I like teaching this unit because I find that the subject matter is conducive to students doing a close reading. The focus of this unit is to prepare students to look for specific elements in a literary work. Because of the nature of Gothic Literature, students especially love looking for Gothic structures because of their love of the macabre. It seems to be a rite of passage. I find that once they get accustomed to looking for elements very closely I can transfer that practice to more complicated works.
I begin with notes on the elements of the short story just to make sure they know what I'm talking about when I use specific terms. I want to make sure the vocabulary is the same.
Of course, students will have an opportunity to present their poems, which is a leftover from the prior week. This is a great way to break up the block and encourage more student-centered activities.
In this section, I will put two sentences on the projector and ask students to look for errors. I ask for volunteers or I pull popsicle sticks to call on students. We review the errors whole class.
Although students have read countless short stories, I take the opportunity to review a PowerPoint that focuses on basic elements of fiction. Students will take notes as I will review many of the elements we will touch upon as we move through this unit. I like to take the opportunity to ensure that we are all on the same page as far as terms and their meanings.
In a round robin style, we will read "The Black Cat," focusing on those elements of Gothic literature that exist. I will focus on the bleak setting, supernatural, the psychological disorder of the narrator, and the element of violence. I will have students complete a guided reading check as they move through the story to ensure they are getting the basic plot points. Following the completion of the story, students will complete a Gothic Elements worksheet that asks them to identify Gothic elements that are present in the story and align them with specific text in the work. Depending on time, this activity may be done for homework.
I have included a video to reinforce the story if time permits. Sometimes, Poe can be very rich in description and vocabulary. It sometimes loses students. Depending on their aptitude, I may or may not show this clip. It's about 20 minutes.
After explicating their assigned poem and preparing a visual representation such as a PowerPoint or Prezi, I will invite students to present their projects to the class. The class will take notes on the projects and be ready to take an open notebook test on them when the presentations are complete.
To follow up on the reading of "The Black Cat," I want students to look for specific examples of Gothic elements in the text. I have passed out a Gothic Technique sheet that is generic in nature in that not all elements will fit. However, students will look for the element that does fit and match it to a piece of text and complete the worksheet. We will discuss this assignment the next day in class.