Encourage students to analyze and discuss textual evidence in the novel Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty using this print-and-go resource!
This interactive, text-based activity centers students as detectives who must, by the end of the activity, name a leading suspect in consideration of the textual evidence about the diabolical Man in the Black Cloak.
The novel is a historical fiction/fantasy book with a lexile of 850 about a girl, Serafina, who must solve the mystery of the Man in the Black Cloak's identity before even more children disappear from the historic Biltmore Estate.
Evidence Guide materials include:
- 7 pieces of cited textual evidence that include critical information about the Man in the Black Cloak
- 4 suspect profiles with cited textual evidence suggesting they may be the Man in the Black Cloak
- 1 suspect chart for students to record their suspicions and doubts for each suspect
How to use these materials:
I developed this activity while teaching a modified language arts class for high school students (grades 9-12) with disabilities, though the activity is suitable for general education purposes at younger ages and grades. I set up the activity for after chapter 9 (ending on page 131):
- Print one suspect chart for each student. Provide each student a clipboard while they move around to read, gather, and record evidence. They will feel “official” and more like detectives.
- Print the 7 pieces of evidence. Each set folds in half so that the evidence is ‘concealed’ under the flap (i.e., pages 2-3 for evidence #1, pages 4-5 for evidence #2, etc.). Post the evidence somewhere students can stand up and move about freely, like a hallway. The large print generally allows students to read without having to get too close.
- Print the 4 suspect profiles. Glue/tape each one to the inside of a folder labeled “suspect.” Place the suspect files where students can better settle in to read and write, perhaps at desks or tables. The progression of moving around to seated work allows an instant visual of each student's progress.
After students review the 7 pieces of evidence and 4 suspect profiles (while completing their suspect charts along the way), host a secret vote (heads down while each suspect name is called; tally their results) for who they most suspected. Then, students discuss their suspicions and doubts in small groups or whole-group settings.