Introduction to Sherlock Holmes

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SWBAT understand background information and historical context of the Sherlock Holmes stories

Big Idea

What makes a genre of popular fiction still readable 130 years later?

Lesson Overview

This small unit consists of four lessons regarding Sherlock Holmes and detective fiction as a genre.  

In the unit we will cover:


  • Detective fiction as a genre
  • The popularity of Sherlock Holmes
  • Analysis of narrative structure in a Sherlock Holmes story

Who is Sherlock Holmes

10 minutes

Class begins when I ask the question:  What makes certain stories popular for generations while others fall out of print?  

We discuss that stories need to have themes and plot lines that are universal and timeless and that the story needs to connect with audiences in fresh ways. 

I think direct them to the PowerPoint on the board.  

Slides 1-3 – Introduce the topic and have students Think-Pair-Share on their background information about Sherlock Holmes.  Then have a few students report back on what they know.

I ask for a show of hands of people who have heard of Sherlock Holmes; about two-thirds of the students raise their hands. 

Did you know that Sherlock Holmes started out in the pages of a popular magazine called The Strand at the end of the 19th centiry? Many of the students shake their heads. We're going to look at how the original Sherlock Holmes character has remained popular for over 120 years, and how that character differs from the 21st century, Robert Downy Jr. character we're all familiar with.

We're also going to look at how the genre of detective fiction, while not invented by A. Conan Doyle was made popular and how he established certain literary conventions of the genre. 



Overview of A. Conan Doyle

15 minutes

Slides 4-7 – Introduce A. Conan Doyle as the author of the stories- discuss the importance of background information on author, genre, audience and historical context and how it enriches a text.

Slide 8 – Optional – watch this interview of Conan Doyle from the summer of 1927 in which he explains how he came to write the Sherlock Holmes stories and his views on spiritualism.



Rapid Research

30 minutes

I then have students perform a rapid search.  Using their phones they have 30 seconds to find a fact about A. Conan Doyle we haven't discussed yet.  The fact must come from a reputable source and must be unique.  They will then share these facts with their classmates, so that each student will have eighteen unique facts about A. Conan Doyle. 

Students go around the room sharing these facts with each other and then writing them down in their notes. I don't collect the facts, but I do encourage students to save them for the response paper they are going to write.