Grade Levels: 3-5

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-5, students play Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case, a game that invites them to take on the role of a scrappy young history detective, collecting artifacts and unraveling clues about each one. To solve the mysteries, students use critical thinking and historical inquiry, just like real historians.  

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Investigate, identify, corroborate and contextualize primary source evidence.
  2. Support arguments with evidence.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard


This lesson plan features a game called Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case, developed by our partner, Field Day Lab. This game challenges students to use the same skills as real historians--investigation, identification, corroboration, and contextualization--to piece together the story of different primary sources for an upcoming museum exhibit.

Preview and play Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

Read Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case: SnapThought Prompts for more information and specific SnapThought prompts to provide students during game play.

Assign Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case to the whole class using the Assignment Builder.

Depending on your classroom routines and available technology, you may want to consider these grouping options:

  • 1:1 with students and devices
  • Two to three students sharing one device and swapping ideas and the device back and forth
  • Station model where small groups rotate through using the devices

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Write the word “mystery” on the board. Ask students what they think of when they hear the word mystery. Jot down their responses. Then ask them how people solve mysteries--what do they need to consider. Students will likely respond that they look for clues, think about what they already know, do research, etc. You can share some ideas if they need help answering.
  2. Follow up by telling students that today they will play a game in which they take unravel the stories behind mysterious artifacts by analyzing and researching them. Explain that critical reasoning is key to success in this game. Show the BrainPOP movie Critical Reasoning on the whiteboard as an introduction or a review
  3. After the movie, project the game Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case on the whiteboard. If needed, model how to play by clicking the characters to see what they have to say. Once students know what to do, have them  open the assignment and start playing.
  4. Circulate as students play and help as needed. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, encourage them to use the SnapThought tool to take snapshots and describe their thinking as they play.  For suggested prompts, see Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case: SnapThought Prompts.  
  5. Once everyone has completed the game, bring the class together to discuss and review what they learned. If students used SnapThought, encourage them to share their reflections.