Freshmen in Kate Barrows’ English class at Liberty High School, an alternative school in Louisville, were trying to solve a crime. A wealthy man had received a letter demanding money, or else his daughter would be kidnapped. Barrows guided the students through a series of questions to identify the extortionist.
Was the writer male or female? They thought female: The writer asked for the money in a “pretty blue pocketbook.” Could it have been a professional gangster? A gangster would just rob you and wouldn’t bother with threatening notes, the class decided.
The exercise was a lighthearted way to demonstrate how Barrows will expect her students to read more difficult texts later in the year. “We’re going to keep looking at this page of writing, and we’re going to tear it apart,” Barrows said.