Serial Killers and English Class

So back in my Who are you voting for? post I mentioned that our discussion of Canada and the queen of England came up as we were talking about serial killers. Sounds strange doesn’t it? Talking about serial killers in English class? Well there is a good reason.

See we have to get kids reading and comprehending nonfiction, what better than serial killers especially when there is a historical case right here just a few miles from school.

We start the unit by showing students a slide show with pictures of well known serial killers and discussion their opinions and thoughts on just the pictures. What are the similarities and differences? Well for starters historically we see serial killers are being white males, though according to this article from Business Insider that information may be false or at least changing with the times.

We discuss each man and what he was convicted for, most are Americans though there are some from other countries. Then we begin to discuss Bertha Gifford the local claim to well not fame but rather infamy.

We show pictures from the time and places of the murder, invariably kids start to get excited and yell out “I know that house.” or “I know that bridge.” The bridge is quite literally just down the road from our school building as is the house. They are then much more interested into diving into nonfiction than ever before. There are always a few hold outs but that’s to be expected. Then when the get started on the projects, students create a project of their choice to share the central idea of the article “Darkness Round the Bend” and 3 -4 key details, or more.

That’s not all. Bertha’s great granddaughter S. Kay Murphy has written a book about her journey to find the truth about this secret in her family. So we read selections from Tainted Legacy and compare the two nonfiction writings.

Nonfiction reading has never been so interesting. 😉


Blind Date books

When kiddo went with me to the GWP youth writing festival we were done before the end of the school day. I had a sub so no need to return so kiddo and I took the time to do something he’d been wanting to do. We went to the St. Louis County library headquarters location so he could do the Star Wars scavenger hunt and get the pin.

While we were there he spotted the Blind Date books. I’ve seen the idea before but it was my child getting really excited that made me think of it again. So when I got back to school the next week I went through my library and pulled out a few books, then got out some paper, tape, and markers and went to work.

Here’s the final result, note my descriptions aren’t the best but I’m working on it:


Immediately I had students asking what the display was all about. The student I mentioned in my post on responsibility was one of the first. Said student got really excited about one of the descriptions and checked out the book, then shared it with a friend who will be going to the school library to see if they have a copy so the two friends can read it together. I love it when things like this work.

Close-ups of the books:

Undercurrents by Willo Davis Roberts


Shadow Spinner, that I wrote about for my friend Amy’s blog What Will She Read Next?


Death Be Not Proud:



DaVinci Code (I teach eighth graders after all)



Little Women



A Break With Charity:



I have no idea, I just picked this book up at the dollar store but it looked like a great YA read, and I thought it was perfect for this time of year.


I’d love suggestions for other books to put up along with some descriptions as mine clearly need a little work.