The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

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This Teacher Guide Includes:

    Looking for inspirational engagement for your students during your unit on Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven? Check out this teacher guide, full of creative ways to use storyboards that excite your students!

    By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!

    A Quick Synopsis of The Raven (Contains Plot Spoilers)

    The Raven is one of Edgar Allen Poe's most famous works. The poem takes place just after midnight on a December evening. A depressed man is sitting in his library, drifting in and out of sleep as he reminisces about Lenore, his dead lover.

    Suddenly, he hears a knock, but sees nothing on opening his door. Startled, he convinces himself it was only the wind against the window. He goes to the window to let in fresh air, and a raven swoops in, to perches above the door.

    The narrator talks to the bird, and inquires if it has a name. The raven says, “Nevermore.” Surprised by this response, the narrator continues to question the bird. The bird's only reply to questions is, “Nevermore.”

    The narrator fears the bird was sent to torture him. He asks a final question: will he ever hold his love, Lenore, again? The raven, of course, answers, "Nevermore". It becomes clear throughout the poems that the man is delirious and distraught over the loss of his love.

    Essential Questions For The Raven Unit:

    1. How do great writers create a mood that readers can feel?
    2. What are the parts of a poem, and how can identifying them aid analysis?
    3. How do literary elements affect readers understanding of a literary work?

    Plotting the Events in "The Raven"

    A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

    Poe’s “The Raven" is one of the most recognizable poems ever written. It's narrative style, many stanzas, and repetition makes this ballad readily memorable. With the morbid obsession, eerie tone, and captivating imagery, it is hard to forget.

    Creating a Plot Diagram of the events in the poem can significantly help students to grasp key concepts and events. Student then can use the familiar plot diagram to track the actions, thoughts, and interactions of the main character and the raven.

    Example Plot Diagram:

    • Introduction (Setting/Time)
    • “The Raven" is set in at midnight on a bleak December night, as a man dozes in his chair.

    • Conflict
    • The man is distraught over the loss of his loved one, Leanore.

    • Rising Action (Protagonist/Antagonist/Point of View)
    • Suddenly, he hears a knocking, tapping, rapping at his chamber door. He discovers it is a raven.

    • Climax
    • After a lengthy conversation with the bird, the speaker asks if he will ever see Leanore again. The Raven replies: 'Nevermore.'

    • Falling Action (What is Learned)
    • Angry with the birds answer, the speaker kicks him out!

    • Conclusion (Theme)
    • The sorrow and sadness that comes with the loss of a loved one can never be undone.

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    Using TP-CASTT to Explore The Raven

    Poetry is one of the most expressive forms of literature. It can evoke emotions, set a mood, tell a story, or create a deeply and universally understood feeling in its readers. This makes expounding its elements, and understanding its rich meaning, comparisons, and symbols, even more important.

    The TP-CASTT method of poetry analysis is a great way to teach students to dissect a poem and understand its parts. It helps students to uncover the deeper meanings within poems while giving them the confidence to be self-educators. TP-CASTT Poetry Analysis is an order of operations similar to PEMDAS for math. It asks students to list items in sequential order and answer questions based on their reading of the poem.

    For explanation of steps, see our article on the TP-CASTT order of operations.

    • Title:
    • The title will be about a black bird and the bad luck it will bring.

    • Paraphrase:
    • A man loses someone he loved, named Lenore. He is devastated. One night, in December, while sitting in his room, he hears a knock. A raven visits him. It makes him angry when it tells him that he'll never see Lenore again.

    • Connotation:
    • The man is severely depressed, and is caught in his grief.

    • Attitude/Tone:
    • Poe uses words like 'chamber', 'ponder', 'weary', 'bleak', 'ghosts', and 'embers' to make the dead come alive. These words are depressing and melancholy.

    • Shifts:
    • A shift occurs when the speaker asks the raven if he will ever see Lenore again. This shows his anger with the bird, whom he kicks out.

    • Title:
    • After reading the poem, my title was partially correct. The poem was about a raven, but he represented sorrow and death.

    • Theme:
    • One interpretation of the theme: even though death is painful and sad, one must not dwell on it, or it will consume one.

    This is a great activity to have students do in a small group!

    Once they are finished ask them to create a storyboard with the TPCASTT Steps:

    Depicting Literary Elements

    When teaching Poetry, it is often helpful to refresh or introduce students with technical words. Terms like 'metaphor', 'simile', 'stanza', 'alliteration', 'personification', 'rhyme scheme', and 'onomatopoeia' are a few important terms.

    After you have read the poem ask your students to do a scavenger hunt using the storyboard creator. Give them the list again and have them create a storyboard that depicts and explains the use of each literary element in the poem! They will have an absolute blast and earn mastery of the words when they are completed. Check out this example below:

    Below are six literary elements that Poe uses in “The Raven"!

