The teaching of AP® World History can be a daunting task at times. Teachers are asked to teach over 800 years of historical content and then develop very specific skills so that students can be successful in the class. It can leave teachers feeling like they are constantly on an escalator, moving through content and skills at a fast and steady pace, but never able to get off and take time to explore. However, being able to take time to do a lesson that is both academically beneficial and fun is essential to building a healthy classroom environment. I use this lesson to do just that.


This activity is best used as an introduction to a specific time period in AP® World History but can also be used as a review for that same time period. It can easily be adapted for other time periods in AP® World just by taking the spirit of the lesson and using relevant and corresponding people. This lesson can also be used after the AP® World Exam has been taken as a fun end of the year activity.


The activity starts by creating a fictitious historical murder (in this case Louis XVI) and then telling the students that they will be asked to solve the mystery. Students get a list of suspects that they have to mindfully research, paying attention to targeted and specific areas of focus. (All suspects are relevant to the AP World history course and curriculum). The murder mystery plays out in one day as students get clues and then have to make the necessary connections, use logic and each other to correctly identify the suspect.


The objective of the lesson is to facilitate discussion about historical figures relevant to AP® World and make relevant connections within a specific time period. There is a way to calculate a winner and the winning team gets a “significant reward”, which usually means a special call-in from a parent congratulating them on their accomplishment. This activity is educational in that students retain the information learned about the historical individuals in a given time period but offers a nice buffer to the rigor that this class so often demands.


Download the lesson here and get ready for a fun and engaging class!

four pages fanned out showing AP World History Murder Mystery Party activity and teacher instructions. Text reads "DOWNLOAD ACTIVITY HERE"


Dave Drzonek is in his 22nd year of teaching at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Illinois, and has been teaching AP® World History since 2006. He is currently a Senior Reviewer and Writer for the AP® World History: Modern coursebook by AMSCO® and has developed and delivered AP® World History content for the online video-based AP® test prep service GetAFive. He has also been a reader for the Advanced Placement® World History Exam. He earned his M.A. in Teaching, Curriculum and Instruction at Governors State University in Illinois. He believes that there is no greater way to spend a lifetime than teaching.