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  • Writer's pictureMegan Yoshino

What do Sherlock Holmes and my kids have in common?

Curious as to what this intersection would be?  Read on!


Okay, so regardless of the man you envision when you think of Sherlock Holmes, be it Jeremy Brett, Benedict Cumberbatch, or even RDJ, Sherlock Holmes the character is incredibly good at what he does.  He looks at details and clues that the rest of us overlook to piece together with critical thinking.

Every older kiddo who comes through my doors, is introduced to Sherlock Holmes.  Because I am a millennial, my Sherlock is Benedict Cumberbatch.  His BBC Sherlock series was the best for me.  In the first episode, we see the introduction of John Watson to Sherlock.  Because it is a modern adaptation, John is brought to St. Bartholomew’s hospital, where Sherlock is in the middle of an investigation.  What happens next is a short sort of question and answer to whether John would make a good roommate (or flatmate as they say) for Sherlock. But the questions Sherlock asks John stump both him and the viewer.  I usually pause here to ask kids how could Sherlock possibly know all this information?  Their answers range from being really tech savvy and looking things up on John’s phone when he borrows it sending the text to genuine wonder and wide eyes and a blank stare.  

But the next clip I show is in a taxi where John asks Sherlock how he knew all the answers to John’s life at first meeting him.  Sherlock launches into a monologue of all the details he saw and the meaning as he crafts his story. At the end, John is absolutely astounded and applauds Sherlock’s skills.  

When we finish the clip, I explain to kids that how Sherlock reads crime scenes or people is how they need to learn to read stories or articles. 

One of my students said it best, “I have to learn to read books like how Sherlock reads Watson.” 

Chef’s kiss  That was exactly it.  But how many of us were taught to read like this?

We continually project to kids that reading is a passive activity, because we sit and read, but it is far from that.  Through direct instruction, we teach kids that while reading it is decoding words, reading with fluency, knowing vocabulary, understanding phrases, comprehension of sentences, remembering patterns of themes or symbols that repeat, analyzing what it means, synthesizing it back to our own lives, and evaluating if the information carries any weight.  ALL that goes into reading just fiction.  That’s not even covering the potential technical parts of nonfiction readings.  

This is helpful so that when kids read, I say, "Okay, Sherlock this. What does it mean? Why is this significant?"

What’s interesting is that when I explain this to people, they say they never learned this way either.  But my question back is that if we taught ALL students this way, how many more of us would be succeeding?  It’s not just “struggling” kids who should be taught this way.  ALL kids should be taught the ins and outs, the details of how things work with direct instruction.  WE lay the foundation for them to build upon.  

What do you think?  We should all learn reading comprehension like how Sherlock reads John?  Would your life be different if you were taught to read this way? 

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