Who’s Who? A Detective’s Interactive File & Close Reading



My students have just started reading Agatha Christie’s murder mystery And Then There Were None.  In the first chapter the reader is introduced to eleven different and central characters. This can be confusion for some. So, in order to help my students to learn and understand each of the characters I created an interactive detective’s file foldable for their English Journal.  Students created the detective’s file and then received a small file card on each of the characters to fill out while reading of the text.  Like a detective seen on television and in movies, students are required to keep a file on each of the characters based on their reading and understanding of the text. The detective’s files needed to contain the following information:

Front Side (To be completed during after reading Chapters 1 & 2) :

Physical Traits

Character Traits

Reason for going to Solider Island

Mode of Transportation to the Island

Inferences that can be made about the character

Back Side (To be completed during reading chapters 3-15):

Crime Accused of


Cause of Death

Time & Place of Death


After students made the detective file foldable and glued it into their notebooks they were assigned a specific character to study and examine closely.  Working in small groups, students reread specific sections about their character gathering evidence, then developing ideas and making inferences about the character. Using the information from the selected text students were to uncover the following: (1) the character’s physical appearance and age; (2) the mode of transportation the character used to arrive on Solider Island; (3) a direct quote about the character describing the character’s personality; (4) an inference about the character’s personality based on the quote; and (5) how the character was invited to the island and what he/she expects to do on Solider Island. Students created posters to communicate all the above information. 

This activity directly links to the CCLS and close reading for text evidence: “Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it” (CCLS R.1). 



Students presented their finished posters and their classmates filled in their detective files on each of the characters of the text.

Christopher Lehman & Kate Roberts’ book Falling in Love with Close Reading (2014) describes close reading as “following the unfolding of an idea, to hear a text, to attend to language, to question, to visualize scenes, to mentally construct characters can only come from closely paying attention” [to the text] (p.10).  This year I am slowing down my students reading so they practice the skill of reading closely, paying attention to the details, and see the complexity of ideas that are presented in texts and in our own lives. 

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5 thoughts on “Who’s Who? A Detective’s Interactive File & Close Reading

  1. jsteltz says:

    Love this. Another great option for close reading. I try to find fresh approaches to close reading regularly to keep students engaged. Thanks for sharing this interactive file activity

    • If we want students to read deeply we need to model our own close reading of a text and have lots of opportunities in the classroom for students to read closely and deeply. Thank you for your positive response.

  2. shannonjoe says:

    This is an awesome example of close reading!


  3. franmcveigh says:

    Now I want to revisit Agatha Christie’s book to try this out myself! It is so interesting to think of how quickly we can process this same information in a TV show or movie, stop to talk about it, and then have the case neatly solved within a specific broadcast time! Another real life example of close reading.

    I would be interested in hearing whether students think character development is the same in mysteries as it is is historical fiction as just one example. Is all character development the same?

    There will be a twitter chat with both authors of “Falling in Love with Close Reading on Monday, Nov. 11 fro 6-7 EST #filwclosereading

    • Thank you so much for your positive response. I have put on my calendar to participate in the Close Reading twitter chat on 11/11. Focusing a lot of characterization with this novel so when we move to another novel, students will have to compare if characterization is the same across genres.

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