Mystery Lesson Plans

Sherlock Holmes by Hideyoshi

Mysteries are all around us — why not in the classroom?

Research and Technology

Josepha has been working with young interns, and I’ve been teaching Freshman Comp, so we can tell you that two things are true about the kids who leave our high schools:

  • Employers and college teachers expect them to be good at finding information online.
  • Mostly, they’re not very good at it.

Why not give your students a research project to help them get the ability to “Google it” that their future bosses will expect them to have?

Have students choose a historical mystery to research. Here are some of our favorites:

  • The disappearance of the Roanoke Colony: did these early Virginians simply move in with local people, or was there some tragedy that destroyed the colony?
  • The death of Amy Robsart: was she murdered by her husband, the Earl of Leicester, or was it an accident?
  • The ghost ship Mary Celeste: what happened to leave her sailing with no one aboard, in calm waters with plenty of supplies and no sign of violence?
  • The mystery of Atlantis: did the mythical kingdom under the sea really exist, is it a story inspired by the sinking of Thera, or is it strictly fiction?
  • The extinction of the dinosaurs: just what happened to wipe out these great reptiles? This would have to be a prehistoric rather than a historic mystery — but it’s a good one!

Have students do research online to find as many facts as they can. Review the difference between facts (all observers will interpret the information in the same way, as with temperature, color, numbers, or “This is a table”) and opinions (observers will interpret the information in different ways).

Here’s a book for inspiration:

You can print out Google posters such as Search Tips for Kids and Better Search Tips . You can practice together and then send the students to computers to try their hands. I like to give students a chance to try, and then discuss strategies they found useful — and the strategies that didn’t work so well. Then give them time to try again.

Once they have their facts harnessed, put students into small groups to decide what they think is the best explanation for those facts. Use our Logic Lesson Plans to guide the decision making and presentation of the ideas, or let each group prepare a presentation, with PowerPoint or poster board, that clearly explains and supports their conclusion.


Explore literary mysteries with our Mystery Genre Study.

People who read mystery novels read more than most — 37% are avid readers, who are always reading a mystery. If you’re spending a lot of time on individual reading, introducing your students to the mystery genre could help them develop a lifelong habit of recreational reading.

Some of our favorite kids’ mysteries:

Teacher Created has an excellent teaching unit for this book.

Some favorite mystery series for different grade levels:


Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Some really interesting research topics here. I think we will start with The ghost ship Mary Celeste (it’s the one I know the least about). So many mysteries out there. I like the selection you present here.

  2. The Mary Celeste is a great one!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.