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The Adventure of the Speckled Band
By Arthur Conan Doyle
An investigative journey
Target class: 5th
year of a Liceo linguistico
Class composition: 24 Italian students (one SEN and another disabled)
Level: B2 of the CEFR
Time of school year: second term
Length of the teaching unit: 2 lessons
Length of lessons: 4 hours
Teaching tools: IWB, textbook, worksheets, pictures, Internet resources
Pre-requisites: Students have a general knowledge of the historical, social and cultural
context of the Victorian Age. In particular they have understood the concept of ―Victorian
compromise‖; the dynamics linked to the process of industrialization; its social
consequences, such as the spread of urban slums and workhouses. They are able to put these
important changes in a cause/effect connection with the Utilitarian philosophy and the main
social reforms made in those years. The students are able to create links between different
forms of artistic expression, such as for example cinema and literature.
General aims: developing skills in coping with different or opposite opinions; respecting
different points of view; redesigning their own ideas through discussions;
contextualizing the author in a particular historical period; listening and watching critically,
interpreting and evaluating.
Learning objectives: Students will acquire a good knowledge of A. C. Doyle through his
major literary achievement, Sherlock Holmes; Ss will understand that Sherlock Holmes’
adventures have been read by millions of people and continue to remain popular, thus
realizing its strong impact on the public; Ss will learn the main features of the literary genre
of the detective story; Ss will revise the main aspects of the Victorian age
Methods and strategies: Communicative approach; Inductive method; ESA technique;
Classroom interaction (Work in pairs and in groups) & Cooperative Learning as Follow Up
Lesson (2 hours)
Step: Warm up (pre-watching activity, brainstorming, class discussion)
Look at these images, Can you guess what or who they refer to?
They refer to one of the most famous detectives in the world
What can you tell about Sherlock Holmes?
Have you ever read one of his adventures or watched
them in a movie?
What do you think about him and his stories?
Step: Watching activity
Now we are going to watch a short part (7 min.) of a
movie which relates one of his adventures. Pay attention
to as many elements as you can and take notes
Step: Post-watching activity (pair work)
Answer the following questions in pair (choose from the words suggested and/or add
your own words when possible; sometimes more than one answer is possible)
1) What is the atmosphere of the scene?
Gloomy funny tense mysterious cool frightening …
2) In which part of the day does it take place?
Early in the morning Late in the afternoon During the night
3) Where is it set?
In a cottage In a castle In the town In the countryside
4) Are there any animals on the screen? If yes, what kind of animals are there?
What do you think about their presence on the scene-setting? Is it:
Normal Unusual Funny Original … ?
Step: Reading and while-reading activity (individually)
The short video we have seen is from ―The Adventure of the Speckled Band‖ (1984),
dramatized by Jeremy Paul for the Granada UK Channel under the direction of John
Bruce, after the short story by A. Conan Doyle bearing the same title. Now read the
passage of the handout individually and underline the passages where you can find
evidence of the elements we have pointed out in the previous activity. Remember to
focus your attention on:
- The atmosphere
- The time and place setting
- Presence of animals
Step: Post-reading activity
Now focus on the characters and on the development of narration
1) Holmes and Watson are waiting in the dark room for something to happen,
which is their attitude?
2) Do the two characters show the same understanding of what is going on? If no,
which of the two characters appears to be more in command of the situation?
Why? Give evidence for your answer
3) What insight are you given of the two characters? Focus self-reliance, reactions
to frightening and dangerous situations, capacity of reasoning etc.
4) Who does the narrator’s voice belong to?
5) Here is a schema of the parts constituting a detective story:
a. Initial situation
b. Setting of the problem
d. Formulation of hypothesis
e. Final solution
Which part have you just analyzed?
Step: Homework assignment (creative writing)
Transform yourself into the author and invent a beginning for this short story
Step: Warm up (brainstorming, short class discussion)
On the basis of what you know about the Victorian context and of the aspects
emerged and analyzed in the last lesson, in which way does Sherlock Holmes reflects
the values of its age?
The teacher shows some slides to help students focus on the main characteristics of
Doyle’s detective story, the Victorian context and their relationship and makes some
quick reference to the author
Sherlock Holmes and the detective
- Holmes is a middle class man and
embodies almost all the values of
the middle class
- We know that he is not rich:
Watson and Holmes are introduced
to one another because Holmes
needs a flatmate to help him afford
his rent. But neither is he poor,
maintains a lifestyle that includes
dining out, violin concerts,
holidays in the countryside, and
other such luxuries.
- Class-belonging was an important
aspect of identity in Victorian
London, if not the most important
aspect. People seemed to define
themselves almost exclusively by
occupation and status.
- Holmes shows conformism and
attention to public respectability
- The Victorian compromise: a
society characterized by the co-
existence of poverty and prosperity,
progress and social reforms, a
definite distinction between public
and private sphere
- Holmes has a rationalistic,
deductive approach to life, using
the tools of scientific inquiry as
aids in his career
- The works of Charles Darwin’s
"On The Origin of Species" had
been published in 1859, the year
Arthur Conan Doyle was born and
they challenged the religious
understanding of the origins of
humanity. Many Victorians found
themselves challenging established
religion in favor of a more
scientific, rationalistic, empirical
approach to the world.
- The presence of crime (usually
murder) in his adventures
- He always wins in his struggle
against crime, balance is always
reestablished in his stories
- Moral message
- People were worried of the
increased rage of criminality due to
social problems (inequality,
miserable work and life conditions
- order and hierarchy must be always
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Born 1859 in Scotland
Studied Medicine and became a
doctor in 1885
Began writing in 1887, A Study
in Scarlet– 1st
Wrote dozens of Sherlock
Holmes stories for the Strand
Killed off Sherlock Holmes in
1893 because he was tired of
writing that kind of fiction
Brought Holmes back ten years
later due to fan outrage
Knighted in 1902 by Edward
Step: preparation for the students’ expansion activity (the whole class together
with the teacher)
The teacher and the students prepare a glossary and a chart as prompts for the
Clue — anything that serves to guide or direct in the solution of a problem,
Red Herring — something that diverts attention from the actual facts of a case;
a misleading clue
Motive — reasons to commit the crime
Means — resources to commit the crime
Opportunity — chances to commit the crime
of committing the
Reason to commit
commit the crime
Step: Homework (group work)
Students are divided into three groups. Each group will prepare a Power Point
presentation on a famous past or present detective of their choice with the help of the
materials prepared in class.