Learning the genre of Horror/Suspense with Tell Tale Heart

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SWBAT analyze how authors craft particular elements of a story in order to shape a horror/suspense narrative.

Big Idea

"......but why WILL you say that I am mad?"

Lesson Opener

5 minutes

In my lesson openers I always have a "connect" in which I connect students' thinking about yesterday's lesson to today's lesson. I then have a "teach" in which I model for students the lesson of the day and also have them try it out. When I think about my modeling, I use three categories; skill, strategy, and process. I model by stating the skill to the students, then giving them a strategy in which to use the skill, followed by the process to try out the strategy.

Connect:  I will say, “We have been brainstorming ideas for our horror stories and drafting scenes. In order to see how an author crafts a short horror/suspense/thriller story, we are going to analyze the moves the author makes in a scary story called Tell Tale Heart."

Teach: I will say, “In order to learn about the genre of horror/suspense and thriller stories, I am going to show you how to practice the skill of analyzing an author’s craft and the strategy of annotating those moves. The process I will use is as follows:

1) Read Tell Tale Heart (or along with an audio book)

2) Annotate when I see an author making a craft move that is important for the genre

3) Add why the author uses this “move.”

I will model for students how I read through the story (or stop as I listen to the audio of the story) and how I notate the authors’ moves by annotating on the text and using my Author's Craft Reference Sheet.

I will then show how I notate after the first paragraph that Edgar Allen Poe is using a “first person narrator” because he wants to show the story through the point of view through a “mad man” or person with a mental illness.





Active Engagement

5 minutes

Active Engagement: I will say, “You will stop and jot after the second paragraph by using the stem “The author uses……because….,” only if you need a stem.” I will ask the students, (at least 3 students-one who is at standard, one is approaching standard, and one who is above standard) “What did you jot notes about and where did you annotate it in your text? How could you use the same type of “moves” in your writing?”

Closing of Active Engagement: I will say, “Remember successful writers practice the skill of learning a new genre by using the strategy of using a mentor text to discover the craft moves authors make. The process they use is review term that are connected to author’s craft’s moves, read the text, stop and jot where they see the author’s moves and connect it to how they could use the same moves.

Independent Practice

30 minutes

Independent Practice: You will then stop and jot notes when you see an author making a “craft move” important to this genre. I will say, “Now you are going to read over the rest of the story and annotate the text. I will walk around and confer with students using the Possible Conferences for Learning a Genre.

For one of my conferences I referred a small group of students to a past "word choice" conference (in the below video). I pointed out to them how Edgar Allen Poe used a variety of levels of word choice when crafting his story in order for them to annotate for that craft move.


After we have read the story, students will watch an animation (see below) of Tell Tale Heart to see additional craft moves the author made in the animation. Students will be asked to “turn and talk” about the craft moves the author of this animation made and how they could use that in their writing throughout the story.

For example one of my students said, “the animation shows the narrator in an asylum, Edgar Allen Poe could have described where the narrator was when he was telling the story




5 minutes

I believe that the end of the lesson should be an assessment of the days’ learning; therefore it should be independent work. I always end class with an exit ticket in which students write down the response to a question.


1) Name a craft move (or writing move) the author made in the story and in animation.  Why did each author choose to use this move?

2) Which one helped you be “into” the horror story? Why?

3) Which one could use as in your writing? Why would you use it?

See an example on the resource sheet.