we focused on College and Career Readiness. We had an expert come in to close the case! Our forensic specialist came out and shared with the students all about the law enforcement career. Students took notes and asked some amazing questions! They loved this! At the end, we explained our crime to the expert and asked if he could pull prints from an item left at the scene. He pulled the prints successfully!  All we needed was to collect prints from each of the remaining suspects and make a match!
*If you are looking to add more College and Career Readiness to your classroom, you HAVE to check this out! Click Here!
Making the Arrest for your Mystery Unit

Making the Arrest

Our fingerprint match led to no other than our very own principal! The 4th grade class served our principal with a search warrant. After searching her office, our cherished rabbits were found safe and sound! Immediately, the students chorally read her her rights and our principal was booked!
When asked about her motives, our principal told the students to look inside the basket. We discovered that our cute little bunnies were holding rolled up papers! These rolls ended up being diplomas from Bunny Obedience School! When our principal explained, she told us that she heard our bunnies might be vampire rabbits (If this sounds a little crazy, read the book! You’ll love it!). She didn’t want anything to harm the students at her school because safety was her top priority. She decided that she would send them to a four day obedience training and she didn’t want to tell us because she wanted them to finish their training. Talk about an amazing principal, right?! Our students immediately forgave her and released her!

Day 5 of our Detective Mystery Unit

The next day’s focus was on Poetry Elements. We had fun with fingerprint poems and pulled out all of the elements from some detective poems.
On Day 5, we also did a ton of fun detective and mystery activities. Some of the activities were:
★Who Dunnit?
★Fingerprints
★Unlock the Mystery Writing
★It’s a Mystery? Graphic Organizer
★Acrostic Poem-Gumshoes
★Who Am I? Class Game
★I Was Framed Activity
★Shoe Print Art
★Shoe Print Art: Take a Deeper Look
★Master of Disguise
★3 Secret Code Activities
★Spy Spell
★Truth Serum
★My Spy Kit
★Mystery Scramble
★Secret Agent Name
All of these activities were pulled from our Detective and Mystery Activity Bundle

CASE CLOSED!

And there you have it. A Fun and Engaging Detective Mystery Unit. The students were able to practice and apply all four of our main concepts that were in our month’s unit, while having a blast! Want to know the best part? We can’t wait to do it again!
Need some Detective and Mystery Unit Resources? Check this out!

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Kim H.
    December 4, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Fun mystery and detective activities!

  • Reply
    Jenna Leser
    December 5, 2016 at 4:39 am

    This is amazing! Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Mel D
    February 11, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Wow! What an awesome activity..Im sure the students loved it!

  • Reply
    MaryBeth Ostrom
    October 12, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    This is so fun! I’ve always wanted to do a classroom crime scene!

  • Reply
    Amanda Nelms
    October 13, 2017 at 3:22 am

    I love room transformations! They are so much fun for the students and for me as the teacher!

  • Reply
    Martha-Carol Carpenter
    October 13, 2017 at 3:45 am

    I hope to win, this is amazing!

  • Reply
    Marie Hoag
    October 13, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    This is so cool!!

  • Reply
    Tracy
    October 16, 2017 at 1:04 am

    You guys are amazing! Thank you for all the great ideas.

  • Reply
    Cecilia
    October 16, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    This is AMAZING! so engaging and fun!

  • Leave a Reply