Here are other strategies that Ron Schultz might have used to teach his Sherlock Holmes piece––i.e., to engage his sixth graders so they learn in class (an essential ingredient in every lesson).

To continue with this Sherlock-Holmes example [previous blog post)], what if Ron had asked students to create a play, casting detectives as historians? Or asked them to make pamphlets or posters? Or asked them to create a Holmes-Historian journal? They could have drafted a letter to convince their textbook publisher to include Holmes in the section, “What is History?” In the end, he could have asked all of them to write reflective essays and taken time to help them edit and rewrite in class. Eventually, the essays would make a class book, “What is an Historian?”

Or, he might have invited them to create public service announcements (PSAs) to persuade a younger audience to regard historians as detectives. The level of technology used to produce the PSA would depend on the sophistication of the students, and might include Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, iMovie and Movie Maker, and digital still camera or digital video camera. How exciting for them to use “their media” rather than exclusively paper and pencil!

This example ultimately demonstrates how Ron could have actively engaged students in learning in the classroom—and the endless possibilities available in the process. If, on the other hand, we teach assuming that students have all the tools necessary for learning, we miss opportunities for developing all-important literacy skills, a necessary prerequisite for success in the future. And, we miss engaging their minds.

What intrigues you about the approaches expressed here and in the previous blog? Have you used any of them? Would you like to try? Make a comment to begin the conversation.

Discover other such ideas for teaching literacy in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn that you can purchase from