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Exploring Mystery Literature in the Language Classroom

It’s that time of year, when scary stories are popular on TV, and new horror movies appear in theaters. But while horror isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, most people enjoy a good mystery full of intrigue and suspense. You can take advantage of this genre to “hook” students and engage them in the language classroom. Here are some ideas and tips on how to incorporate mystery stories into your lessons:


  1. Minute Mysteries

If you’re interested in introducing mysteries to your students, but you aren’t ready to commit to an entire lesson that could last days or even weeks, try some minute mysteries. These are comparable to brain teasers, where students must use critical thinking skills, such as deductive reasoning, to solve a mystery or puzzle. Use them as bellringer activities or find one to go along with the theme of your lesson.

  1. Pre-Reading Activities

Be sure not to skip this critical step when presenting a mystery story for the first time. Students will likely be unfamiliar with important vocabulary and phrases you see in mysteries, such as terms dealing with crime, detectives, law enforcement; as well as with how characters are described. You’ll also want to activate any prior knowledge, working as a class to make predictions about what the story will be about by examining the title or images that go along with it.

  1. In-Depth Character Analysis

This is an excellent way to introduce new vocabulary related to describing people both in the physical sense and in terms of what their personality is like. Have students work in teams or small groups to become “experts” on one of the main characters or suspects in the story. They can share this information with the rest of the class and together, you can discuss who is mostly likely the guilty party based on the analysis.

  1. Attention to Detail

Mysteries are perfect when you want students to practice close reading strategies. Close reading requires students to engage with a text on a deeper level, meaning they must go beyond simply comprehending the text to analyzing and inferring meaning. These are higher-level skills that can transfer across disciplines while pushing students to really use their knowledge of the target language.

  1. Culture Connection

Becoming immersed in a story allows students to experience the target culture through the voice of a native speaker. They get a sense of the social attitudes, manners, historical inferences, and customs without studying them explicitly. Mysteries can also provide students with the opportunity to explore how the target culture views crime and punishment compared to their native culture.

  1. Creative Responses

Exploring mystery literature with students provides innumerable opportunities for creative responses. Assign students the task of writing an alternate ending to the story or let students create their own minute mystery for their classmates to solve. Other ideas for creatively responding to the text include role-playing or recording a “true crime” podcast based on the text.



By: Kelli Drummer-Avendano


Read also: Exploring Italian Mystery Literature



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