Fifth-grade students have an affinity for mystery and detective fiction. The fifth-graders’ guiding principle of what is right and fair is satisfied by the tidy conclusion of a mystery story. Given to analyze the motives of him/herself and others, the fifth-grader is drawn to the psychological elements of mystery and detective fiction, exercising and improving his/her reasoning skills. Perhaps curiosity and a touch of paranoia add to the enjoyment of this genre, which deals with essential and urgent problems.
In my unit, I will:
present a short history of dime novels, stressing their relationship to detective fiction and moral education;
place the discussion of dime novels in an historical context; and
discuss the elements of mystery and detective fiction which will foster the growth of values clarification, careful reading, active thinking, and decision-making skills. The development of personal integrity, a characteristic of detective fiction, will be stressed.
“Undiscovered Values” will be a year-long unit because I see each of my groups once a week. Our study of mystery and detective fiction will become part of the creative problem-solving/higher level thinking skills my co-teacher and I include in our curriculum.
I hope that my students will examine the lives they are living as well as the work we do in class. I believe strongly that the former is influenced by the latter, just as I believe strongly that human values can and must be taught in the classroom. Such education has strong implications for our collective future; because this is so, the importance of values/moral education must not be minimalized. When I introduce my students to values/moral education, I am teaching them survival skills.