Mysteries Residency

Mantle of the Expert: Creating a Detective Agency

By: Arianna Ross


Storytelling, Drama, and Creative Writing provide the perfect entrance into the dramatic world of mysteries and problem solving. In this residency, the students are the experts. They create through a series of exercises a detective agency. They divide up into teams of detectives set up to solve the “school mystery.” From moment one, the students are actively involved in the drama, in creating the drama and in deciding the ultimate ending of the drama. Join internationally acclaimed storyteller and arts educator Arianna Ross, in this kinesthetic, highly engaging residency.


We will:

  1. Create a bridge between the reading of mysteries and the active writing of their original mysteries.
  2. Reinforce the literary elements of mysteries
  3. Expand their ability to use strong descriptive language
  4. Increase their understanding of how to work as a collaborative team



  • Specific techniques used to tell stories with a small group
  • The skills required to use their voice and body to communicate their ideas.
  • How to use their critical thinking skills to solve a problem
  • Criteria for creating a detective agency and who would need to work there to help it to run efficiently

Be Able To:

  • Create well-defined characters based on their understanding of who plays a role in the mysteries
  • Develop a series of stories which includes multiple perspectives of one event
  • Write a detailed journal entry
  • Compare and contrast different points of view about a historical event


  • Their own ability to speak confidently in front of their peers
  • The value of stepping into the “shoes” of someone different than themselves
  • The importance of solving a mystery
  • The arch of a story


  1. How are mysteries different from other stories?
  2. How does noticing the connections between story elements help me to better understand what I read and hear?
  3. What elements of a mystery create suspense?
  4. What roles are involved in solving the problem?
  5. How do we use critical thinking skills during the process of dramatically solving the mystery?

GRADE LEVEL: 4th Grade


  1. Character Development
  2. Voice control
  3. Staying in Role
  4. Concept of a Dramatic Story Line

CURRICULUM OBJECTIVES TAUGHT (from state or local curriculum)

Compose oral, written, and visual presentations that express personal ideas, inform, and persuade

Compose texts using strategies of effective writers and speakers

Develop comprehension skills through exposure to a variety of text

Control language by applying the conventions of Standard English in speaking and writing.

Demonstrate effective listening to learn, process, and analyze information.

Demonstrate the ability to apply theatrical knowledge, principles, and practices to collaborative theatre presentations.


Lesson Questions

1. How do you create strong, dramatic characters?

2. What are the qualities of an effective detective agency or a detective?


  1. Introduce class to the elements of mantle of the expert.
  2. Design the detective Agency: Restructure the classroom. Create a map of the space so that the space can be recreated on the following day. Create the task forces that one would find


Lesson Questions

  1. How does it feel to play the role of a detective?
  2. How did we use our voice and body to develop our character further?


From the moment, we change the room into the detective agency we are in the drama. At no point will the students step out of their roles (teachers may be required to step in and out of role to give any instructions)

  1. Setting up the Tasks Force: Parallel play
  2. Writing our interview questions


Focus Questions

1. What critical thinking skills do we need to use to solve our problem?

2. What are the steps we can take to solve the crime(s)?


  1. Completing the Interviews
  2. Day Four: A new complaint is submitted
  3. Day Five: The Suspects are reviewed and the process begins again


Focus Questions

  1. How has this mystery been different from other types of stories?
  2. How do we use critical thinking skills during the process of dramatically solving the mystery?


  1. Lining up the Suspects and proving who undoubtedly caused the crime(s)
  2. Wrapping up the Drama and reflecting on the process


Boal, Augusto, Games for Actors and Non-Actors, Routeledge.

Edited by Allison Cox and David H. Albert. The Healing Heart~ Communities ~ Families. New Society Publishers, 2003.

Edmiston, Brian, Wilhelm, Jeffery. Imagining to Learn: Inquiry, Ethics, and Integration Through Drama. Heinemann: New Hampshire, 1998.

O’Neil, Cecily and Lambert, Alan. Drama Structures: A Practical Handbook for Teachers. Heineman Educational Books: Portsmouth, 1982.

Spolin, Viola. Theatre Games for the Classroom. Northwestern University Press.

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