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Mystery Writers' Workshop

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Mystery Writers' Workshop
By Laura Gabrion

They arrived from communities near and far on a blustery day in February.  They came armed with imagined characters, invented clues and alibis, and, of course, red herrings.  They were also excited that, as advertised, they would be creating fingerprints and DNA samples.  Who were these people?  Read on to solve the mystery!

During this workshop, the teachers offered participants (grades 2-6) unique opportunities to learn how to write a mystery.  These young readers, of course, already love the mystery genre, with characters like Nate the Great, Encyclopedia Brown, and Nancy Drew as familiar companions.  So

Laura Gabrion
these young writers came to Oakland University to learn the elements present within the mystery genre that make the stories they read so much fun.  They would not be disappointed; they were going to write a mystery themselves.

First, Rebecca Rivard gave them a mini-presentation on the basic elements of the mystery genre.   Corrie Pokrzywa then showed them a movie she created herself.  Now the students were ready to take their graphic organizers and get to work on their mysteries.  Rebecca, Corrie, and Laura Gabrion moved around the room to assist students in the planning stages of their mysteries. 

At the end of the planning time, the youngsters received a bound booklet and began to write and illustrate their own stories.  The scenarios were interesting and diverse:  the writers created airline disasters, disappearing guests at parties, missing soccer trophies, and more.  At one point Laura Amatulli invited students over in groups to a station she had set up so they could create fingerprint and DNA samples. 

The writing was so intense that, as the workshop drew to a close, many of the students begged their parents for just a few more minutes!  They were eager to draw their mysteries to a close.  The children left with smiles, cramped hands, and a packet of information about mysteries, as well as their own stories and samples of fingerprints and DNA. But wait!  The students had one more mystery to solve:  when was the next Mystery Writer Workshop?

Laura is a 2008 MBWP summer fellow and teacher consultant.  She is also a professor of English at Macomb Community College.