1) Students must find a handful of particularly vital references to smoking in The Big Sleep, then come up with some other activity, similarly habitual, to substitute in its place in an imitation of the scenes which they will compose. This will draw their attention to the technical role the smoking plays, as well as it may demystify the actual allure of the act of smoking. Certainly it is not the teacher's job to lecture students about why smoking is a bad idea, nor should scenes which romanticize the act be edited. Prohibitionism of most sorts seems to me below the potentiality of the classroom. Students can come up with very comical alternatives to smoking. Special attention should be paid to the structure of the reference. If Chandler uses a simile, the student should use a simile as well. The tone and attitude should be noted too. What the student should end up with is a handful of parodic scenes focused on a habitual activity repeatedly portrayed in the text, with enough details to assess the accuracy of the rendering. It is a permissive assignment, fun to all, all the while keyed to essential devices.
2) Weekly presentations: If the class is taught in a block period presentations may be given everyday during the first fifteen minutes of the class, with up to three different students taking five minutes each. If the class has only forty-five minutes, no more than 7-8 minutes should be spent on the presentation of one student. Students should be given a few minutes to answer questions. Presentations should be written, whether in notes or outline form, or in the form of an essay (preferably). Either way, the student should have something organized to hand to the teacher for evaluation, in addition to the oral presentation, and its evaluation. Speaking before the class may be difficult for shy students, but this difficulty should not be too difficult to surmount.
The presentations should focus on either a particular chapter or chapters, or on particular formulas employed in those chapters. There are countless topics fertile for investigation: historical contexts and geographical contexts; placement of the work within a genre or artistic context; the themes of the work; development of characters; use of figures of speech; the use of slang and jargon; use of color; topics later used for cinema and television; the problems of cliché, and so on.
3) Five-paragraph essay: Since most students in ninth and tenth grade need training in the five-paragraph essay anyway, and most in the eleventh and twelfth could use the practice and review, weekly essay assignments should prove immediately valuable. Students will follow the conventional form, and so, like the detective novelist, bend their free egos to the necessities of a form with rules. Emphasis should be on locating evidence in the text to support a thesis. It may help to let the students imagine that they are lawyers representing a client. The client is their argument; the evidence is their support. The thesis comprises their opening and closing statements. The reader of their essay is the judge and jury. This is especially useful to tenth graders as a practice for the CAPT test.