Who Done It? Let's Play Clue and Ask Questions!

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SWBAT ask and answer questions about key details in a text to demonstrate understanding of a story and its structure.

Big Idea

Mr. Greene in the Library with the Candlestick!! Let's use story structure and questions to figure out "Who Done It?"!



I liked the Clue analogy because it encourages the kids to ask questions and find answers using clues, or evidence in the text. I created my own scenarios in this lesson because I wanted to use characters they were knowledgeable about (SpongeBob, Barbie) and make sure the elements were clearly stated in the text. There is lots of opportunity to read published books where some of the information is inferred and requires more critical thinking. For this lesson, I preferred to use these teacher created stories so the students could find the information easily and, more importantly, cite their evidence clearly in the pictures or text.  It's still early in the year for us, and this will lay an important foundation for later work with complex texts and characters.

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words.


Gain student interest

  • "Who has heard of a game called Clue?"  Take ideas.
  • "When I was little, I loved to play this game with my family!  Let's take a look at the pictures of the Clue game (powerpoint slide 2) and you can see if it looks fun."  
  • (refer to the 'headers' on the board) "The goal of Clue is to find out "Who did it? the characters. Where did it happen? the setting, and How or Why did it happen? the events or problem.  When you can answer all of these questions, you are identifying the plot of the story."
  • "The people playing the game are the detectives that find out the plot. They use their clue log to answer questions!  Today you are going to be detectives and find all of the clues and the plot!"

Teachers' Turn

25 minutes

Discuss the ideas

"First let's talk about the text features that we've learned so far (or introduce them now).  These make up the structure of the story and will help us with our game.”  (powerpoint slide 1)

  • The characters are ....pause for an answer from the students.... the "who" of the story.” Put the character header up.
  • The setting tells us ...pause for an answer from the students....when and where the story happens.”  Put the setting header up.
  • The action tells us ...pause for an answer from the students....what happens in the story. Sometimes we call these the events.” Put the action header up.
  • In every story, we need to know how and why the events happened. Sometimes characters respond to events – they change as events or the problem happens. How do you get to school if it rains? Why did you decide to wear shorts today? If we put all of the parts of the story together, it makes a plot for our story. Put the plot prompt out.
  • (Powerpoint slide 3) "Plot is the total of all of the questions that we ask - the 'who' what' 'where' 'when' 'how' and 'why'.  It's like an addition problem. When I ask you, 'What is the plot?', I need you to tell me answer all of the questions about the story.” 


Explain the task & model with a picture only

  • (Powerpoint slide 4):   "Let's get ready for some detective work.  I'll demonstrate how to identify story elements and write a plot. Here's a picture of Scooby Doo that I can ask and answer some questions about. I'll look at the illustrations or maybe make inferences, recording my answers with this clue log. (Use the headers and clue log on the powerpoint slide 4-talk as you go)
    • "Who are the characters?  The illustration shows Scooby Doo and Shaggy"
    • "What is the setting? I'll infer they are in a store. Are they in Chuck E Cheese? Why is that not a good inference?"
    • "What is the action/event? They are scared. How do we know that?"
    • "How and why are they afraid? I'll infer they are afraid of the scary man and they run away. They respond to the problem-the man shows up and then they run away."  
    • "So the plot is.... I'll say it in a 'clue sentence'...I think that Scooby Doo and Shaggy are in a house and they run because there's a scary man."


I use a picture first to focus on identifying the elements visually. Using information gained from illustrations to demonstrate understanding of characters, setting and plot (RL.2.7) allows students to cite evidence from what they see to answer questions, a shift in the Common Core State Standards. When students are comfortable with story feature identification and using illustrations, then I add text so the students practice reading to identify answers with text and illustrations, which is a harder skill. 


