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A lesson called Edgar Allan Poe Poetry Readers Theater, dealing with his Poetry
Title – Edgar Allan Poe Poetry Readers Theater
By – Rachel Schaeffer
Subject – Language Arts
Grade Level – 8/9
Students will understand the content and themes discussed in four poems by Edgar Allan Poe: “The Raven”, “The Bells”, “Eldorado”, and “Annabel Lee.” They will also understand the process or readers theater and group dramatic presentations.
Several copies of each poem; markers; butcher paper, tape, glue, various art supplies for set design and prop creation. I have students bring in any supplies and props that I cannot provide.
Suggested Time Frame:
4-5 class sessions to work and 1-2 class sessions to present. We have 50 minute class sessions.
Introduce basic information about Poe as an author. I also discuss the concept of atmosphere/tone as it relates to Poe’s work. I then read the four poems aloud and have students listen for two things: 1)examples of Poe’s common tone through vocabulary and description and 2)the storyline/events depicted in the poem (what is the poem about). This is just a basic introduction because in the days following I expect small groups to really delve into the poems’ meanings and stories.
I divide class into 4 random groups. I then introduce the assignment. They will have four days to turn one of the poems into a play/reader’s theater piece to be performed in front of the class using dialogue, props, music, and scenery.
Their plays must be 3-7 minutes long and all group members must participate, although not all have to speak. I explain that they must stick to the storyline of the poem, but they can play around with setting, time (change it to the 1960’s, the future, etc.), and characters. Inevitably, students discover that there are missing scenes in the poems that they feel are important to the story (i.e. the death of Annabel Lee or the stops along the knight’s journey in “Eldorado”)and I encourage them to add those scenes into their plays. “The Bells” causes particular stress as there are no characters, so they must be added by the group.
I tend to give them only these few directions at the beginning as I encourage them to discover questions on their own. Finally, I have them draw a poem title out of a hat. I don’t allow them to trade poems.
I give the students these days to work and rehearse. I only give 2 1/2 days to encourage them to get down to business. I allow them to come in at lunch and after school to work.
I have groups draw out of a hat for presentation order. I tape all of the presentations for them to look at later and critique.
Meets time requirements ___/10
All group members participate ___/10
Well rehearsed/prepared ___/10
Follows storyline in a logical order/makes sense ___/10
Creative and original ___/10
This is a fun, experiential project that serves as a good introduction to both drama and Poe. It is also highly student-centered and student-driven. This means the classroom will be noisy and messy as kids design sets and bring in props to store. I tend to wait until mid-year after a rapport and a healthy respect for the rules and the environment has been established. I also do wait until they have done one or two group projects because this is completely driven by the group members.
At the conclusion of the project, I give students the opportunity to assess their own contributions to the group as well as others’ contributions. This motivates them to work harder and stay on task.
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