Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart” Lesson Plan

This Common Core aligned lesson is designed for students to gain a clear understanding of Poe’s use of tone and mood in the “Tell Tale Heart.”  The lesson is broken down into activities that occur before (into), during (through), and after (beyond) reading the short story. Learning is scaffolded throughout the lesson, giving students a chance to build a solid foundation with the “Tell Tale Heart” before progressing into deeper critical thinking skills.

OBJECTIVE

  • By the end of this lesson, students will be able to explain how Poe used mood and tone in the “Tell Tale Heart” to create suspense within the reader.

MATERIALS

  • Copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart” for each student. Click here to download a free PDF version.
  • Materials required for the additional lesson components will vary based on your needs.

INTO

  • Use this free one-page biography or this short video clip to introduce students to influential American author Edgar Allan Poe. Foreshadow the darkness and mystery students will encounter in the “Tell Tale Heart” by discussing some of the tragic events in Poe’s life.

THROUGH

  • As a class, read Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart.” Click here to play a dramatic interpretation of the text as you read through it with your class. In order to help students gain a clear understanding of the plot, stop and discuss the different story elements  (exposition, raising action, climax, falling action, and resolution) as the narrative moves along. You can also have students record the “Tell Tale Heart” plot using this free printable graphic organizer. 
  • Students review and summarize the plot of “Tell Tale Heart” with a comic book activity. In order to complete the assignment, students add illustrations and dialogue to a total of ten comic book scenes. The scenes should cover the entire plot of a “Tell Tale Heart” in a summarized version with contemporary language.   You can differentiate by requiring advanced students to write their own abridged version of the narrative. The bullet points below include the narrative I provide for each comic book square:
  • Mad?  I am not mad! Look at how calmly I can tell you the story.  The old man’s eye was like a vulture’s.  It was pale blue with a thick film over it.  I made up my mind to kill the old man even though he did nothing wrong.
  • For a week I was very careful. Every night at midnight, I would slowly open the old man’s bedroom door to peek upon the eye, but it was always closed. 
  • On the eighth night, I slowly opened the door and my finger slipped on the lantern.  The old man cried out, “Who’s there?” 
  • I didn’t move for an hour.  I knew the old man was wondering what had made the sound.  I slowly opened the door again.  
  • The eye was open and staring straight at me.  It chilled my bones.  I could hear the old man’s heart thumping.
  • The time had come.  I threw the bed over him and he was stone dead.  His eye would not bother me anymore.
  • You would not think I’m crazy because I concealed the body so well.  There was no trace of the old man under the floorboards, and the bathtub caught all the blood.
  • Neighbors heard yelling and called the police.  I was perfectly calm when they arrived, and I invited them in for tea.  I sat on the very floor above the dead body.  
  • After searching the house and finding nothing wrong, the officers decided to sit and chat.  I wasn’t feeling good.  My head ached from the noise.  The noise got louder and louder.
  • I couldn’t stand it anymore! I told them, “I admit the deed! Here! Here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!”
“Tell Tale Heart” Comic Book Activity

“I loved this activity to check comprehension with some of my students who are less than thrilled with reading but love art.” -Melissa S.

BEYOND

The final portion of the lesson utilizes a differentiated close reading strategy that provides students with an opportunity to analyze and understand Poe’s use of tone and mood.  Students complete three readings of the selected excerpt from “Tell Tale Heart.” Each reading is standards aligned and provides an objective, skill focus, and text-based questioning. Students will need a copy of the excerpt they can write on to complete the close reading. If writing on the excerpts is not an option, these plastic sleeves will allow students to complete the close reading activities without writing directly on the paper. Also, the excerpt and subsequent instruction is differentiated based on student ability. Here’s how I break the close reading for advanced, intermediate, and emerging readers:

Advanced Readers

(Excerpt) But even yet I refrained and kept still.  I scarcely breathed.  I held the lantern motionless.  I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye.  Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased.  It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant.  The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! -do you mark me well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am.  And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror.  Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still.  But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst.  And now a new anxiety seized me -the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room.  He shrieked once -once only.  In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him.  I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done.  But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound.  This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall.  At length it ceased.  The old man was dead.  I removed the bed and examined the corpse.  Yes, he was stone, stone dead.  I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes.  There was no pulsation.  He was stone dead.  His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body.  The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence.  First of all I dismembered the corpse.  I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings.  I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye –not even his -could have detected any thing wrong.  There was nothing to wash out -no stain of any kind -no blood spot whatever.  I had been too wary for that.  A tub had caught all -ha! ha!