    • Alliteration
    • Repetition of a sound

      Example: "While I pondered weak and weary"

    • Simile
    • A comparison using 'like' or 'as'

      Example: "Suddenly there came a tapping, as of someone gently rapping"

    • Metaphor
    • A comparison, or association, without using 'like' or 'as'

      Example: "And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor"

    • Personification
    • Giving human-like qualities or characteristics to something.

      Example: "[T]he Raven, sitting lonely [...] spoke only, That one word, as if his soul [...] he did outpour."

    • Onomatopoeia
    • When the spelling of a word mimics the sound it represents

      Example: "...and so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door"

    • Assonance
    • The repetition of a vowel sound

      Example: "rustling of each purple curtain, Thrilled me—filled me"

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    Visually Depict and Explain Key Themes, Symbols, or Motifs in “The Raven"

    Valuable aspects of any literary work are its theme(s), symbols, and motif(s). Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to anatomize without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach theme(s), symbols, and motif(s).

    In the classroom, students can track the rich symbolism that Poe uses throughout the poem.


    • The Raven:
    • Typically ravens represent bad luck, and even death. In Greek mythology, ravens are seen as messengers. Perhaps this is why the speaker believes that it has come with a message from Lenore.

    • The Bust of Pallas:
    • This refers to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and enlightenment. The statue shows that the narrator is a scholar. Hence his pondering of old texts.

    • Lenore:
    • The name is possibly related to "Eleanor" or "Helen", deriving from the Greek for "light". This would imply she was the light of the narrator's life, and without her, there is darkness.

    Poe-cabulary Boards!

    In any classroom, vocabulary is a critical component for expanding student knowledge. A perfect way for students to practice vocabulary skills is to create storyboards that show the use of a word in a real life context, or visually depicted the word's meaning. When students define a word and use it in context, they better retain it as part of their own vocabulary.

    Vocabulary words from “The Raven":

    • Ponder: To think or reflect deeply on a subject.
    • Bleak: Unpleasant, cold, empty.
    • Wrought: Made or altered, especially by hammering. Past participle of "work".

    Teachers Note: There are two ways that you can use Poe’s vocabulary to teach your class. You can have students come up with an original sentence that uses the word, or they can find the word in the text, and depict what the word means.

    Visually Depicted Word Meanings from “The Raven":

    • Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary….
    • Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December...
    • And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor…
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    Make it Modern! A Modern Day Poe-tation!

    Take Poe’s “The Raven” and have students adapt it for the modern day.

    An excellent way to get students thinking about the poem is to have them make a Modern Day Adaptation. To make an effective adaptation, students must understand the poem, and what makes it unique. Keeping the elements of the poem in mind, student's adaptation should parallel the plot, but may use a more modern setting, word choice, and speaker.

    This Modern Day Adaptation of “The Raven" maintains a similar meter, and keeps the same subject matter. A proper adaptation preserves the underlying structure of the work. Students should be able to reread their first draft, and recognize the sound and feel of the original work.

    The Beginning of a Modern "Raven"

    Once upon a night so stormy, while I wandered with my homies,

    With a pile of hero comics, from ages now long yore,

    I felt a tiredness quite sapping, and went home, to start my napping.

    When out of nowhere, came a scratching, scratching at my bedroom door.

    I told myself, "it's just a rat", scratching at my bedroom door;

    Just a rodent, nothing more.

    Quickly then I did remember, Uncle Pete in last December,

    Who had ignored the noisome scratching, that came at his basement door.

    I took up my mag-light, fading, it's batteries, they need replacing,

    And forced myself up to the door...

    Other Lesson Plan Ideas

    1. Create an alternate ending to the poem with a storyboard that shows and tells the story from a different perspective.
    2. Complete a storyboard biography of Edgar Allen Poe. (This is a great pre-reading activity!)
    3. Ask students to create a graphic novel using multiple storyboards that depict the various works of Poe.
    4. Add a presentation to any storyboard project.

    From Our Artists

    From Stephanie (Head of Creativity)

    Poe is the leader in classic horror from the era of dark romanticism. His text paints pictures of the macabre, and employs rhythmic pacing that syncs with your uneasy heartbeat.

    • Personal Favorite: Poe is known for creating an ominous atmosphere in his work. It was fun to use Storyboard That's customization tools like the color selector and filters to replicate that mood.
    • Pro-tip: Customize your storyboards by using items from search on the shelves, in the fireplace, or on the mantle. Go the extra step with pictures and frames on the walls! These details will make the storyboard pop!

    Did you know? Items specific for The Raven are available in image search using the term "Poe". You can also find Poe himself, in the character tab labeled 1600's to 1950's.

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    Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Middle School ELA and High School ELA Categories!
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