Thinking Like Historians – Murder Mystery style

I received a request via Twitter (thanks @KiplingEric) to detail my Day 2 activity for the beginning of the school year.  The first week for my 7th graders is dedicated to procedures and building our minds to THINK LIKE HISTORIANS.  I love using SHEG’s curriculum for Reading Like a Historian (and their push towards revolutionizing assessment), and putting their corroboration, contextualization, sourcing, etc. techniques into practice has been both fun and educational!  

A special thanks goes to Peter Pappas for inspiring my murder mystery with his First Day of School plans to jumpstart student thinking.

When students entered the classroom we discussed shows like Law & Order, CSI, NCIS…and how several different careers utilize the skills that historians also use regularly.  

 Screenshot 2014-08-12 21.12.24

This gave value to the lesson and was a great way for me to get the kids to really buy-in to what we’re going to be doing all year long.  After the hook, each student was given a clue for the murder mystery!  I used one of Mr. Pappas’ mysteries as a template to guide me in writing my own.  The students all recommended making it into a performance next time/year…have a chalk outline and use people in school or the community to participate!  I’m all for it!  

I’ve had some success with this in 7th grade Social Studies and World History in the past.  I like creating Law&Order style challenge-based learning projects to practice our Historical Methods.  In our Google world, content is important but the skills our Social Studies classes help kids develop are of paramount importance if we want them to be productive citizens of the world!  


Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