Information for first class:
There are five basic elements in the detective story: the milieu (which is the world surrounding the characters, not only the setting but also culture and society, government and religion, family and traditions, everything), the victim, the criminal, the suspects, and the detective(s).
Poe referred to his stories as “tales of ratiocination.” In stories such as these, the primary concern of the plot is determining truth, and the usual means of obtaining the truth is a complex and mysterious process combining intuitive logic, astute observation, and discerning inference.
When you get to page 15, stop at the top of the page, at the end of that first paragraph that is carried over from page 14. Watson says that he came back to Holmes’ house the next evening to see if he had solved the mystery….
Look up the definition of the term “red herring” and be ready to discuss it in class. Many detective stories include red herrings. Why? Did you note any in this story?
(For more information on required reading for the class, please see my earlier post:
During the first class, we talked a little about mankind's enduring interest in riddles and codes. We used some of the Mind Bender Warm-ups puzzles, which are very simplistic, to get them thinking about solving puzzles using clues.
After the warm-up, we talked through several of the riddles from A Case of Red Herrings. These are meant to be used in a group and are a sort of twenty question game in which I can only answer 'yes' or 'no' in helping them narrow down possible answers (although I've had to do a bit more than that in getting them used to the game....)
I showed them how to work a grid puzzle, and gave them four additional grid puzzles to work prior to returning to class from the Mind Benders A1 series.
I also gave them two sheets that contain some number logic puzzles. These came from a Sherlock Holmes' workbook I found at Dover. One had more introductory notes on Sherlock Holmes and a simple number sequencing puzzle. The other had codes on both sides. I encouraged them to seek out more information from the library on codes and try creating their own to share in class. We did talk a little about symbolic, or numerical logic, and at the end of class we played a little SET, which is a symbolic logic game.
We talked a little about red herrings and how that term is used in logic debates or in the world of advertising, politics, etc. vs. how it might be used within a detective story. I also talked a little about deductive reasoning and how it differs from inductive reasoning.
We will follow this same approach each week: discussing the elements of the assigned story a little; doing some verbal logic puzzles; discussing the answers to the logic grids or puzzles completed at home during the week; playing some SET or other logic related games, etc.
I provided a list of some library books covering codes that we have at our local library:
Top Secret, Paul Janeczko (re: codes, ciphers, and secret writing)
The Master Spy Handbook, Rain Newcomb
Math Trek: Adventures in the Math Zone, Ivars Peterson - this one is more than just codes! It includes fractals, chaos theory and more VERY cool stuff!
The Cat's Elbow and Other Secret Languages, Alvin Schwartz (Pig Latin, need I say more?)
Destroy After Reading, the World of Secret Codes, Mary Colsen
"The Red-headed League"
These involve more numeric logic:
Here's a set of the riddle type that are rated from easy to difficult:
Because they all found the first set of logic puzzles I sent home too easy, I moved them into the second book, A2. Once we find a set that proves tricky for them to work, we'll slow down and move through that series. (None of these children had done logic puzzles before, or so I was told before class began, so I didn't know how they would do with them. Also, I have a mix of kids in class, from age 8-12.)
We continued talking about Red Herrings and added the Straw Man fallacy to the mix. We talked a little about deductive and inductive reasoning and I game them some work from the Sherlock Holmes book which involved simple puzzles using deductive skills. We'll build on these as we move through the course, adding more types of fallacies and continuing practice at recognizing the ones we've already discussed. I encouraged them to watch upcoming political debates, commercials, etc. to look for fallacies. We played a little SET, again, at the end of class.
I am using The Fallacy Detective to talk about logical fallacies with them, as well as some online material.
Assignment for third class:
For our third class, I asked them to read our first Father Brown story: "The Blue Cross:"
I'm a little perplexed with this class at this time, because I can't seem to get them to solve verbal puzzles through the Red Herrings book I'm utilizing in class, but they tell me the grid puzzles are too easy! Perhaps the visual aspect of the grid puzzles makes them simpler to solve than purely verbal puzzlers - I'm just not sure right now....
I had them work some assorted logic puzzles this week. These are from Discovery Toys, but I don't see them currently offered by the company. We again ended the class with them playing a little SET. They are getting better at it!
I asked them to go back to their Sherlock Holmes book for next week and read "The Mystery of the Blue Carbuncle." Of course, the first thing I'd like them to do is determine what a "carbuncle" might be.... Here's some additional vocabulary that I'd like them to define as they move through the story:
...and also a few more number puzzles: