Fear in The Tell Tale Heart

Fear in The Tell Tale Heart

The Situation

You are introducing The Tell Tale Heart as part of a Gothic study.

The Solution

Gothic is mutually connected with the notion of fear. For the purpose of this lesson, we will look at how fear affects the body and how we can replicate this fear in literature.

Before jumping straight into study, let’s first look at an example for your students to engage with.

Stanley Kubrick’s atmospheric, The Shining, is an odyssey of strangeness. Below is a classic shot from the film: Danny discovers the strange twins for the first time.

Now, the film is not going be suitable for your students, but showing them a still like this will be largely harmless.

Present the idea that they are driving their tricycle through an empty hotel. They arrive at this image. The prompt is: what happens next?

Encourage students to question the possibility. They can examine the fear of the character and build tension through tight sentences.

Have students share there work and read aloud, Praise students for creating a piece of writing that mimics the atmosphere in the image.

Introduce the learning intention to students. The focus here is understanding how fear is created in The Tell Tale Heart.

As a way of introducing the topic, discuss the notion of fear and how it affects the human body. Quiz students on what happens to them when they experience fear and record on the whiteboard.

Now that you have framed the lesson around fear and the human body, you are ready to introduce the story. Give students some fundamental information about the story and Edgar Allan Poe.

Prior to introducing students to the story, assign partner A and B. Partner A reads the first paragraph. Partner B reads the second. Ensure that students read the work aloud, that they are actively listening and taking turns. This is an excellent Kagan strategy to encourage engagement and reduce a heavy reading load on students.

After reading, you might like to quiz students on fundamental aspects of the story. What is it about? How did it end? These questions will allow you to understand whether ‘they got it’ or not. If they are confused here then you may need to pause further before moving on. Always make this judgement.

A strategy that I love to introduce is something call ‘Big Brain Activity’; this is a tool where you provide three levels of learning and allow you students to select where they would like to start, or allow them to start at the beginning and build their skills set up. In the below example, I have provided three activities that I have levelled based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.

The first box focuses primarily on comprehension and understanding. Do students know what the story is about? Can they analyse quotes?

The second questions encourages students to justify their understanding and make links to some deeper themes in the text.

The third box requires to analyse the use of punctuation in the text and how this links to style.

Creating this type of levelled learning encourages students to become autonomous in their learning. Ideally, you want students to challenge themselves and want to thrive for their best work. This model encourages this approach.

Now that students have read the story and analysed the punctuation, genre and conventions, they are now ready to have a go at writing their own crime story involving fear. Provide a prompt such as the one below to get students started,

At this point you will have well and truly ended your lesson. And hopefully you have done a few things:

  • Introduce students to fear
  • Introduced students to an abridged version of The Tell Tale Heart.
  • Encouraged students choice with learning.
  • Discussed the punctuation and language choices in the text
  • You are now ready to jump into some creative writing next lesson!

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