Let kids try out their deductive skills with these mystery games and puzzles, both online and hands-on:
- MindWare Bella’s Mystery Deck is a set of 50 puzzles, with answers kids can check using the enclosed mirror. Bella is a 13 year old sleuth with a clever dog. The set makes a great center, since each mystery is on a separate card.
- One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Science! The One Minute Mystery series is similar to Bella’s mysteries, but in book form. This particular book focuses on science issues, but when you click on the link you’ll easily find the whole range. We like this type of book for whole-class use — just read one aloud during the settling down time after lunch and give students time to come up with solutions. It’s great to get everyone back in focus. These books — and the 5 Minute Mystery series as well — are a help for fast finishers, too.
- Art Fraud Detective: Spot the Difference, Solve the Crime! by Anna Nilsen is a picture book which has readers compare famous paintings with near-facsimiles in which there are some differences. Once they’ve spotted the differences, readers enter the differences on a chart which serves as a logic puzzle leading to the identity of the whistle-blower who started the search for forgeries. Get a few copies for small group work, or just add a copy to your classroom library for an experience that combines art history, critical thinking, and visual accuity training. Nilsen also did Art Auction Mystery, more complex variant that adds math.
- University Games has a Murder Mystery Mansion Board Game that involves deductive reasoning. Make a center or keep it for rainy days.
- 221B Baker Street Mystery Game includes Sherlock Holmes.
- Clue honestly doesn’t involve much critical thinking, but we didn’t feel that we could leave it out.
- Ozzoom has loads of free games, to download or to play online, including a number of mystery games. We tried Jewel Quest Mysteries and found it a fun, engaging game with some challenging aspects. Norton considers this a safe site, and we found no red flags, but there are lots of ads, and it’s easy to click on an ad for an offsite game when you’re trying out games. We’d either help kids get set up, set up the games ourselves in a computer center, or have a full-class lesson ahead of time to make sure that kids don’t end up somewhere they shouldn’t be. If nothing else, a reminder not to give out their email addresses or other info without checking with an adult would be wise. That said, this site has lots of high-quality games for basic input device practice (getting better with mouse and keyboard), word searches, all kinds of things with a mystery theme.
- The Fin Fur and Feather Bureau of Investigation has an impressive variety of high-quality games working on critical thinking, reading, and basic computer skills, but also on geography (they’ve partnered with National Geographic), money math, and a variety of other subjects. The stories are witty, too. No need to download games, but there are dossiers to print out and some games require them. I like them for skimming and scanning practice.
- The real FBI has a kids page with games, puzzles, and a research challenge as well as lots of info on the Bureau.
- The Grey Labyrinth has math puzzles. Some of these are very challenging!
- Science Mysteries present mystery stories that rely on science for solutions.
- Geography All the Way presents the Spiny Cactus Bar Murder, a mystery using geography.
- MysteryNet’s Kid Mysteries are low-tech and basic, but you also don’t have to download anything. There’s always a trade off.
- Montreal’s Science Centre has a very fancy interactive exhibit on forensic science. You can choose to use this resource in French or in English — nice for foreign language class in the U.S. as well as for francophone communities.
- Ann Zeise at A to Z Home’s Cool has a CSI unit. Great for home educators, of course, but I’d use it in the classroom, too.
- Get serious about forensic science withforensic science kits: CSI Field Kit : Junior Investigator Kit, Detectolab – Crime Scene Investigator Lab Kit or Forensic Science Detective’s Toolkit from the excellent Thames and Kosmos.
- Check out our CSI Lesson Plans for lots of information and ideas on using DNA evidence to solve mysteries.
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