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Logic to the Rescue

Silver Blaze

Where is the renowned racehorse Silver Blaze on the eve of England's Wessex Cup; and who killed his trainer John Straker?  Those questions face Sherlock Holmes as this 1892 short story opens.  Put your students in place of the famed detective.  Can they reconstruct the chain of events that Holmes eventually sees so clearly?

  1. Make copies of Silver Blaze, part 1 for each student in your class.  (If your students are less able readers, try this.)
  2. Distribute them and ask your students to have the story read by a date you specify.
  3. When class convenes on the date the reading is due, divide the students into working groups of 3 or 4 each.
  4. Instruct each group that it is their job to prepare the following lists from information presented in the story
  1. the facts that Holmes deduces or discovers
  2. the suspected killers of John Straker
  3. the suspected whereabouts of Silver Blaze
  1. Have the groups move to specified areas within your room to form discussion circles and begin work.  Allow them the balance of the class period to complete their assigned tasks.
  2. When class reconvenes, lead a discussion where students use their lists to attempt to reach a consensus on master class lists.
  3. Once you have agreed upon the lists, attempt to eliminate the impossible and determine the horse's location and Straker's killer.
  4. Distribute copies of Silver Blaze, part 2 (made prior to this class period).
  5. Allow students time to read the handout.
  6. Discuss the following
  1. If your students like video, show and discuss the 1987 Jeremy Brett version of Silver Blaze.  Discuss how, if at all, it differs from the print story?

If your students are less able readers

If the readings are too lengthy for your students to handle, try this.  Break part 1 into bite-sized segments, each no longer than what can be mastered by your students.  Print each segment on an assignment sheet (here is a one I used in a middle school class).  The merge feature of most modern word processing programs makes this manageable.  Give one to each student; making sure to keep track of who has which segment.  In the proper order, ask each student to read his or her segment.  After each reading, have the class add whatever it can to the three lists you're generating.  If all students have read before part 1 is complete, distribute more segments and continue as before.  Once you've finished part 1, review the lists and try to solve the mystery.  Go on to prepare segments from part 2, and have students read them aloud as before.  Once finished, use the discussion questions above to wrap up.

 For more Sherlock Holmes

The Sherlockian Holmepage contains links to everything Holmes on the web.  As almost all of the novels and stories are now in the public domain, you'll find many links to text you can use in class or for student research assignments.


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original web posting: Sunday, June 10, 2001
last modified: Monday, May 04, 2009