Guided Practice with a story (powerpoint slide 5)

  • "You did a great job with this illustration.  Let's try finding the structure in a story by looking at the illustrations and words. Read to yourself and then I'll ask you questions."  Pass out the clue logs
  • "Let’s ask some questions about the story elements to understand the story better. 
    • Who are the characters?  It in the text - it says 'SpongeBob'. Check that box. 
    • "What is the setting? We have to infer?  Take ideas, again emphasizing that they have to make sense and use the context clues  (princess and tower). Let's check 'castle' because the clues in the story help us."
    • "What is the action?  The words say Patrick jumped on him and SpongeBob is moving his feet." Check that on the log.
    • "Why is he stomping his feet? How does he feel? Why is he crying?"  Take ideas. 
    • “How did SpongeBob change or react to what Patrick did?  What can we write for the "how and why’? Take reasonable answers but the goal is to get the students to inference that SpongeBob is mad because Patrick bounced on him or SpongeBob yells and cries because he's mad at Patrick."
  • "Now I'm ready for my plot. Notice there's only 2 lines so I need one short sentence.  Put all the story elements together in a clue sentence -'SpongeBob was in a castle chatting and he got mad and cried because Patrick bounced on him'. "


This discussion about story structure and text elements (RL.2.5), as well as instruction about asking and answering questions (RL.2.1) represents a key shift in the Common Core standards towards citing evidence from the text.  I am requiring students to do a close reading of more complex literary text and spending time ensuring they are correctly identifying the story elements and understand the concept of plot.


More Guided Practice -  I added 2 more stories (Woody and Barbie) and pictures to the powerpoint for practice. When I taught this lesson the third time, my students really benefitted from the extra practice.

Try It As A Group

15 minutes

Explain the task

  • "Now it's your turn to look at a story and be a clue detective.  You'll work as a group to figure out the 'how' and 'why' of what's happening."
  • "First talk about the text features and fill out the clue log with your group."
    • "Who are the characters?"
    • "What is the setting?"
    • "What is the action/event?"
    • "How and why are those events happening?"
    • "Infer the plot and put it in 'clue language'....The (who)..... did (what)..... with (how)..... and (why)......"
  • "Let's review the rules for group work."
  • Pass out the clue logs.
  • "You'll be sharing the stories and your ideas when we're done."


As students work, I'm looking to see if they can easily identify the text features. We have reviewed them multiple times in previous lessons, so I'm assuming this should be easier. If not, I may have to step in and do the activity as a group.  See the Reflection about what happened when students worked together. 


Monitor student work

  • Put students in groups and give them one of the 'Clue' scenarios.
  • As students work, walk around and ask them about the evidence for their logs. 
    • "How do you know that is the event?"
    • "Was it in the picture or text?"
    • "Which parts did you have to infer?"
    • "How do you know that the inference makes sense?"
  • Here's an example of one of my group's worksheets.


By asking 'how they know what they know', I'm probing their thinking. Can they show evidence of their ideas? Can they find the answers by using the text, illustrations, and background knowledge. This is a critical element to the Common Core State Standards. I am encouraging them to draw on their own abilities to discover answers themselves instead of relying on adults to supply the information.

Apply What You've Learned

10 minutes

Share the ideas

  • "Now let's share our ideas - come up and read your story as a group and then share the text features.  Give us a final 'clue sentence'."
  • Groups come up and share - ask questions as they share.
    • "Does their inference make sense?"
    • "What evidence did you hear?"


Scaffolding and Special Education: You could scaffold this lesson up or down, depending on student levels.

With my special education students, we talked and made inferences on several pictures.  I provided an extra picture and extra story on the last slides of the powerpoint.  They needed more practice with that skill.  They did fairly well identifying elements on the pictures, but inferring and writing a plot with the scenes only (no pictures) was harder.  We did all of the scenes together as I wrote the 'why' and 'how' and plot on the board, but I did welcome and encourage their ideas. We edited the answers on the board through discussion. It was helpful for them to have the teacher again THINKING OUT LOUD to model for them.

For students with a higher language level, they may be able to work in groups without much help, just monitoring to make sure they are using evidence.