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Lesson Plan

Modeling Reading and Analysis Processes with the Works of Edgar Allan Poe

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Modeling Reading and Analysis Processes with the Works of Edgar Allan Poe

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Seven 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Gaines

Hoover, Alabama


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Sessions Five and Six

Session Seven

Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • explore reading strategies using the think-aloud process.

  • identify literary devices and techniques.

  • analyze Poe's poems and short stories.

  • investigate connections between the life and writings of Edgar Allan Poe.

  • compare different versions of "The Raven."

  • demonstrate effective listening and speaking skills.

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Session One

  1. Introduce the exploration of reading strategies by talking briefly about how readers explore an author and text before reading the text itself.

  2. Ask students to share the strategies that they use when they choose a book, magazine, or another text to read.

  3. Encourage students to include strategies they use when considering nonprint texts as well. Discussion questions such as "How can you decide if you want to see a movie that's just come out?" will likely lead students to volunteer research strategies such as checking the movie's Website, looking for information about the actors or director, and consulting reviews.

  4. If desired, model the process of exploring the information offered on a book using think-aloud strategies (e.g., looking at the front cover, back cover, table of contents, and so forth). If possible, focus your think-aloud on a volume of Poe's works or a biography on Poe.

  5. Invite students to share what they already know about Edgar Allan Poe and any titles of his works, recording their comments on chart paper, the board, or an overhead transparency. Do not correct any errors as students will do research to confirm this information later in the session.

  6. Share the biographical or background information on Poe that you've chosen from your textbook, Poe Museum, Knowing Poe, or Wikipedia with your students. All students should be able to view the text so that they can follow the think-aloud process.

  7. Demonstrate reading strategies using the think-aloud process:

    1. Assess the length of the text to determine how to proceed—if the piece is long, you might read the entire piece through and then discuss it. If the piece is longer, scan the entire text, noting the headings and other organization information that you find.

    2. Explain your thought process as you're assessing the text and deciding where to begin your reading (e.g., "This is a shorter biography. I think I'll begin by reading the whole thing first." or "This is a pretty long biography. Hmm. Okay, I see headers about his biography, his death, his legacy, his works and adaptations. I'm most interested in learning a little more about Poe himself right now. I'm tempted to read about his death. I've heard there is some confusion about how he died, but I guess I'll begin with the biography first since that's the logical place to start.").

    3. Begin reading the text you've chosen aloud, pausing to explain your reading process as you go. Here's an example using a quotation from Wikipedia, with the interspersed think-aloud comments in bold italics:

      "Edgar Allan" —ahh, so it's a and not e— "Poe (January 19, 1809 - October 7, 1849)" —wow, he was only 40 when he died— "was a 19th century poet, novelist and short story writer." —right, we mentioned all that on the list of things we know about Poe. I really like some of Poe's short stories.
    4. As you read and think-aloud about the text, use your reader's notebook, if desired, to record notes about the reading that you want to remember or come back to later.

    5. As appropriate, connect to the list of details that students brainstormed about Poe. If desired, you can pause in your reading to add details or corrections to the information. Alternatively, you can make the changes after the demonstration is complete.

  8. After you've read enough of the text to demonstrate the processes behind reading informational text, ask students to comment on what they noticed about your process. Encourage them to share ways that their processes compare to the processes that you demonstrated.

  9. Return to the list of details that the class brainstormed about Poe and his works prior to the demonstration. If you have not already done so, add any information or corrections that were revealed in your reading.

  10. Next, ask students to explore available background and biographical information on Poe for additional information to add, confirm, or change on the class list. Students can work in small groups, practicing reading strategies by reading aloud and sharing their comments as they work. Encourage students to use their readers' notebooks to record details as they work in their groups.

  11. If students need more structure for this exploration of Poe's background, supplement the session with the Poe Scavenger Hunt.

  12. After students have completed their exploration, gather the class to discuss Poe's background. Make changes to the class list as students share information they've found. Encourage students to predict ways that Poe's life influences his works.

