Although any literary genre can lend itself to teaching critical thinking skills, the detective novel, as I’ve discovered, will be an excellent curriculum source in that it encourages discussion topics, such as problem-solving; issues of moral responsibility; and issues of gender, race, and milieu. Therefore, an integrated unit on detective fiction which encompasses not only the Language Arts, but also, Math, Science, and Social Studies is possible.
A positive learning environment must invite curiosity and launch the student into a spirit of adventure. Students have long been turned off by the traditional approach to teaching and learning wherein they merely serve as an audience, expected to sit, lis ten, and absorb information, both oral and written. The use of manipulatives and hands-on materials, I have discovered, furthermore, are not enough to make the full connection to understanding. Maintaining a good attitude in the classroom means supporting the students’ curiosity about their world and guiding the excitement of learning into a manageable course of study. My stories provide a means of escape from our own reality while we are immersed in enjoyable reading, through exciting plots and suspense.
Developing readers must be encouraged to make predictions and use their imaginations as they try to make sense of print. In the detective story, since the reader does not know the truth, these skills are at work throughout, as he follows the detective wh o systematically uncovers the clues until, finally, the truth is discovered.
It is characteristic of human nature to become comfortable with what is familiar to us. As one finds satisfaction in reading the detective novel and is led to recognize that a basic formula exists, an eagerness to read more of this genre should follow. Th ere are five basic elements in the detective story: the milieu, the victim, the criminal, the suspects, and the detective(s). The plot centers around the question of “who done it,” which keeps the readers’ attention, building excitement from the elimination of several suspects to the surprise ending -the key to a good detective story. The actual criminal is finally caught and brought to justice. As the student reads the novel, following the detective’s lead, his/her own logic and reasoning skills are sha rpened.