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Lesson Plan

Expository Escapade—Detective's Handbook

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Expository Escapade—Detective's Handbook

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Fifteen 40-Minute Sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Gaines

Hoover, Alabama


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



This lesson combines the reading of detective fiction with written expository analysis in the form of a Detective's Handbook. Each student reads a detective mystery, and the class watches and analyzes Murder She Purred to establish a collective example. Students create a Detective's Handbook based on the mystery they read, adding a new entry every two days. A PowerPoint presentation provides a series of lessons, each of which explain one handbook entry, using Murder She Purred as a concrete example. Handbook entries include expository writing about the sleuth, the mystery, and the sidekick; descriptive writing about the crime scene; a wanted poster of the villain; a detective's log; a "how-to" paragraph describing how the mystery was solved; and a persuasive letter to the local Chief of Police. Finally, students record an overview of the book they read, making a case for its inclusion in the detective mystery genre.

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Detective's Handbook project information sheet: This sheet provides complete instructions for each entry in the Detective's Handbook.

Detective Fiction PowerPoint presentation: Use this presentation to prepare students for each entry in the Detective's Handbook.

Expository Writing Cake: This handout uses a graphic to describe expository writing.

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Mysteries are an effective resource in the classroom, especially with reluctant readers. Students bored with other readings and their textbooks can become involved in the intrigue of a detective mystery in ways that more traditional reading fail to engage them. The "intrigue, characters, and gradually revealed storyline" in mysteries get students involved, asking them to use critical thinking, deductive reasoning, and logic to explore and guess the events in the story as it unfolds.

Mysteries are exciting reading for students; however, this assignment goes further, combining reading and writing in the classroom to improve both achievement and instructional efficiency (Vacca 260-261). Students who experience the integration of writing and reading are likely to learn more content, to understand it better, and to remember it longer. This is the case because writing, before or after reading, promotes thinking, but in different ways (Vacca 262).

Further Reading

McClure, Amy and Janice Cristo, Eds. 2002. Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K-Grade 6, 13th Ed. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

Read more about this resource


Vacca, Richard T. and Jo Anne L. Vacca. 1999. Content Area Reading: Literacy and Learning Across the Curriculum. Longman.

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