Stephanie Owens on being the Christie Master Teacher


Stephanie Owens, a teacher at Centennial High School in California, US, was given the title of the Agatha Christie Master Teacher in celebration of Agatha Christie's 125th anniversary. Here she tells us a bit about how she teaches Christie, her experience of visiting Agatha Christie's home in England and how her love of Christie began.

"We’re wrapping up a wonderful first semester at Centennial High School, where my freshmen have just finished up their study of Murder on the Orient Express. Before we started our unit, my students were eager to read their first Agatha Christie novel after hearing about my travels to the International Agatha Christie Festival earlier this year, and are now looking forward to reading more Christie for their independent reading next semester.

Throughout our unit, students kept a detective log recounting all of Poirot’s interviews with the suspects, created evidence “murder boards” to track evidence, and held Socratic seminars and philosophical chairs discussions on topics related to the novel. I really didn’t want to focus too heavily on figuring out the ending, but rather, wanted students to ponder questions such as, “Does pure evil exist?” and “Is a crime, especially murder, ever justified?” These questions got my students thinking about much bigger ideas than just figuring out the mystery, making it not only appropriate for an entry level literature class, but also applicable to other novels we will be reading this year, such as Lord of the Flies; I am excited to see how these discussions transfer from one plot to another!

Aside from reading the novel, students learned a bit about the life of Agatha Christie by watching videos made by Mathew Prichard, Agatha Christie’s grandson, which can be found on her website. They also really enjoyed hearing about my time in Torquay, Christie’s hometown, and my stay at her home, Greenway. I am also pleased to say that many students are interested in reading more Christie next semester as part of their independent reading, especially And Then There Were None. That may have something to do with me showing them the amazing preview for the new BBC production this week; such great timing!

My love of Agatha Christie started by reading her novels as a teenager with my mother. Reading with your children is so incredibly important, and Christie is a great place to start if your child loves mysteries! My recommended favorite to start is And Then There Were None (read the book, watch the movie!). I also think that Five Little Pigs is a great first Poirot, since the suspects are limited and the ending is quite a shocker. Dig in, find a plot that interests your child, and start reading! Into ancient Egypt? How about Death on the Nile or Death Comes as the End! I could recommend Christie novels all day! Since the holidays are upon us, you could read Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, or if your headed somewhere tropical or resort like, like myself, try The Man in the Brown Suit or A Caribbean Mystery. With so many great titles to choose from, there is bound to be something for you and your child to enjoy together, and with most having a movie adaptation, have some fun comparing after you are done reading!

As the Agatha Christie Master Teacher, I have had such a great time sharing my love of her work with my students, and I hope my tips spread a little Christie into the rest of your school year.

Click here to access Harper Collins teaching resources for Agatha Christie.

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