The Westing Game Lesson Plans

Ellen Raskin’s 1978 novel The Westing Game remains quite popular with today’s students. As the book’s characters race to inherit Westing’s estate by figuring out his murderer, students are swept up by the engaging mystery. Readers discover the clues along with the novel’s quirky characters, and are thus given an equal opportunity to solve the mystery themselves. This Newbery winner is a great way to introduce young readers to the mystery genre with plot structure, point of view, and the elements of mystery.

Student Activities for The Westing Game

Mystery Genre

The most compelling aspect of The Westing Game is its mystery: who killed Sam Westing and why were all the heirs lured to Sunset Towers? The thrill of solving the crime keeps students reading and often makes them attentive to small details and clues. For this reason, The Westing Game can be an effective novel with which to teach about the mystery genre. Pre-teaching common mystery elements from the list below will help students identify them as they appear in the novel.

Elements of Mystery

  • Mysterious death or crime to be solved
  • Main character is a detective and sorts out the mystery
  • Group of suspects and their motives that must be weighed and evaluated
  • Clues
  • Hidden evidence
  • Suspense
  • Foreshadowing
  • Red herrings

Essential Questions for The Westing Game

  1. How do friendships improve a person’s life?
  2. How does Westing’s game end up helping the heirs?
  3. Is Sam Westing a good person?
  4. What does it mean to make amends? Why is this important?
  5. How important is money to a person’s happiness?
  6. What is more important to the Westing heirs: friendship or money?
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