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My Experience with the Mystery Writing Workshop

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
My Experience with the Mystery Writing Workshop
By Annmarie Amatulli

I volunteered to help at the Meadow Brook Writing Project’s Mystery Writing Workshop.  I continue to see the importance of writing in my

Annmarie Amatulli
classes and have embraced my own love of writing.  So the volunteering came natural to me.  We scheduled the workshop for a Saturday at Oakland University and designed the activities to help student writers improve their writing skills and have fun at the same time.  The 27 students ranged from grades 3 to 5 and were eager to participate in a hand-on mystery writing experience that included plenty of science as well. 

As a part of the workshop, I designed a station that gave the students an opportunity to use some simple science concepts as part of themystery story they would write.  The science concepts would give them plenty of details to develop their mystery plots.  The station gave me an opportunity to show the students how forensic science works in real crime cases.  They were able to look at DNA extractions, hair analyses, fingerprinting, chromatography, and handwriting analysis, all of which real forensic experts use to solve “whodunit” in actual crimes.  I also created a list of vocabulary words they could use in their mystery stories. 

When they arrived at my station, the kids had to try to find out who stole an imaginary dog named Magic.  They had to analyze hair and fingerprints as well as the pen and handwriting used to write the ransom note.  In addition they got to extract their own DNA, something they would be able to take home in a test tube.  They learned you could extract DNA without drawing blood. 


The students loved the Mystery Writing Workshop and we intend to create more opportunities for young students to write.  For example, in the spring we would like to create a River Poetry Writing class at River Woods Park.  I want to engage the students in writing poetry using a GPS activity to find waypoints at which they can do fast writes on various topics to generate details for their poems.  Other genre we would like to share with young writers at future workshops include memoir, news story writing, a writing marathon, and nonfiction writing such as history or science.


Annmarie is a seventh grader at Avondale Middle School. Besides tap dancing, swimming, and a variety of sports she loves to write.  She also enjoys helping others to find joy in writing. The mystery writing workshop was so much fun she is planning to help this summer at Meadowbrook Hall and Gardens history and nature writing for young readers and writers.