Edgar Allan Poe is a legendary author of 19th-century American Literature. Poe is significant in the American Literary genres of mystery, macabre, and early science fiction. Known as the father of detective stories, he lived between the years of 1809—1849. See http://www.biography.com/people/edgar-allan-poe-9443160#synopsis for more about his life. Poe’s writings published during his time have fallen into the public domain, so anyone may copy his original works today without permission. However, students must be reminded that they should always cite Poe as the author anytime they copy or adapt his works.

Learning Edgar Allan Poe Stories through Graphic Classics: A Graphic Novel for Middle School Students

See Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe, Fourth Edition, Eureka Productions, 2010, for the book utilized for this lesson. Students have read and enjoyed Poe’s stories for years. This lesson for eighth graders takes a very familiar Poe story, and two that are less familiar, and presents them in a new format to read—the graphic novel. Using this format, the students can see these stories come to life through illustrations and graphics. The three stories are The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Black Cat.

The lesson objectives are to:

  • teach the students the depth of Poe’s writings through a new format.
  • encourage discussions in groups about these stories by Poe.
  • have the students create their own poems and stories.
  • discover and discuss themes and symbolism.
  • provide library instruction in using a citation style, e.g. MLA.


Special Thanks

Special thanks to Melodi Pulliam, graduate of NKU's Library Informatics program, for creating this lesson as part of her Capstone Project before graduating in 2014. Public domain image source: "Poecorbeau2" via Wikimedia Commons -


Simpsons spoof The Raven

The “Treehouse of Horror,” from the second season of the popular television series The Simpsons presented a parody of Poe’s work “The Raven.” This performance allows class discussions about rhymed stanza, mood, meter, and other literary topics. This also provides an opportunity to ask students to create mash-ups or transformative parodies of their own based upon any of Poe’s works. It even demonstrates the ease of using works which have fallen into the public domain. Depending on the needs of your lesson planning, students could work on this project in class or as homework. Consider displaying the student works as part of a class or school-wide competition. Remind students to cite sources of works utilized as well as credit for the original Poe work which inspires their base story. See the Creative Thinking Lesson Two covering mash ups and transformative use for further support of your instruction. For more about The Simpsons-twist on The Raven, see Further Resources and Recommendations below.

Lesson Discussion New Words: Public Domain, Source Citations, Rhymed Stanza, Narrative Poem, and Story Theme.

The Raven

The initial section of this lesson starts with the reading of The Raven (pp. 21-27). Then the students will answer four questions about the story:

1. First ask the class if they noticed how Poe rhymes throughout The Raven? Tell the class that this is called a “rhymed stanza” (Merriam-Webster, 2014). This means that the lines usually end with words that rhyme. Next, forming groups, have students discuss the questions below and create a small rhymed stanza.

2. What is the meaning of The Raven?  What was Poe trying to say? A brief 1-2 paragraph summary is fine.

3. The Raven can also be described as a “narrative poem.” Find the definition of narrative poem and create an original poem on a topic of one’s choice (1-3 paragraphs).

4. Let’s look at the art that goes along with The Raven. Does the art explain the story? Why or why not? Please give detailed reasons as to why it does or doesn’t explain the story. Some keywords to help with this question include: tone; context; and graphic representation.

The Black Cat

The next part of this lesson is about The Black Cat (pp.28-39). The students will answer three questions about the story:

1. This story starts with a man in jail who wants to “unburden his soul.” What does Poe mean by using that phrase? Does the art show what he means? Why or why not?

2. There are some symbols that Poe and the artist use to tell this story. What are those symbols? Why do Poe and the artist use them? Are the symbols things that have been used for a long time (are they known to all), or are they things never seen before?

3. What is the theme of this story? Does the art match the theme? Why or why not? Does the artist tell the story with his/her pictures?

The Tell-Tale Heart

The last part of this lesson is about Poe’s story, The Tell-Tale Heart (pp.72-89). The students could answer three questions.

1. This Poe story starts with a man saying he is nervous. Why might he be nervous? Why might Poe have written the story that way? What are some thoughts and ideas?

2. This story also contains the same theme as the other stories. Identify the theme and why Poe might have written about this particular theme. Use one to three outside resources to explain the reasoning, e.g. library books or credible library databases.

3. Does the artist tell Poe’s story in pictures well? Why or why not?

Finally, ask the students to discuss the following summary of all the stories, while writing their ideas on the board (supported with evidence, brief narrative examples from the stories):

When looking at all three stories, there is a common theme. What is this theme? After researching Poe and his life, how does his real life compare to what he wrote in his stories? What parts are similar or different?

For an optional homework assignment, have the students go and find a different book on Edgar Allan Poe and write a book review (1 page), making sure to add page numbers at the end of quotations (evidence) from the Poe stories they reference, along with the “QUOTE” marks to show they borrowed the author’s words, as a first step to using citations (and avoiding plagiarism). While they are practicing the in-text citation, ease them into what to do at the end of the review, with their Works Cited page. The teacher may put tips and hints (as necessary) to get students ready for the upcoming full MLA citation lesson or other citation style.  A helpful online resource to get the students started is the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) site’s MLA guide found here: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/.

