The Detective Game

by Peter Pappas

Blog (my latest material)

Showcase of lessons and resources:

  The Activity

I did not waste the opening week of school introducing the course Ė my students solved mysteries. I took simplified mysteries and split them into 25-30 clues, each on a single strip of paper. Read my blog post on how I used this lesson.

I used a random count off to get the kids away from their buddies and into groups of 5-6 students. Each group got a complete set of clues for the mystery. Each student in the group got 4-5 clues that they could not pass around to the other students. They had to share the clues verbally in the group and that guaranteed that every student is a talker on day one.

This activity demonstrates to students the need for considering the contributions of every group member and gives them practice in organizing cooperatively to accomplish a task.  In this exercise every student is given bits of information essential to the solution of a mystery.  With modifications this exercise can be used to help students organize and evaluate information and data in a variety of contexts. 

You will need a set of clues for the case for each group. You can use the same case for all groups, then repeat the exercise with all groups using the second case.

Link to Murder Mystery Clues

Link to Bank Robbery Clues

Note - These clues were adapted from:
Learning Discussion Skills Through Games
Gene and Barbara Dodds Stanford
Citation Press / Scholastic Books 1969

Students are seated in a circle with the teacher standing outside the group.  The teacher gives the following explanation:

"Today we are going to play another game that will help improve your discussion skills.  Each of the pieces of paper I am holding contains one clue that will help you solve a mystery.  If you put all the facts together, you will be able to solve the mystery.  Any time you think you know the answers and the group agrees on the guess, you may tell me.  I will only tell you whether all five answers are right or wrong.  If parts of your answers are incorrect, I will not tell you which answers are wrong.

You may organize yourselves in any way you like.  You may not, however, pass your clues around or show them to anyone else, and you may not leave your seats to walk around the group. All sharing of clues and ideas must be done verbally. "

  Discussion Guide  
  1. How were decisions made in your group?

  2. Was a leader needed?

  3. Was time lost getting organized?

  4. Was it ineffective for everyone to talk at once?

  5. Did problems arise because some people didnít present their clues?

  6. Did any members ignore the clues of others?

  7. Were attempts made to encourage the participation of all members?

  8. Did anyone monopolize the discussion?  Was this productive for the group?

  9. How did you organize the information to solve the mystery - time, person, location, etc?

  10. Could you have organized the information more efficiently?

Suggestions:  You can use this format for the solution of subject matter problems.  Students can be supplied with units of information and use the same technique to organize and evaluate data and to draw conclusions.  In some cases they can be assigned the task of simply organizing the information into categories.  Or students could be assigned the task of organizing the material and then developing conclusions or hypotheses.  Material can be drawn from a variety of primary or secondary sources, or you may wish to assign students the task of assembling their own information.

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