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Spar Mystery 3: Understanding Christie's And Then There Were None Through Debate

Cindy Frank
Star Educator
Average rating:5.0Number of reviews:(588)
In this 6-week multi-day class we will expand critical thinking skills in one of Agatha Christie's most intellectually challenging masterpieces, And Then There Were None, through discussion and Spar debate. ESL friendly, CEFR level C1, C2 #academic

Class experience

US Grade 7 - 10
Advanced Level
6 lessons//6 Weeks
 Week 1
Lesson 1
Introduction and discussion of chapters 1 2 3
Discussion of chapters 1 2 3 and Spar Debate sparked by: "This group doesn’t seem to fit together at all. They are uncomfortable with each other." Spar Statement: Similar types of people tend to gravitate towards each other. In other words, people with similar likes and dislikes and backgrounds are most comfortable together. Position 1: Agree with the above statement. Explain. Position 2: Disagree with the above statement. People of different ideas and backgrounds can compliment each other and
 Week 2
Lesson 2
Discussion chapters 4 5 6
Discussion of chapters 4 5 6 and Spar Debate sparked by: "Whoever it was who enticed us here, that person knows or has taken the trouble to find out a good deal about us all." Spar Question: How should people react if their deepest secrets are exposed to the world? Position 1: Be restrained and logical. Maintain a sense of calm, accepting what has occurred as that reaction will likely diffuse gossip and people will forget quickly. Explain. Position 2: React furiously! Deny everything! Stand
 Week 3
Lesson 3
Discussion chapters 7 8 9
Discussion of chapters 7 8 9 and Spar Debate sparked by: Spar Statement: We all have a right to pass judgment on each other. Position 1: Agree with the above statement. We each have our own set of values and beliefs and have every right to assess and comment on those around us who do not conform to our ideas. Position 2: Disagree with the above statement. As we are individuals, while we each can have our own set of values and beliefs we should respect the right of others.
 Week 4
Lesson 4
Discussion chapters 10 11 12
Discussion of chapters 10 11 12 and Spar Debate sparked by: “That’s what’s frightening the life out of me. To have no idea…”—Rogers Spar Statement: Fear of the unknown is the worst fear imaginable. Position 1: Agree with the above statement. Explain. Position 2: Disagree with the above statement. Fear is fear no matter what and sometimes knowing what frightening—climate change, a bully—is terrifying in and of itself.
 Week 5
Lesson 5
Discussion chapters 13 14 15
Discussion of chapters 13 14 15 and Spar Debate sparked by: "Don’t you see? We’re the Zoo..Last night we were hardly human anymore. We’re the Zoo…" Spar Statement: It’s our humanity, our integrity, our understanding and compassion for others that makes us truly human. Position 1: Agree with this statement. Explain. Position 2: Disagree with this statement.The philosopher Aristotle marked out our differences over 2,000 years ago. We are "rational animals" pursuing knowledge for its own sake.
 Week 6
Lesson 6
Discussion chapters 16, Epilogue, A Manuscript Document
Discussion of chapters 16, Epilogue, A Manuscript Document and Spar Debate sparked by the ending of the book. Spar Question: What is Justice? Position 1: Justice is living in accordance with the rules of society born out of respect for ourselves and for others. Examples. Position 2: Justice is a personal moral code that each of us adhere to and try to live up to. Examples.
*To gain confidence in speaking and organization 
*Understand all the basic ideas of debate and rhetoric
*Gain deeper understanding of mystery literature through debate
* To communicate effectively through speaking, thinking adroitly and responding fluently
* Improve memory retention and organizational skills
* Gain confidence and poise in oral presentation
* Expand vocabulary and word usage
*To gain deeper understanding of the nuances of literature and the mystery novel
Longtime teacher of literature for both middle and high school students, I am also a mystery aficionado who has taught a high school class in genre literature, featuring numerous mystery novels including The Hound of the Baskervilles and other Agatha Christie novels.  I am also the founder and former coach of an award-winning Speech and Debate team that competed at local, state and national levels, long-time speech judge for local, regional, national speech events for NCFL and National Speech and Debate Association, former teacher of high school debate and rhetoric, art history, literature, and AP Language and Composition. 
Homework Offered
Students will be required to read the portions of the text (three chapters per session) we will be considering for the upcoming class There are optional writing assignments given after each session that can be returned for nuanced comment and assessment.
0 - 1 hours per week outside of class
Assessments Offered
Families and learners will receive written assessments throughout the class. There are optional homework assignments given throughout the course. If learners choose to complete any of these assignments they will receive immediate written feedback on their work.
Grades Offered
Learners will need a copy of And Then There Were None, available at your local library or via for purchase via amazon.com, local bookstores,  or via second-hand bookstores such as Thriftbooks.com  https://www.thriftbooks.com/ as well at reduced prices. We work with powerpoints in class and so it doesn't matter which edition of the book you choose. 
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie was originally published in 1939.  It is essential for families to remember that at this period in history ideas of casual racism and anti-semitism were rife in throughout society, including in Britain where this novel is set. The essay “Death on the Nile and Addressing Racism in Agatha Christie” on BBC.com quotes Vike Martina Plock, a professor of modern literature and culture at the University of Exeter in the UK:
“However, she says that censoring the books in such a way was a mistake – as she believes that, for the most part, Christie was not being racist herself in her novels, but rather reflecting the racist attitudes of her time and leaving them open to critique. "It made the [censored] novels less socially critical as documents of their time because I do think Christie's novels criticise racism rather than perpetuating [it]," she says. "The racism depicted in the books draws attention to the fact that it was very dominant in the culture in which Christie was living.”

