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Mysteries in the Bag





Return to It's a Mystery!




Arts & Humanities



  • K-2
  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12
  • Advanced



Brief Description

Build a mystery around the contents of a bag of evidence.



Students will
  • examine and identify the contents of a bag.
  • formulate a story that includes all contents of the bag.
  • create a logical mystery that includes the 5Ws (who, what, where, when, and why).


mystery, writing, evidence

Materials Needed

  • several paper bags
  • common items such as pens, wrappers, receipts, and other objects
  • paper and pencils

Lesson Plan

Some of the most creative writing is sparked by a simple thing. This language arts activity based on common objects can be done as a whole group activity, or with students working individually, with partners, or in small groups. Preparation for the activity includes gathering many common items like pens, wrappers, and receipts. Put five objects each in several paper bags (as many as will be required for your students or their groups). Vary the contents by including things like a rubber band, a barrette, lipstick, and any other small objects that may be appropriate.

Put 3-5 small items from the classroom in a small paper bag or shoebox and pass it around the classroom. Allow students just a few moments each to imagine what might be in the container without opening it. When the items reach the last student, collect the container. Invite the students to share their ideas about the container's contents. Then open it and discuss each item. Have the students help you tell the story of the objects. Where did each object come from? Who owns it?

If desired, place students in groups or allow them to choose partners. Distribute a bag to each student or group. Explain that this is a "bag of evidence" from a crime scene. The students' job is to write a mystery story that includes the objects as "clues" to solve the mystery. Each story must follow a logical pattern and address the questions who, what, where, when, and why.

Extension Activity
Create "radio mysteries" by having students read and record their work. These will be even more effective if students write their papers in play form.


Have students read their stories to the class and collect their work. Listeners can note the answers to the 5Ws for each story read. Evaluate the written work according to classroom writing expectations.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Cara Bafile

National Standards


Click to return to this week's Lesson Planning article, It's a Mystery!


Originally published 02/14/2003
Last updated 10/12/2010