1st Reading: The first reading is done independently and is focused on active reading skills. 

  • Use symbols (metacognitive markers) for active reading

2nd Reading: The second reading is a partner or choral reading and is focused on vocabulary.

  • Circle unknown words
  • Use strategies to define words (word parts, context, dictionary)
  • Sketch word meanings in the margins.  Connect the meaning and the word with a line.

3rd Reading: The third reading is completed as a read aloud by the teacher and is focused on tone and mood. 

  • Tone: How did the story sound coming from the writer?  Answer using an adjective.  Highlight sentences and phrases that support your tone choice. 
  •  Mood: How did the story make you, the reader, feel?  Answer using an adjective.  Highlight words that contribute to that mood. 

Intermediate Readers

(Excerpt) If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body.  The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence.  First of all I dismembered the corpse.  I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings.  I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye –not even his -could have detected any thing wrong.  There was nothing to wash out -no stain of any kind -no blood spot whatever.  I had been too wary for that.  A tub had caught all -ha! 

1st Reading: The first reading is done independently and is focused on active reading skills. 

  • Metacognitive markers and sentence frames are provided for active reading.    
    • ?…I have a question about _____________.   
    • ✔…I don’t like this because _____________
    • ★…I like this because _____________.

2nd Reading: The second reading is a partner or choral reading and is focused on vocabulary.

  • Use context clues to define words in bold print.
  • Sketch word meaning in the margins. Connect the meaning and the word with a line.

3rd Reading: The third reading is completed as a read aloud by the teacher and is focused on tone and mood. 

  • Tone: How did the story sound coming from the writer?  Answer using an adjective.  Highlight sentences and phrases that support your tone choice. 
  • Mood: How did the story make you, the reader, feel?  Answer using an adjective.  Highlight words that contribute to that mood. 

Emerging Readers

(Excerpt) If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body.  The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence.  First of all I dismembered the corpse.  I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

1st Reading: The first reading is done independently and is focused on active reading skills. 

  • Metacognitive markers and sentence frames are provided for active reading.    
    • ?…I have a question about _____________.   
    • ✔…I don’t like this because _____________
    • ★…I like this because _____________.

2nd Reading: The second reading is a partner or choral reading and is focused on vocabulary.

  • Use context clues to define words in bold print.
  • Sketch word meaning in the margins. Connect the meaning and the word with a line.
  • Write a one-sentence summary of the excerpt.

3rd Reading: The third reading is completed as a read aloud by the teacher and is focused on tone and mood. 

  • Tone: Does the story sound crazy? Highlight sentences and phrases that sound crazy.
  • Mood: Does the story make you scared? Highlight words that are scary.

ASSESSMENT

The formative assessment requires students to explain how Poe’s use of tone and mood in “Tell Tale Heart” creates suspense within the reader. Students will need access to the previously analyzed excerpt in order to complete the assessment.

Advanced Readers: Open-Ended Response

Explain how Edgar Allan Poe used tone and mood in “Tell Tale Heart” to create a feeling of suspense within the reader.

Intermediate Readers: Cloze Paragraph

Edgar Allan Poe used tone and mood to create suspense within the reader.  The tone of the excerpt above from Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart” can be described as _______________.  For example, the author writes, “____________________________________________” (paragraph ___ ).  Additionally, the mood can be described as _______________.  For instance, the narrator explains, “_________ ___________________________________” (paragraph ___ ).  Poe’s use of a _______________ tone and a _______________ mood create suspense.

Emerging Readers: Guided Response

Tone:  Copy a sentence from the passage that sounds crazy.

Mood: Write three words from the passage that make you feel scared.

COMMON CORE STANDARDS

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5: Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

“Tell Tale Heart” Differentiated Close Reading

“This was the perfect differentiation for my class, while reading the exact same material!” -Brittany B.

This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my affiliate policy.

  • Save