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    • Abstract: PENGUIN READERSTeacher’s notes LEVEL 3 Teacher Support ProgrammeThe No. 1 Ladies’ Detective AgencyAlexander McCall Smith Precious Ramotswe. This large African lady has an

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Teacher’s notes LEVEL 3 Teacher Support Programme
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Alexander McCall Smith Precious Ramotswe. This large African lady has an
instinctive talent for solving mysteries, so she decides
to set up the first (and only) ladies’ detective agency in
Botswana. The book follows the story of the agency in its
early days, the mysteries that Mma Ramotswe is hired to
solve and the growing friendship between the heroine and
the charming Mr JLB Matekoni. Most of the mysteries
that Mma Ramotswe solves are not serious crimes. Each
of the stories is very charming, and the perpetrators of the
crimes are often shown to be normal human beings with
strengths as well as flaws in their characters.
Chapter 1: In this chapter, a puzzled woman asks Mma
Ramotswe to discover the true identity of the old man
About the author who says he’s her father.
Alexander McCall Smith is British but he was born in Chapter 2: This chapter shows how Mma Ramotswe has
Zimbabwe (then called Southern Rhodesia). He went to lost much of her trust in men. She was abandoned by her
school there and in Scotland. After university, he became abusive husband when she was younger.
a professor of law, working first in Scotland and later in
Chapter 3: A woman asks Mma Ramotswe to find her
Botswana. He has always loved Africa and its people, and
missing husband.
he has written many stories about it for both children and
adults. Mma Precious Ramotswe and many of the other Chapter 4: Mma Ramotswe has a special friendship with
characters in the book are based on real people. Mr JLB Matekoni. He is from the same village, Mochudi.
She likes talking to him over a cup of tea. In this chapter
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency was published in the
Mma Ramotswe tells Mr JLB Matekoni about a letter she
UK in 1998 and soon everyone was talking about Mma
received from a teacher, whose son is missing. They think
Precious Ramotswe. Tears of the Giraffe and Morality
it has something to do with a witchdoctor.
for Beautiful Girls – also about Mma Ramotswe – soon
followed. Suddenly, after years of writing, Alexander Chapter 5: A rich Indian gentleman asks her to spy on his
McCall Smith was a famous author. At the moment there daughter because he thinks she has a boyfriend.
are seven books about Mma Precious Ramotswe – and Chapter 6: Mma Ramotswe returns a stolen car to its
there are more to come! owner without telling the police who stole the car. At
Until 2004 McCall Smith was still working as a professor the end of this chapter, Mr JLB Matekoni proposes to
at university as well as writing books and newspaper Mma Ramotswe but she refuses. The book follows their
stories. Later that year, he decided to stop teaching for a developing friendship from this point until the end of the
while to concentrate on his writing career. As well as the book.
Mma Ramotswe books, he started a new series of books Chapter 7: Mma Ramotswe unravels an insurance scam.
about a woman professor living in Edinburgh. He also
Chapter 8: Mr JLB Matekoni finds a witchdoctor’s bag
continued writing 44 Scotland Street – his popular daily
with a human bone in it. It seems that the missing boy has
story for The Scotsman newspaper.
been kidnapped and murdered – and Mma Ramotswe and
McCall Smith lives in Edinburgh with his wife and two Mr JLB Matekoni begin the search for the boy’s killers.
daughters. Today, his books are enormously popular and
Chapter 9: Mma Ramotswe discovers some cheating
Mma Precious Ramotswe is loved by readers all over the
Chapter 10: The book ends dramatically with Mma
Summary Ramotswe rescuing the missing boy from captivity and
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is the first in a series reuniting him with his family. Mma Ramotswe finally
of books by Alexander McCall Smith about Mma (Mrs) agrees to marry Mr JLB Matekoni at the end of this
c Pearson Education Limited 2008 The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency - Teacher’s notes  of 3
Teacher’s notes LEVEL 3 Teacher Support Programme
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Background and themes neighbours as her ‘brothers and sisters’ and this optimistic
tone makes the book uplifting and inspiring to read.
