We are all aware of the benefits of extensive reading, but some of us may feel unsure about how to approach longer texts in class. How should we scaffold the reading for our students and how much time should we dedicate to talking about the book in class? How will the students benefit from their reading experience? How can we link the book to our syllabus?
In these series of posts we would like to encourage you to take extensive reading seriously and take a novel into class. We will look at how you can prepare your students for the text and expand it beyond the frame of the story. It is important to prepare the students so they are aware of what they are doing, Some of them may feel intimidated by the idea of reading a book in English, others may not see the benefits. These fears and preconceptions can be easily addressed and thereby make the reading process much more beneficial and all-importantly FUN for the students. It is always a good idea for students to keep a WORD BOOK where they can jot down new words and expressions. We also recommend getting your students to read slightly below level ('I' minus 1) so they are at ease with the language and consolidating language while learning new words in context.
This month we continue with the two exciting detective stories in Sherlock Holmes and the Stolen Jewels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The book was adapted by Geraldine Sweeney and illustrated by Agilulfo Russo for teens and of course any adult reader at an elementary level of English (CEFR A1-A2).
Our aims are to:
- raise interest in the story,
- become familiar with the reader,
- find pathways into the story through projects,
- expand the social, cultural and historical setting of the story,
- make personal links,
- have fun.
Two stories, one reader
In the Helbling Reader Shelock Holmes and the Stolen Jewels you can read two stories. They both appeared in the Strand Magazine in 1892. Below you can see the main characters in them.
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
1 Start by introducing the character of Sherlock Holmes. Ask your students what they know about Sherlock Holmes. Maybe they have seen a film or TV adaptation of a Sherlock Holmes story or read a story in L1. What can they remember? Where are the stories set? Who is Sherlock's assistant? Where does he live? What does he look like? What words do they associate with him?
2 Talk about detectives. What makes a good detective? What skills and knowledge does one need to become one? Do your students know any famous detectives from film or fiction?
3 Make predictions from the illustrations. Ask your students to browse the book and write short sentences about what might be going on in the pictures. They can write them in their notebooks and then go back to their predictions as they are reading the book.
4 Before you start discussing the projects, share this Wordle image with your class. It shows the thirty most frequently used words in the readers (the bigger the word the more it is used). What do these words tell us about the story? Get the class to ask questions and make statements based on the words.
When you have become familiar with the book, offer a series of projects for your students to explore on their own or in pairs/groups. We recommend that your students choose their topic whenever they feel comfortable doing so (before, during or after reading). Some students might not be comfortable reflecting on the story from a personal point of view and they might not have the linguistic toolkit to analyze it critically. Projects can provide friendly pathways into the stories and they can also provide the basis for cross-curricular projects.
Project 1: Jewels
Where do the titles of the stories come from? What is a jewel? What is a stone, a crystal, a mineral? You can easily turn this project into a CLIL research task. Ask your students to check the meaning of 'beryl' and 'carbuncle'.
Words to check:
jewel - gem - stone - crystal - mineral
- What is the composition of some of the more common jewels (diamond, emerald, ruby)?
- What other types of precious and semi-precious stones are popular?
- What colour are they?
- What are the British Crown Jewels? List all of them.
- Are there any famous crown jewels in the history of your country?
Project 2: London in the 19th century
Find a map and some pictures of London in the 19th century. Which famous buildings were already there?
In these blog posts you will find more information and tips:
- Reading the streets of London
- Interactive Virtual Field Trip to the Sherlock Holmes Exhibition in London
- Literary Time Travel 3: Back to mid-19th century London with Charles Dickens and Oliver Twist
Project 3: Newspapers and magazines
In the 19th century newspapers and magazines were really popular. In 'The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle' we learn about the news and read advertistements in The Times. The stories themselves were published in the popular Strand Magazine.
- Are The Times and Strand Magazine still in print?
- Which are the most popular newspapers and magazines in the UK today?
Project 4: Markets
We read about the Covent Garden Market in 'The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle'. Where is this market? Does it still exist? Find it on a map.
- What other famous markets are there in London?
- Imagine that you visit another big city.
- What can you find in the market?
- Is there a market in your town or city?
- What can you buy there?
- When is it open?
- Is there a famous market in your country?
- Is it popular with tourists?
Project 5: Disguise
In 'The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet' Sherlock dresses as a tramp. Do you know any other stories in which a characters wear clothes as disguise? Why do they do this?
Project 6: Sherlock Holmes in films and TV series
Have you seen any adaptations of Sherlock Holmes stories in the cinema or on television? Are they similar to the original stories? Do you know about any adaptations which place the story in a contemporary setting? Have you ever seen a Sherlock Holmes board game or video game?
Project 7: The author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Who was Arthur Conan Doyle? Where was he born? What was his job? How and why did he become a 'Sir'?
Download a project planner from here to print out and take notes.