  13. For homework, ask students to reflect on their reading process in their notebooks or journals. Ask them to think about how they read and compare their own processes to those shared by others in the class. Explain that while you're exploring Poe, you'll also be thinking about reading and analysis strategies, so this entry is a chance for them to record their process at the beginning of the unit.

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Session Two

  1. Invite students to share experiences they've had where they read or viewed more than one version of a story. For instance, students may have read and viewed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone or they may have read more than one version of a fairy tale. Students will likely have many examples to share.

  2. Ask students to talk about how their reading or viewing process changes when they read more than one version of a story—what things do they notice? do the differences matter? do they ever return to the first version to check or compare details?

  3. Explain that during this session, the class will begin an exploration of one of Poe's most famous poems, "The Raven," by looking at more than one version.

  4. Show "The Raven" segment of "Treehouse of Horror" episode of The Simpsons.

  5. After students have viewed the cartoon, ask students to record things they recall about the poem in their notebooks individually, or on chart paper working in small groups.

  6. Working as a class, use the Plot Diagram to outline the significant events in the cartoon, using an LCD projector.

  7. Ask students to pick out aspects of the cartoon that connect to the background information gathered in the first session.

  8. Watch "The Raven" spoof again to increase understanding.

  9. After the second viewing, ask students to share anything that they noticed the second time that they viewed the cartoon.

  10. For homework, ask students to reflect on their viewing process and how it compared to the reading process that they recorded after the first session. How do their thoughts during a viewing compare to their thoughts while they are reading?

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Session Three

  1. Read "The Raven" aloud to students or play the audio recording of actor Basil Rathbone reading the poem.

  2. Working as a class, use the Plot Diagram to outline the significant events in the cartoon, using an LCD projector.

  3. Invite students to discuss how this version compares to the version from The Simpsons—discussing tone, mood, plot, and so forth. If desired, students can compare the two versions of "The Raven" using the Venn Diagram.

  4. Once you're certain that students understand the general features of the poem, introduce the idea of reading texts more closely.

  5. Invite students to share examples of times that they've examined a text closely to see how it was put together. If students do not volunteer examples, ask about "the making of" features on television programs and DVDs, such as the special features DVD that accompanied The Lord of the Rings—The Fellowship of the Ring (Special Extended Edition). Students will likely know of other video features that talk about the way that the piece was made.

  6. Shift back to Poe, by explaining that looking at how the author puts together his stories and poems can help us as readers by showing us more about the decisions that the author made and the things that the author emphasizes.

  7. Project "The Interactive Raven" using an LCD projector.

  8. Review the literary elements and information on the first page to remind students of the terms (alliteration, assonance, and internal rhyme).

  9. Read the first stanza of "The Raven" aloud. As you find examples of alliteration, assonance, or internal rhyme, use think-aloud strategies to demonstrate how a reader finds devices and determines the way that the literary technique is used. Here's an example, with the think-aloud comments in bold italics:

    "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary" —ok, so "weak" and "weary" both begin with W. That's alliteration. And "dreary" and "weary" rhyme. They're in the same line, so that's internal rhyme. Poe must want us to pay attention to those words. I wonder how that last part works. Why is the speaker "weak and weary" as he's thinking? The speaker is up at midnight, so maybe he's just tired.
  10. Be sure to identify additional literary elements in the example stanza as the interactive site does not highlight every example in the poem.

  11. Encourage students to participate in the think-aloud process by offering thoughts and responses. For instance, you might ask yourself questions such as "Why is Poe emphasizing these words?" then pause for students to help think of possibilities.

  12. If there are questions about the stanza that are not answered on the interactive site, demonstrate the process of using the dictionary or other resources to find additional information.

  13. Work through as many stanzas of the poem as necessary to ensure that students are comfortable with the reading process typical of a close reading.

  14. Once students understand the process, ask students to do a close reading of the remaining stanzas of the poem individually or in small groups.

  15. Provide dictionaries for students to use as they read. As students work, be sure to provide supportive comments for students who look up unusual and unknown words as they read the stanzas.

