The Weekly Text, July 13, 2018

It’s Friday the 13th! On this day in 1787, by an act of the Congress of the Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance became law. Also on this day in 1930, soccer’s first World Cup matches were played. In 1985 on this day, Live Aid concerts for Ethiopian Famine relief were held in London and Philadelphia. It’s the birthday of Jean-Luc Picard; British actor Sir Patrick Stewart is, amazingly, 78 years old today.

This week’s Text is a lesson plan, one of many, that I worked up to use with Lawrence Treat’s series of kid’s books, Crime and Puzzlement. I came across these materials in two books last year, to wit George Hillocks Jr.’s  otherwise unremarkable Teaching Argument Writing Grades 6-12: Supporting Claims with Relevant Evidence and Clear Reasoning (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2017), but also in two separate papers contained in Keith J. Holyoak and Robert G. Morrison’s (eds.) The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005). All three of these texts extolled the Crime and Puzzlement books as exemplary instructional material for teaching students to assess, analyze, and synthesize evidence in support of an argument and contention.

I ordered the first volume, broke it up and scanned texts for several of the “cases,” and tried them out in my classroom. My freshman English students jumped right into these, and clearly enjoyed them. So I knew I had to build a unit to rationalize the use of this material in my classroom.

Now, about four months later, that unit is nearing completion, and I have 72 lessons in the unit. This week’s Text offers you the first lesson plan in the Crime and Puzzlement Unit Plan. To teach this lesson, you’ll need this worksheet on the case entitled Boudoir. To “solve” the “case,” you’ll need the answer key. Depending on how you begin your class period and its duration, you may want to start the lesson with a do-now exercise, which for this lesson is this Cultural Literacy worksheet on Marie Antoinette’s probably apocryphal statement “Let them eat cake.”

Unfortunately, the Crime and Puzzlement books (there are three in total) appear to remain in copyright, so I don’t think I can ethically or legally post many of these lesson plans. If you choose to contrive your own material based on these books, I can post the unit plan (it’s not quite ready as of this writing) for you; it will contain the standards met, a lengthy, discursive justification for using these methods and materials, and other supporting documentation.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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