Planting Clues in Short Stories

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Grade Level
High School
Length of Time
45 minutes to 1 hour

In this lesson plan, students will learn about planting clues. This is over the short story, "The Purloined Letter" by Edgar Allan Poe.


Students will learn:

*To develop a mystery like "The Purloined Letter" by Edgar Allan Poe

*To search for clues in other assigned reading material

*To write their own short story where they can plant clues

Materials Needed

"The Purloined Letter" by Edgar Allan Poe

*The information I have in the following section

*Paper for students to write their own short story where they plan clues


First, you will go over the following information with the students. You can also have students read "The Purloined Letter" by Edgar Allan Poe.

Then, you will show them how they can search for clues in other stories they read in their text books so they can understand what they read.

Finally, students will write their own short story where they plant clues for detectives to find.

Planting Clues

When writers start planning their stories, they plant clues or items that the police and readers are searching for in different places. Sometimes, these clues are hidden inside something like bedposts, walls, loose bricks, etc. On the other hand, these clues are placed in the most obvious place to throw readers and the police off guard. The most obvious place is in plain sight.

The Purloined Letter

In the story, "The Purloined Letter" by Edgar Allan Poe, C. Auguste Dupin investigates a crime. The narrator and C. Auguste Dupin were sitting in the dark when Monsieur G --, the Prefect of the Parisian police, opened the door and entered. The Monsieur told them about the purloined letter that the minister stole and how they searched every place in the apartment but couldn't find it. He also mentioned how they took the tables and the bed apart to see if anything was hidden inside the posts or the legs.

This is an example of how the police tried to think the way criminals think and where they might hide things. As a result, they couldn't locate the purloined letter. They didn't look in the obvious place, which was in plain sight.

Sometimes searching for things in places such as bedposts or table legs that detectives believe suspects would hide things could lead to the hidden item. However, the documents or other items might not be there. Police investigators have to search all of the places they think a suspect would hide something including the most obvious places. That's usually where clues are planted.

When Dupin and the narrator searched the apartment, Dupin started using his way of thinking. He tried searching in the obvious places - in plain sight. As a result, he didn't have to tear the place apart to find it. He found the letter in an obvious place.

This story revealed two different ways detectives conduct investigations - searching the whole apartment and by thinking things through and searching in the obvious places first.

In the first way, the detectives tore up the apartment to search for the items.

In the second way, Dupin searched in the most obvious places - in plain sight. He didn't have to tear up the apartment.


You can grade the students on their participation in class and on their short story they wrote.

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