Crime Scene Investigations at the Library!

The school library is an invaluable resource for pupils who can use it confidently. Here, school librarian Chris Morrison describes how an amazing murder mystery project turns S1 pupils into library experts!

Murder at Grim Marsh House is designed to introduce the library at Linlithgow Academy to new first year pupils.  The aim is to familiarise them with the layout of the library and the resources they can find there. It also demonstrates how the library is organised, how to find resources as well as locate specific information. The project is in the form of a murder mystery which the pupils have to solve by completing tasks in different parts of the library, gradually building up evidence so they can identify the murderer.

 The scene is set with a power point presentation of black and white slides of bare trees, gloomy skies and bleak marshland which culminate in pictures of an old spooky mansion. Over this, I describe the desolate Grim Marsh and the house with a dark reputation. This house, because of its past, has been chosen by the British Crime Writer’s association as the location for their annual ceremony where the winner of the  prestigious ‘Silver Dagger’ award for the best crime novel written in the last twelve months will be announced. About an hour after the event, the winning author is found dead at the bottom of the stairs. A tragic accident…..or is it?

The pupils are then told that they are Scene of CrimeOfficers who must try and work out what has happened. They are shown the intranet web site which they will use to help gather evidence. The site guides them through the different tasks they have to perform. They have to find the location of the murder, the time of the murder, the murder weapon, find clues at the crime scene, eliminate suspects from their enquiries, check alibis and finally identify the murderer. On each page of the website there is text which explains more about the part of the library they will be working in. If they read that carefully, they should have enough information to complete the task set there. The pupils are then divided randomly into teams with a maximum of three members and given a set of detective notes to record their answers. Working as a team and perhaps with someone they don’t know that well is an important part of the experience.

Click here to find out all the tasks the pupils have to solve!

This project is run in three consecutive 50 minute periods so it is a race against time to solve the mystery. As most of the directions they need are displayed on an intranet site, photocopying is kept to a minimum.

The pupils all really enjoy the challenge and tackle it enthusiastically. The fact that members of staff are pictured, not just as the main suspects but also the victim, adds an extra bit of fun. Most groups manage to solve the crime in the time scale and move on to extension work writing their own mystery set in Grim Marsh. The feed back from them is very positive and they all claim that the library is an easy place to use. The longer term effect is that pupils not only display a degree of confidence in using the library but that they seem happy to use it.

Next week, Chris explains how pupils build on their library skills in 'The French Blue Mystery'. Subscribe to this blog to be updated!

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