CSI Lesson Plans Can Turn Students Into Learning Detectives

Children learn to use the methods of good detection for solving a crime, and even analyzing literature.

By Kristen Kindoll


Literature Detectives

Crime Scene Investigations (CSI) is the new hot term for old school detection. Students can learn how to become detectives to solve mysteries in all all different areas of the curriculum - from literature to science. The theme "catching the perpetrator" can apply to many different disciplines, and provides a great way to break up the day.

Setting the scene of the crime always gives the right atmosphere. Sherlock Holmes is the grand expert on mysterious "who dunits". You could set the stage for students by reading a Sherlock Holmes story or just discussing the famous sleuth. He provides a classic example of using observation, and offers a great way to begin a mystery unit. It is also a good way to introduce students to the scientific method, where observations are integral to making a hypothesis.

If you are working with younger children, short, kid-friendly mysteries can be found in the Encyclopedia Brown series. The mysteries are concise, and the answers to questions posed in the story are answered in the back of the book. The deductive reasoning is always between the lines and solvable. Mystery: Encyclopedia Brown - Boy Detective uses the books in fun activities, but has great extension lessons incorporating the cartoon "Scooby Doo". There are worksheets and assessment tests for added resources.

CSI - Second Grade Style has a step by step walk through of the elements that make a good detective. Children will observe and collect information after being introduced to the mystery. Phase two of the lesson objectives consists of the analyzing of the collected data. There are specific labs which examine the evidence to narrow down the culprit. Phase three takes the information gleaned from conducting the experiments and using it to interview the suspects. Real people could be used for the experiment or a rubric, which has all the pertinent information detailed, could be substituted.

There are so many ways to dig deeper into the C.S.I. school. The coordination of a field trip to a real detective agency (like a police station), or having a private detective come for a talk is another extension to a real world exposure. Detective schooling helps children learn that science doesn't have to be just boring classroom affair, but is intricate in solving exciting problems that otherwise would go unsolved.  Check out the additional detective lesson ideas below.

C.S.I. Lesson Plans:

Become a Detective has great extension activities with weblinks to cool mysteries for children to solve. The mysteries are used to illustrate the process of making predictions from given clues.

Crime Scene Investigations with Powdery Mildew Fungi is a more advanced lesson for high school aged children. The material is more complicated and teaches specific technical applications.

DNA Murder Mystery uses Photoshop for creation of fingerprints. Parents, who are interested in teaching their children the computer program, could use this exercise as a great jumping off point.

Sherlock Holmes - Teaching English Through Detective Fiction incorporates the literature of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the use of film.  The lesson compares several Sherlock films, some on the real stories and others are interpretations from the character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Scientific Method: This website has information about the scientific method.

Mystery: Encyclopedia Brown - Boy Detective: This website has a lesson to go along with the Encyclopedia Brown series.

CSI - Second Grade Style: This website has a lesson for young children on crime scene investigation.


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Kristen Kindoll