It is a skilled teacher who can create a truly academic environment within a comprehensive urban high school. The teacher who uses this unit must become personally excited about detective fiction and mysteries in order to motivate students successfully and to encourage the cooperation of other school personnel.
Students bring such a wide variety of interests to school each day. The traditional use of printed materials competes fiercely with the students' preference for audio and visual media. To date, traditional teachers have struggled to compete with cassette and compact disc players and television. With the advent of the computer and the Internet, the art of discussion is on the decline. Even the most highly educated instructor struggles to create those absolutely necessary teachable moments throughout a school year. Most master teachers will cite only single instances during a week when a majority of students engage in a good lesson. And at best, these moments are unpredictable.
Because reading improvement may be hampered by a teenager's poor self-image, a six-foot tall male who reads at an elementary level will gain confidence among his peers if he can show that he is reading a "regular" adult book. He shines when he can demonstrate how well he can handle some aspect of the story or a discussion on a particular related subject. A lesson that allows him to bring a familiar officer from his neighborhood police sub station to class may give him enough confidence to tackle the printed word in a mystery. Guests from the New Haven Police Department or the Yale Police Force will be invited into the class several times during the progress of the unit. The class might be able to meet this officer at a local bookstore. In doing that, they can take quick look at the section on mysteries, or any book for that matter. It may be interesting to visit the police department forensic laboratory or the medical school to speak about the use of science in detective work. Medical interns can show students how various preserved body parts can be used to identify a murder victim.
It is also assumed that, if students discover the interest and pick up a book or magazine, a reading or classroom teacher, a tutor, a volunteer, or a parent can use the opportunity to teach a missing reading skill. Any one can provide a quick, mini lesson on decoding unknown words or even higher level skills such as increasing speed. In addition, a referral to a reading specialist may be more palatable if a student, particularly a six-foot tall male, can take an adult book to the instructional session. This kind of material is far more palatable than the "kiddie" books that are sometimes offered to low level readers.
Nobody said that learning has to be serious at all times. Sometimes, knowledge can be transmitted in a game. A teacher can use this game aspect to create some welcomed lighter moments in class. A detective story can be considered an intellectual game, with its own set of rules. There is usually a murder. The reader needs to see the clues. Good detective fiction does not allow for tricks. The reader should be able to draw logical conclusions. The detective or the character who acts as the detective must not be the criminal. The game may be simply a logic puzzle that serves as a warm up activity or homework.