We will discuss how the world has changed and thinking has expanded since this period. It’s important to note that subsequent filmed versions of this novel  and other Christie novels, including recent the recent Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express directed by Kenneth Branagh, consciously choose to significantly diversify the cast omitting hurtful stereotypes and focusing on the puzzle/mystery aspects of of the books.   James Pritchard, great-grandson of Agatha Christie and head of Agatha Christie LTD quoted in an essay on RTL, that his great-grandmother ‘“would not have liked the idea that someone is hurt by his (sic) turns of phrase’ “When the book was written, the language was different. Agatha Christie was above all there to entertain.”

We will address these issues in the first class and throughout the sessions. 

While And Then There Were None was written for an adult audience, publisher HarperAcademic.com, a division of publisher William Morrow, notes that Christie novels work exceptionally well for developing critical thinking in both middle and high school students.

And Then There Were None is of course a murder mystery, and while the descriptions of the murder or murders are not intensely graphic, there is mention of knives, firearms, and poisons as well as mentions of suicide that are essential to the themes of the story.
Kindly see the attached for further information and please feel free to be in touch with me via Outschool email if questions or issues.



PLEASE NOTE: As of March 26, 2023 The Guardian has reported that "Several Agatha Christie novels have been edited to remove potentially offensive language, including insults and references to ethnicity.
Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries written between 1920 and 1976 have had passages reworked or removed in new editions published by HarperCollins to strip them of language and descriptions that modern audiences find offensive, especially those involving the characters Christie’s protagonists encounter outside the UK." It has not yet been determined which books will be reworked and the new editions are not yet published. As soon as these new editions become available I will be recommending they be used for this class. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2023/mar/26/agatha-christie-novels-reworked-to-remove-potentially-offensive-language#:~:text=Poirot%20and%20Miss%20Marple%20mysteries%20written%20between%201920%20and%201976,protagonists%20encounter%20outside%20the%20UK.

Star Educator
Average rating:5.0Number of reviews:(588)
Hello, Everyone, I'm Cindy Frank!

*Classes limited to 6 students--all have a voice in the classroom
* All classes taught, written, and created by me for my learners
*Each session a full 55 minutes of... 
Group Class


for 6 classes
1x per week, 6 weeks
55 min

Completed by 29 learners
Live video meetings
Ages: 12-17
3-6 learners per class

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