  16. If students need more structure for this exploration the poem, supplement the session with the Edgar Allan Poe Worksheet on "The Raven."

  17. For homework, ask students to reflect on how their close reading of the poem was different from their earlier readings of the poem. Invite them to talk both about how they did their close reading, what the process itself looked like, and about how their close reading changed (or didn't) their thoughts about the poem.

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Session Four

  1. Begin this session by reviewing the exploration of "The Raven" and answering any questions or provide appropriate feedback.

  2. Make two columns, labeled Tone and Mood, on chart paper, the board, or an overhead transparency.

  3. Explain the difference between tone and mood by sharing the definitions of the two words, noting keywords on your chart:

    Tone: The author's attitude expressed through style and reflected in word choice.

    Mood: The overall atmosphere or feeling that a work conveys to the reader.

    Further reading on the subject: Jago, Carol. "Tone and Mood: Kissin' Cousins." Voices From the Middle 11.2 (December 2003): 64-65.
  4. Using the following quotation from Jago's article to explain the ideas further, again noting keywords on your chart:

    [W]hile the mood of a story or poem shapes a reader's emotional response—you may be scared or want to laugh-tone reflects how an author feels about the subject. Writers approach their work with a purpose. They want to persuade you to their way of thinking or to amuse you or possibly to teach you an important lesson. To achieve this purpose, they cast their story in a tone that matches their attitude and intention. (64)

  5. With the keywords recorded on the chart, ask students to describe the mood and then the tone of "The Raven."

  6. Ask students to provide details from the poem to support their descriptions of mood and tone. In particular, ask them how the literary devices explored in the previous session contribute to the mood and tone.

  7. Once you're satisfied that students understand the two terms, explain that for the next part of the unit, students will explore one of Poe's short stories in small groups during the next two class sessions.

  8. Explain the details of the activity, asking each group to complete the following tasks:

    • Record words, phrases and literary devices in the story that Poe uses to create mood and tone in their notebooks or journals.

    • Note connections between Poe's background and the story that they read in their notebooks or journals.

    • Create a plot diagram using the Plot Diagram tool.

    • Summarize the story.

    • Prepare a short presentation on the story for the rest of the class.
  9. Share the small group rubric that will be used to evaluate the groups' presentations.

  10. Divide students into small groups, assigning one of the following short stories:

  11. Answer any questions about the project and allow students to begin work on the project if class time remains.

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Sessions Five and Six

  1. Allow students two class sessions to read their assigned story and complete the related activities.

  2. While students work, circulate among groups providing support and feedback.

  3. For homework, ask students to reflect on how the reading strategies that they used for "The Raven" worked for their reading of the short story.

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Session Seven

  1. During this session, each group shares their plot diagram, their summary, and selected details on the literary devices Poe relies to create the story's mood and tone.

  2. Allow for a question-and-answer session after each group shares.

  3. After all the groups have presented, share the following options for the final activity, which students will complete individually.

  4. For each of the options, be sure to direct students to the related rubrics for the project, and ask students to continue keeping notes on their reading process in their notebooks or journals as they work on this final project.

  5. If desired, allow additional class sessions for students to work on their projects in class.

  6. Once projects are complete, you can also allow class time for students to share their individual work.

  7. Once students complete their final project, ask them to reread their entries in their notebooks or journals on their reading process and write a final entry that focuses on what they have learned about themselves as readers or what they have learned about how the reading process works for different people.

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  • Use the Small Group Presentation Rubric on Edgar Allan Poe to respond to the presentations on the short stories. Concentrate on supporting successful reading strategies as you circulate among students, and provide supportive feedback on those strategies in your response to the groups’ presentations.

  • Review the readers’ notebook or journal entries that students write about their reading process periodically during the unit to identify any strategies that need more exploration. Read both for specific details that indicate that students are employing reading strategies that work for them and for students’ tone as an indication of their confidence in their reading processes.

  • Assess the final projects that students compose individually using the rubrics attached to each of the project assignments. Focus your attention on evidence that students understand how to use reading strategies successfully to read and analyze a text.

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