Botswana: Alexander McCall Smith has often lived
and worked in Africa over his lifetime. He writes about
Botswana with great affection for the country and its
Discussion activities
people. Mma Precious Ramotswe becomes a private Chapters 1–2
detective because she loves the people of Africa and wants Before reading
to help solve their problems. Although the book is light- 1 Pair work: Put students into pairs. Each pair looks at
hearted, it also touches on the larger problems in modern the front cover carefully for one minute. Then student
A takes the book and asks Student B questions about
Africa. In The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency we hear about the picture. Student B should answer as many
children being killed for muti (witchdoctor’s medicine), questions as possible without looking at the cover.
for example. The book also describes the beauty of the 2 Predict: After the pair work in Activity 1, ask each
Botswanan countryside and the warmth and generosity of pair to predict what the story is about. Have them
the people. Details of everyday objects, places and events imagine what the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is
like. Encourage them to talk about what they think
help to create an atmospheric setting for the characters the detective is going to do in the story.
and story.
After reading
Human nature: Human nature is an important theme 3 Discuss: After Chapter 1, have a whole-class
in the book. Mma Ramotswe has known great love, great discussion and talk about Happy Bapetsi’s feelings.
loss and great pain in her life so far. She knows that people Happy Bapetsi meets her ‘Daddy’ when she is thirty-eight
can be good and generous, but she knows they can be years old. How does she feel at first? How do her feelings
change after three months? How do you think she feels at
weak, selfish and cruel too. As well as solving problems,
the end of the story?
Mma Ramotswe likes to deliver justice. She doesn’t tell 4 Discuss: Have students work in small groups and
the police about Solomon Moretsi because his crime discuss the following questions: Why do you think
doesn’t hurt anybody and he is only trying to support his Precious Ramotswe married Note Makoti? Why do you
family. But she is very happy to drive away, leaving the think Note Makoti left Precious Ramotswe? Ask them to
try to find as many reasons as they can think of.
witchdoctor’s wife in the desert, because she knows she is a
5 Group work: In the first two chapters of the book,
cruel and greedy woman. we learn about three very different men: Mma
Truth and lies: Truth and lies is another important theme Ramotswe’s father, Happy Bapetsi’s ‘Daddy’ and Note
Makoti. Ask students to work in small groups. They
in the book. Many characters lie in order to get what
should think about the similarities and differences
they want: Happy Bapetsi’s ‘Daddy’ lies about his own between the three men and make notes on a piece of
identity in order to have an easy life, Nandira Patel lies in paper. Then choose one student from each group to
order to keep her boyfriend a secret from her father and stand up and say something about one or some of the
Solomon Moretsi lies in order to get insurance money for men to the rest of the class.
his family. Mma Ramotswe often tells small lies too. She Chapters 3–4
strongly believes that ‘lies are all right if you are lying for Before reading
a good reason’. Mr JLB Matekoni, however, finds it very 6 Describe: Have students look at the picture on
difficult to lie. It is a strong indication of his love for Mma page 11. Put students into pairs and have them talk
Ramotswe that he is prepared to lie when she asks him to. about Mma Ramotswe’s detective agency. Ask them
the following questions: What can you see in the room?
Sense of community: McCall Smith creates a wonderful What can you see out of the window? What is on Mma
sense of community in the novel by including a range of Ramotswe’s desk?
characters that interact and help one another. Not only After reading
does Mma Ramotswe get help from her friends (Billy 7 Discuss: After reading Chapter 3, talk about the
Pilani, Dr Gulubane), but also from strangers. When important things in the story.
a snake gets stuck in her car, she soon gets help from Have students work in small groups to discuss why
the following things are important in the story:
another driver. Although there are some cruel characters
Reverend Shadreck Mapeli’s Christian group, the river,
in the book, most of the people in it are good and a large yellow dog, Mma Ramotswe’s father’s gun,
helpful. Mma Ramotswe thinks of her African friends and a crocodile and a man’s watch.
c Pearson Education Limited 2008 The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency - Teacher’s notes 2 of 3
Teacher’s notes LEVEL 3 Teacher Support Programme
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
8 Write: Students work individually. They should write 17 Role play: At the end of Chapter 8, have students
an article for the newspaper in Gaborone about the work in pairs. Student A is Charlie Gotso; Student B
No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. People will be is his employee. The man tells Charlie Gotso about
interested to read about the new business in town and his car and the missing bag. Encourage them to think
the article should also cover the agency’s first case – about the following questions: What does Charlie say?
the death of Peter Malatsi. Students should imagine What does he think about the lady detective? How does
an interview with Mma Ramotswe and include some he feel about the missing bag?
quotes from her in the article. 18 Discuss: Talk about lies.
