Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Whodunit? Creating Mysterious Plays

Dawn Capes
Bay District Schools


The activity is designed to have students study mystery plays and then write and perform their own plays.


The student uses background knowledge of the subject and text structure knowledge to make complex predictions of content, purpose, and organization of the reading selection.

The student uses a variety of strategies to analyze words and text, draw conclusions, use context and word structure clues, and recognize organizational patterns.

The student determines the main idea or essential message in a text and identifies relevant details and facts and patterns of organization.

The student locates, organizes, and interprets written information for a variety of purposes, including classroom research, collaborative decision making, and performing a school or real-world task.

The student selects and uses appropriate formats for writing, including narrative, persuasive, and expository formats, according to the intended audience, purpose, and occasion.

The student uses movement, placement, juxtaposition, gestures, silent periods, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues to convey meaning to an audience.


FIVE-MINUTE MYSTERIES by Ken Weber. Running Press Book Publishers, 1989.

MORE FIVE-MINUTE MYSTERIES by Ken Weber. Running Press Book Publishers, 1991.

FURTHER FIVE-MINUTE MYSTERIES by Ken Weber. Running Press Book Publishers, 1994.

EVEN MORE FIVE-MINUTE MYSTERIES by Ken Weber. Running Press Book Publishers, 1996.

-Camcorder and blank tapes
-Copies of the rubric (See attached file)
-Overhead projector and transparency of simple graphic organizer (or computer with signal converter hooked to large screen TV)


1. Gather and study various mysteries.
2. Decide if the given rubric is acceptable for use with students. Copy the rubric.
3. Procure a camcorder.
4. Begin plays.


For this activity, the students read several five-minute mysteries as models before they create their own. The teacher selects these sample mystery plays from the books listed in the materials section. These should be intriguing mysteries for students to act out, study, and take notes on.

1. Reading Sample Plays. The students read the assigned plays, participate in the class discussion, and take notes on the graphic organizer (see attached file). They should be able to identify in each play the following: characters, plot, clues, red herrings, props, setting. As students are reading, the teacher questions them periodically regarding the -mystery- in the play. For example, -Who is the guilty party? What will happen next? How will it end? What is the mystery? How can we solve the mystery?- Students reflect the answers to these questions on their graphic organizer. The teacher puts a similar graphic organizer on the overhead or on an AV computer and fills in the graphic organizer at the same time as the students. These notes will be assessed for completeness and comprehension of the plays studied.

2. Assessment. Test the students' understanding of play techniques. Give the students one play that was not studied in class. Using the same graphic organizer, have them identify the same devices they did in class. The students will be graded on correct completion and comprehension of items such as main idea, plot, clues, red herrings, etc.

3. Introduction. Inform the students that they will be creating and performing their own mystery plays, and introduce them to the rubric with which their plays will be assessed. IMPORTANT: Like the sample plays, students should understand that a mystery is being created and the ending should be left hanging so the audience can try and figure out the mystery. Once the audience has had an opportunity to solve the mystery, the students either give the solution to the audience or act out the solution for the audience.

4. Writing. Students should be put into medium sized groups of about 4-6 people. The number of characters should be limited to the people in the group. If they want to have multiple roles, they can. Give students ample opportunity to create their own plays. As they are doing this, the teacher periodically and informally quizzes them on their progress in relation to the rubric. Once students have finished writing the play, they should use the rubric and peer conference. Any areas which do not score well should be reassessed and corrected. Give students enough time to write the play and to practice performing it.

5. Informal evaluation of written portion. Have students turn in their plays and formatively assess the written product using the rubric. Give students an opportunity to make improvements before proceeding with their performance.

6. Optional. Have students type the final copy of the play on a basic word processing device. These can be bound into a class book of five-minute plays.

7. Play presentation. Students should bring in their costumes, props, etc. and present their play. The teacher or a student videotapes each play presentation; the teacher assesses the performance with the rubric. When students turn in their play, the teacher will now reassess their written material.

8. Evaluation. Give students an opportunity to evaluate their play performance. Play their videotape for them and have them write a short paragraph assessing their performance. They should focus on the things they did well, things they should not have done, and how they could have made it better.


The rubric is used formatively as students assess their own work. The teacher also uses it this way before students enter the practice stage. The rubric is then used summatively after the play has been presented. Students' knowledge is tested using a graphic organizer and a play which they have not previously studied.


This can be modified for different levels by using different types of plays.
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