It's time to do a little mystery creative writing. The benefits of a great writing hook through location writing (as described with my A Scary Day at Yellowstone National Park lesson plan) are at work again. This time they will select a place within their own community. They are learning and practicing the skill of narrative writing.
I typically do brainstorming as a class, but for variety's sake, I have the kids work in their groups to come up with ideas this time (Brainstorming in Groups). They must create a list of places they regularly visit in their hometown, or nearby communities. In our case, it's Scottsdale and then the surrounding areas of Phoenix, Tempe, Cave Creek...(Scottsdale, AZ is where it happened)
They aren't required to think of official "sites" such as museums or libraries, though those places would be great. I want them to come up with the stores, restaurants, malls, or parks where they often hang out. The activity for the day is to write a mystery, but one that could really happen- and happen at a familiar location.
The groups come up with at least twenty local locations as settings, though they aren't aware why they're doing it. We then compile them on the Smart Board before I describe the upcoming activity.
Once the lists are compiled, I tell the class to compromise on a top five list that could be used as the setting in a story. With this new information, they think critically and a representative from each group writes their list on the board. Now the class has a bunch of thoughtful lists to draw upon.
Next, I unveil the main activity. The kids must choose a location that is local and make that the setting of a mystery story they will write. It doesn't have to be one already written on the board. This is because with the specifics of the assignment explained, ideas may come to them they hadn't thought of before. I pass out the A Mystery in Your Hometown information sheets and instruct them to write the city, state, and specific location of their setting at the top (Completing Info Sheet).
They fill these out completely ( happened at Maggiano's) to facilitate an understanding of what the main points of the story must include (Mystery Info Sheets). The Where is already set, so the worksheet includes the What, When, and Who. It's rounded out by the Why and How as they complete their writing. (Mystery Info Sheet and Story)
Sometimes students get so involved with their storyline that they can't stop. Enthusiasm for Writing!
Kids trade the stories and read (Sharing Mystery Stories). I like putting them into pairs or trios for this because they're anxious to hear each other's mysteries and concentrate better in the small groups.
After they've had a chance to read and discuss their classmate's creation, it's time to share their mystery stories with the class. If there's time, acting them out is a fabulous idea, full of great possibilities. In my case, as I try to get things finished at year's end, dramas don't fit into the timetable. Having said this, I love the stories they created and a lot of them would have been great "on stage."
A great idea is to give the kids an opportunity to use a map of the city and surrounding communities and mark where each of the stories takes place. I again, didn't have the time, but will in the future when I move this lesson to a mid-year position. I did hang them up on the back bulletin board so they could be read (Mystery Stories on Display).
I evaluate these stories with the Six Traits of Writing and concentrate specifically on Voice, Ideas and Content, and Organization. As we continue our practice with W.5.3, the kids are using descriptive details, and clear event sequences.