Before Viewing: Questions and Activities
- Some of the best-known skills of Sherlock Holmes are his powers of observation and deduction. (For example, have students read Chapter One of The Hound of the Baskervilles and note what Holmes discovers about Dr. Mortimer just from his walking stick.) To demonstrate, ask a staff member to stop by your classroom. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, turn your back. At that moment, have the visitor borrow something from your desk (set this up ahead of time). A few minutes later, ask students where the missing item is. When students identify the visitor as the borrower, ask them to write a physical description of him or her. Have students read their descriptions aloud. As a class, compare and contrast the variations in what each one observed.
- The essential plot of The Hound of the Baskervilles forms a classic story line that can be found in countless other works of fiction: Someone new comes to stay in an isolated place with which legends and mysteries are associated. This person's life and/or sanity is threatened by increasingly frightening events until a perpetrator is caught. As a class, brainstorm a list of books, films, television shows, legends, myths, ghost stories, or other stories that share this same basic setup. Ask students, Why do you think this is such an enduring premise for a story?
- The detective is a staple of popular culture. Have students list fictional detectives, from movies, television, books, cartoons, or any other source. Then, looking over the list, have them write a paragraph describing how the "typical" -- there may be more than one -- fictional detective looks, talks, and acts as well as what he or she does and says. As a class, compare and contrast the characteristics. After watching the film, have students revisit their descriptions. How closely does it describe Sherlock Holmes? Would you agree with the scholar Ian Ousby who wrote, "Modern detective fiction abounds in direct and indirect tribute to Sherlock Holmes, in pale imitations of Doyle's formula, and in desperate attempts to break from it?" What "direct or indirect" tributes do students see on their original list of detectives?
- In a well-constructed detective story, nothing is wasted; each scene adds suspense and clues to the hunt for "whodunit." Watch the first six minutes of The Hound of the Baskervilles. (Note: The very first scene briefly shows an autopsy. Be sure to preview the film to make sure it is appropriate for your class.) What elements of mystery and suspense are already in play before we even meet Sherlock Holmes? Have students use the Detective's Log to begin compiling clues and making predictions about what they've already seen. Have them continue the log as they watch, stopping at the end of each viewing day to share their ideas and make predictions about what will come next.
In the Classroom | Viewing Strategies | Plot Summary
The Era of Sherlock Holmes | Before Viewing Questions
After Viewing Questions | Sherlock Holmes as Icon
Novel into Film | The Mystery Genre | Detective's Log | Resources
Teacher's Guide Credits | eNewsletter Sign-up
Essays + Interviews | Novel to Film | Who's Who | Story Synopsis
Russell Baker | Teacher's Guide | Links + Bibliography | The Forum
About The Series |
The American Collection |
Schedule & Season |
Feature Library |
Learning Resources |