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© 2005 Peter Burkhart

 

Introduction

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most identifiable literary figures in the world. The stories of Arthur Conan Doyle have been reprinted countless times, are available on the Internet and on tape. Numerous stories expanding Doyle’s character’s adventures after his death continue to be published. Films have been made and trade journals exploring the character published.

When Doyle first wrote the Holmes stories, He considered them less important than his more serious written work on spiritualism, but when he decided to do away with the character in "The Final Problem," fans demanded he resurrect the character and write more adventures.

To many, Holmes remains the standard for the modern day detective story. His adventures have led fans to develop societies for further study of the "canon" and prompted numerous publications that contain scholarly articles. Holmes has been integrated into popular culture through his mannerisms and his well-known sayings (some accurate and some not) are repeated in daily conversations.

As a fan of the canon, I was surprised to learn that there is very little published about how to integrate Doyle’s work into middle and high school literature classrooms as a unit of study. There are many articles written in education journals about other literary characters and authors, but Doyle is noticeably missing, even though his character has been imitated by other authors.

I made the decision to expose my seventh grade honor students to Arthur Conan Doyle’s work throughout the 2004-2005 school yearwhen my school adopted the America’s Choice school model which requires schools to choose an author to study. I concluded that the recommended author, Gary Soto, was not an appropriate choice for honors students who were reading well above grade level. Soto’s work would not have challenged these students nor presented an opportunity for academic growth.

Doyle’s work, by contrast, offered the opportunity for an in depth study of a literary character that would challenge and enhance their development as readers and writers and provide the opportunity for exposure to numerous works by one author.

This unit demonstrates how middle and high school teachers can use Doyle’s "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" as an effective unit of study in the English literature classroom. It provides lesson plans, examples of students’ work, and a comprehensive collection of Internet and library resources that I used during the 2004-2005 school year in my seventh grade honors language arts class.

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