9 Pair work: After reading Chapter 4, have students Write ‘Lies are all right if you are lying for a good
work in pairs to talk about Mr JLB Matekoni and reason’ on the board. Ask students to think about
Mma Ramotswe. Encourage them to think of the their own lives. Have you ever lied for a good reason?
reasons why they are good friends. Why did you choose to lie? Did it help? What happened?
Students should write a few sentences about a lie they
Chapters 5 – 6 have told in the past. Then choose some students to
Before reading tell the rest of the class about their lie and encourage
10 Guess: Have students look at the picture on page 21. whole class discussion. Was the person right to tell the
Ask some students to describe what Mma Ramotswe lie? Why? Why not?
is doing, where she is and what else there is in the
picture. Encourage students to guess what the story is Chapters 9–10
about. Before reading
19 Discuss: Some people in Botswana believe in the
After reading power of muti. Ask students if they know anything
11 Discuss: Talk about boyfriends / girlfriends. about witchcraft in Africa or anywhere else in the
Put students in groups. Ask them if they see their world. Ask them what they think of non-western-
boyfriend / girlfriend without telling their parents. medicine doctors.
Have them think about pros and cons of a secret
relationship. After reading
12 Pair work: Students work in pairs. Ask them to 20 Discuss: Talk about the missing boy and other
prepare and then act out the following conversation. characters.
Student A: You are Nandira Patel. You are a modern Write the following names and words on the board:
young woman and you want to choose your own friends. the witchdoctor, the teacher from Katsana, the
You want to marry your boyfriend, Jack. Talk to your Basarwa, Mr JLB Matekoni and Charlie Gotso.
father and try to explain your views. Divide the class into five groups. Each group should
Student B: You are Mr Patel. You love your daughter, think about one of these people and their involvement
Nandira, and you want her to have good friends. You in the story about the missing boy. Have them discuss
want to choose a good husband for her too. You don’t the following questions: How are they important? How
know her boyfriend, Jack. Now, Nandira wants to marry do they feel about the missing boy? How do they feel
Jack. Will you let her? about each other?
13 Discuss: Have students imagine that they have
a husband / wife who has stolen something. Put Extra activities
them into groups to discuss what they would do or 21 Research: Ask students what they know about
wouldn’t do. Later, ask each group to share their ideas Botswana. Have them write a few sentences about the
with the rest of the class. country. Prompt them to look at the map on page vi.
14 Write: You are Mma Ramotswe. Why don’t you want Encourage them to look in other books and on the
to marry Mr JLB Matekoni? Write a letter to him. Internet too.
He is an important friend and you don’t want to hurt 22 Pair work: Students work in groups. Ask them to
him. Think carefully about your words before you fold a piece of paper in half to make two columns.
write. Label the first column ‘Botswana’ and the second
column ‘My country’. Students should then think of
Chapters 7– 8 as many differences as possible between Botswana and
Before reading their own country. (If students in a group are from
15 Predict: Have students look at the titles of Chapters different countries, they can make three or four
7–8. Ask them to guess what the story is about. columns accordingly.) After about ten minutes, ask
students to share their ideas with the rest of the class.
After reading
16 Discuss: Talk about killing a snake. Vocabulary activities
At the end of Chapter 7 Mma Ramotswe says ‘I killed a For the Word List and vocabulary activities, go to
big snake on the way here today.’ Is this true? Why does www.penguinreaders.com.
she say this, do you think?
c Pearson Education Limited 2008 The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency - Teacher’s notes 3 of 3

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