The Poetry of Poe: Life and Loss in Lyric

6 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT analyze how Poe's diction creates feelings mystery and sadness, and builds to the theme of loss, through annotation and explication of "The Raven".

Big Idea

Poe uses sound devices to create both plot and tension; today we look at how those sounds get the reader's attention and express the theme of the poem.

Welcome & Intro: It's World Kindness Day

3 minutes

welcome students to class with today's Daily Holiday, "World Kindness Day," and draw an arrow from the posted date to the sign I got at the House of Blues, "BE NICE OR LEAVE. -Thank You." 

"Be Kind" is one of the three tenets our principal is focusing on as we redevelop our culture this year. Addressing that "kindness" is something we should always practice, not just on one special day connects to the school's climate, but (I hope) also reminds the students to take that extra second to avoid conflict and create community. 

Poe's "Biography" Wrap-Up

20 minutes

We complete watching the A&E Biography (A&E  has made this video available to the public) on Edgar Allan Poe, picking up from the description of "The Raven." The video timed well to stop yesterday and start today with this poem, as it will be the piece we focus on in class today. As with yesterday, the goal is to provide students with background on Poe's life and the connection between his works and his life. Students continue their notes on how the three Gothic interpretations of Romanticism appear in Poe's life and works. Combined with the biographical sketch in the textbook, students analyze the accounts of a Poe's life told in different mediums, and in their notes, address which details are emphasized in each account (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7). The video provides students the opportunity to "hear" some of Poe's work read in a voice that would be similar to his own. 

Once the video is complete, I again ask the students to share what their reactions are to Poe, to provide a chance to exchange ideas on the details emphasized in each account of the poet's life. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7). As with the prior day, I draw their attention to the specific focus of Poe as a "Gothic" in the textbook's biography, and more breadth given to him in the film (See "A Troubled Life").  

Explicating and Understanding "The Raven"

25 minutes

I pass out copies of "The Raven" that include ideas the students should look for, as well as some questions to guide their reading and reactions. 

I read the list of elements to identify to the students, pausing at each and asking them to explain or give examples. The students quickly realize, and I point out, that many of these terms overlap in definition. I note to them that I provided this variety because they may have learned these terms under different names (for example, Poetic structure, Poetic devices, and Rhetorical devices all really address the same concepts, and symbols could be argued to be any of them). I explain that I did not give the students a specific list of devices to look for, because they need to draw the conclusions of "What is important?" themselves. By looking at the "plot" (sequence of events) and mood of the poem, students analyze Poe's choices in structure and event order create the "eerie, weird, spooky," mysterious mood (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5). 

With teacher-led questioning I go through some of the sound devices found in the first stanza of the poem. We identify how the sound devices create a sense of rhythm, speed, and--with those long vowel sounds--contribute to that "eerie, weird, spooky" mysterious mood, such as the impact of rhyming "Lenore" and "nevermore", and that "or" sound throughout at the end of each second, fourth, fifth, and sixth line, I point out that the sound and its placement draws the reader's ear though the text, and carries them from one stanza to the next, slowly hinting at the speaker's fate. The sound, not a pleasant sound in English, but one associated with the arcane, connects to the speaker's drawn-out spiral into isolation and insanity (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4). Once we have identified the devices, I also ask the students to identify how the first stanza sets up the "plot" of the poem by introducing us to the speaker, "What characterization is the speaker given?" Aside from the specific phoneme mentioned above, we look for descriptions of the speaker, and more so, of Lenore. As we discuss the speaker, story, sounds, and singular effect, I note the students' explication of "The Raven", Stanza 1 on the board.  

Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up and Extension

2 minutes

To wrap up class today, I remind students that they should be working on "The Masque of the Red Death" on their own, but specifically for tomorrow, I ask them to complete "The Raven" and answer the reaction questions that follow. These questions require the students to think critically and react to the poem. 

(Thanks to the University of Virginia for making "The Masque of the Red Death" available in the public domain. "The Masque of the Red Death" was published before January 1, 1923; it is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.)