MLA Citation Instruction

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Raven.” Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe. Editor Tom Pomplun. Mount Horeb, WI: Eureka Productions, 2010. 21-7. Print.

Before starting this section, refer to the Creative Thinking Lesson One http://creativethinking.nku.edu/lessons/lesson1/creditdue.html  and related Dr. Alberti short film on Citing Sources and Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due http://creativethinking.nku.edu/lessons/films.html.

This is the full MLA citation for The Raven, as it is just one story in a collection of stories. Students will need to use this same style (template) for all three stories, to be consistent in displaying their citations. For this lesson, begin by using The Raven, and then students should write out the other citations based upon this example.

Step 1:

Book entries are usually listed in this order: Author(s), Title (italicized), Editor(s) if needed, Publication city, Publisher, Publication year, Medium (aka format).

First, list the author of the stories read, Edgar Allan Poe, since he was the original creator and writer of them.

Step 2:

This is where the title of the story read is written down (since this is a bunch of stories in one book, a compilation or anthology, one must cite each story read). This is important because it tells others exactly what story was read.

Step 3:

This is where the student writes the title of the book compilation from which the stories were taken (since it was not a book written by Poe himself). Notice the title in italics? This is to differentiate between the short story title within the book and the whole book title itself. It also aids in showing others where the information was retrieved.

Step 4:

Since this is a special case, and all the stories and their art were brought together in one book source (compilation) by an editor, list that person in your citation.

Step 5:

This is the city from where the book is published and/or written. In cases like this one, the state is listed because the city is not as well-known globally as New York or Los Angeles. This is another guiding piece of information for the reader.

Step 6:

This is where the publisher’s name is written. Include as much identifying information about the book used. Notice all of the punctuation marks. These marks are very important as a way to distinguish between specific items in the citation and allow the reader to locate specific information quickly.

Step 7:

This is where the publication year is written. This is important information to aid the reader in locating the book at the library or another place.

Step 8:

This is where the page numbers of the story are written. Since this book contains many stories in one compilation, one has to convey to the reader the exact pages from where the story was found.

Step 9:

This is where the medium (or format) of publication for your information source is written. Since this is a book (not online), write the word “print.”  If one were citing an online eBook, they would use the word “web” instead of “print” because that would be the medium (format).

And finally, the MLA citation should look just like the image at the top of this section!


Further Resources and Recommendations

Biography.com website, Edgar Allan Poe Biography ~ http://www.biography.com/people/edgar-allan-poe-9443160

Fall of the House of Usher by Matthew K. Manning, Jim Jimenez (Illustrator), Dennis Calero (Illustrator) & Edgar Allan Poe (Original Author) ~ http://www.worldcat.org/title/fall-of-the-house-of-usher/oclc/795645142&referer=brief_results

Graphic Classics: Edgar Allen Poe, Revised Fourth Edition, Eureka Productions, 2010 ~ http://www.graphicclassics.com/pgs/gc1v4_pv.htm

Museum of Edgar Allan Poe website (includes biography, collections and exhibits to view) ~ https://www.poemuseum.org/index.php

Nevermore: A Graphic Novel Anthology of Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Stories (Classical Eye) by Edgar Allan Poe (Author) & Dan Whitehead (Editor) ~ http://www.worldcat.org/title/nevermore-a-graphic-novel-anthology-of-edgar-allan-poes-short-stories/oclc/495295437&referer=brief_results

Edgar Allan Poe Wikipedia article ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Allan_Poe

Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab)-MLA Formatting and Style Guide ~ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/

ReadWriteThink – Lesson Plan: Modeling Reading and Analysis Processes with the Works of Edgar Allan Poe (Treehouse of Horror) ~ http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/modeling-reading-analysis-processes-411.html?tab=3#tabs

Simpsons in the Classroom: Embiggening the Learning Experience with the Wisdom of Springfield, Karma Waltonen and Denise Du Vernay, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010.

Teach with Movies – Lesson Plan: Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe using The Simpsons & Ladykillers ~ http://www.teachwithmovies.org/snippets/sn-ELA-poetry-raven-simpsons.html

TeacherTube – The Raven: The Simpsons Version ~ http://www.teachertube.com/video/the-raventhe-simpsons-version-251203

Kentucky Standards and Common Core Standards for lesson

The Kentucky standard is listed first, followed by the Common Core Standard in parentheses.

The Raven lesson:

  • CCR: Reading Literature:8: Standard 1 (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.1)
  • CCR: Reading Literature:8: Standard 2 (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.2)
  • CCR: Reading Literature:8: Standard 5 (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.5)
  • CCR: Reading Literature:8: Standard 7 (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.7)

The Black Cat lesson:

  • CCR: Reading Informational Text:8: Standard 3 (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.3)
  • CCR: Reading Informational Text:8: Standard 4 (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.4)
  • CCR: Reading Literature:8: Standard 2 (CCSS.ELA-Litearcy.RL.8.2)

The Tell-Tale Heart lesson:

  • CCR: Reading Informational Text:8: Standard 7 (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.7)

Summary lesson:

  • CCR: Reading Literature:8: Standard 9 (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.9)