Chris Adcock
English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Narration
  • Plot
  • Point of View
  • Short Story
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart

    Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart


    In this lesson, students will be introduced to Edgar Allan Poe's theory on the “single effect” of the short story. They will read a passage from Poe as well as his short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.”


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Decide how you will put students in pairs for the lesson's tasks.

    Reflection Partner Share

    • Students should realize that the short story is a distinct form, shorter than a novel, and often read all at once. Their interpretations of the benefits can vary.
    • Project or display the questions for easier viewing.


    Share your written homework responses about the benefits and qualities of short stories with a partner.

    Let the following questions guide your discussion.

    • What are the benefits of telling a story in the short story form?
    • Think of a few novels you have read. How is the novelist’s approach to storytelling different from the writer of a short story?

    Poe Paragraph and Translation

    • If it is appropriate for your class, you can engage in a brief discussion on Poe, as students are most likely familiar with him and his works. The class will read “The Tell-Tale Heart” together in Task 4. Even if students have read this story before, assure them that this interaction with the text will be with a different approach and purpose.
    • The focus here is on Poe's “single effect” theory of the short story; that is, how every event, character, and description should directly contribute to the overall experience of the story.
    • Students may initially have difficulty getting started on this activity, as the language used may be hard to understand.
      • ELL: Identifying archaic language can be easy for some ELL students and more difficult for others. As needed, help students identify passages that are archaic, and discuss how language changes over time to reflect the culture and values of the people who speak it. If helpful to your students, you can have them work in pairs for this task.
    • Encourage students to look up the definitions of words they do not know, but also make sure that they do not just replace every word in the text with a synonym for that word to create their “translation.”

    Work Time

    Read from Edgar Allan Poe’s “Review of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales ,” an essay he wrote about short stories. Find paragraph 13 that begins, “A skilful literary artist has constructed a tale.”

    • First, read and annotate the paragraph.
    • Then write a “translation” of the paragraph into everyday modern English.

    Open Notebook

    When you finish, share your translation with your partner.

    Clarity Statement

    • Each pair should narrow down the essence of Poe's theory into a single sentence (a Gist) that is easy to understand.
    • If it's feasible, you may wish to have students vote on the one that the class agrees is the most effective.
      • SWD: For some students, identifying the main idea and distilling it to a single sentence can be difficult. Provide support and examples as needed, and once students have written their own, capture their sentences on the board to support visual learners and provide further examples.

    Work Time

    • After you have shared your translation, work with your partner to agree on a one-sentence Gist that expresses the main idea of the passage.

    Open Notebook

    Share your clarity statements with the class and discuss.

    The Tell-Tale Heart

    Begin by modeling how to find and annotate words that create mood, conflict, suspense, and tension.

    • Remind students of Poe's idea that every element of the story, especially the choice of words and descriptions, contributes to the overall effect.
    • Encourage students to make notes in the text for easier reference later.
      • ELL: This is a good opportunity to check for understanding of the terms mood ,conflict ,suspense , andtension .

    Work Time

    Read and annotate Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

    • Mark words that create mood, conflict, suspense, and tension.

    Tell-Tale Heart Quick Write

    • As this is the second of many annotated reads in the unit, emphasize the importance of both annotating and using textual evidence in quality writing.
    • Be sure the students are on task and responding to each other's ideas, not merely making their own statements.
    • When students finish, facilitate a Whole Group Discussion.


    Take a few moments to write a response to the following questions.

    • Does Poe take his own advice and produce a “single effect” in his story? Give specific reasons for your response using evidence from the text.
    • What are the benefits of being able to read a story in one sitting?

    Open Notebook

    Share your thoughts and insights with the whole class.

    Tell-Tale Heart Analysis

    • Let students know how you want them to share their writing with you.
    • Direct students to write their explanation in the text itself so they can return to it easily later.
    • They will have opportunity to discuss their homework in Lesson 3 .


    • Re-examine “The Tell-Tale Heart” and explain how the narrator contributes to the overall effect of the story.