What is the “Mysteries” approach?

“Mysteries” lessons are designed as stand-alone projects which each last 3-4 hours.
Through engaging topics, they teach skills of problem formulation, deductive reasoning, independent research, groupwork and structured writing.
There is a standard teacher lesson plan and student record sheet / markscheme for each activity.

Also available is a complete case study of the “Iceman Mystery”, with all the resources needed to run the Mystery with your class!

How do they work?

  • Students are presented with a “starter image” and a brief roleplay – neither of which comes with any explanation.
  • Based on these, the class then comes up with a series of preliminary questions for investigation (e.g. “Who is this?”, “Why did they…?”, “When did…?”, “What is…?”)
  • The students are then presented with more images to help formulate fresh questions, amend existing ones or even forming provisional answers.
  • This question formulation / resolution process then continues with a series of information slips shared amongst the class in groups.
  • Finally, the class settles upon the most important questions to investigate and each student produces a written report which is graded against a standardised markscheme.
  • Specific credit is given to students who demonstrate evidence of independent research: to this end, the teacher could construct a QR Treasure Hunt to accompany the exercise which students could complete at breaktimes. Here is an case study of a QR Treasure Hunt for the Franklin Expedition Mystery.

What’s the point?

The “History Mysteries” serve a number of very useful purposes:

  • They develop important skills of question formulation, deduction, reasoning skills, groupwork and structured writing.
  • As “stand alone” projects they are a great way of adding variety into a scheme of work with a minimum of fuss.
  • They can be used with any year group and ability range: each investigation automatically expands in scope depending on the questions and research abilities of each student.
  • The allow the teacher to cover interesting topics which don’t otherwise neatly “fit” into an existing scheme of work.
  • They are (hopefully) good fun!