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The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

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

Student Activities for The Tell-Tale Heart Include:

“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a dark and eerie tale of a man’s unhealthy obsession that leads him to commit murder. However, it is his paranoia that gets him caught.

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




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A Quick Synopsis of “The Tell-Tale Heart” (Contains Plot Spoilers)

The story begins with the unnamed narrator wanting to prove his sanity to the readers. He lived in the same building as an old man with a “vulture eye”. As the story progresses, the reader learns that the narrator has become upset by the old man’s eye, which is a piercing blue color, with a white film over it. Tension builds as the narrator describes how his obsession has taken over, and he plots to kill the old man to get rid of the eye's gaze. Each night, the narrator goes into the old man’s room as he sleeps, intending to kill him. He cannot do it when the man is asleep, because his eyes are shut, and he looks peaceful. One night, the narrator creeps in and startles the old man, who screams. As the narrator glares at the eye, he finally musters the strength to rid himself of the eye and smothers the old man with his mattress. The narrator meticulously hides the body under the floorboards.

Soon after, the police arrive because a neighbor heard a scream. The narrator covers up the incident by saying the old man is out of town, and that the scream came from him. As the police are looking around, the narrator begins to hear a peculiar ticking sound; he quickly becomes mad as the sound grows fiercer in his mind. To the narrator, he believes he is hearing the sound of the old man’s heart still beating, finally leading him to confess in a moment of insanity.


Essential Questions for “The Tell-Tale Heart”

  1. What are ways that an author can build suspense?
  2. How do effective writers create mood in their short stories?

The Tell-Tale Heart Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

"The Tell-Tale Heart" Plot Diagram


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A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a novel. 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.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a novel with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example "Tell-Tale Heart" Plot Diagram

Exposition

The narrator is introduced. He wishes to prove his sanity to the readers despite having killed a man over his deformed eye.


Major Inciting Conflict

The narrator lives in the same building as an old man who has a disturbing eye. The narrator says that it is deformed, looking like a vulture's eye with a film covering it.


Rising Action

Over the next eight days, the narrator plots to kill the old man to get rid of the "eye". Each night he enters the old man's room with a lantern until he sees the eye.


Climax

Finally, one evening, the old man wakes up and screams. Then the narrator pulls the man off the bed and smothers him with his mattress until he can no longer hear the old man's heart beating.


Falling Action

Summoned by a neighbor, the police arrive, citing that someone reported a scream. The narrator tries to cover up by saying it was him that screamed, and that the old man was out of town.


Resolution

The story ends when the narrator believes he hears a ticking noise that grows louder and louder. He believes that it is the sound of the old man’s heart and confesses to the police.


"The Tell-Tale Heart" Plot Diagram

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of "Tell-Tale Heart".


  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



Story Outline Storyboard Template

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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"The Tell-Tale Heart" Vocabulary


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Another great way to engage your students is with storyboards that use vocabulary from "The Tell-Tale Heart." Here are a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the story, and an example of a visual vocabulary board.


Vocabulary Words from “The Tell-Tale Heart”

  • vex
  • dissimulation
  • hypocritical
  • conceive
  • sufficient
  • profound
  • stifled
  • envelop
  • refrain
  • gradual
  • sagacity
  • suavity
  • gesticulation
  • wary
  • vehement
  • derision
  • mockery

In the vocabulary board, students can choose between coming up with their use of the vocabulary word, finding the specific example from the text, or depicting the definition without words.

The Tell-Tale Heart Vocabulary

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in "The Tell-Tale Heart" by creating visualizations.


  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



Vocabulary Template Blank

Example

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"The Tell-Tale Heart" Literary Conflict


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Storyboarding is an excellent way to focus on types of literary conflict. Have your students choose an example of each literary conflict and depict them using the storyboard creator. In the storyboard, an example of each conflict should be visually represented, along with an explanation of the scene, and how it fits the particular category of conflict.

Examples of Literary Conflict from “The Tell-Tale Heart”

MAN vs. SELF

The narrator struggles to resist the awful ticking of the dead man's heart that haunts him.


MAN vs. SOCIETY

The narrator must lie to the police, and cover up the murder.


MAN vs. MAN

The narrator obsesses over the old man’s eye, eventually killing him for it.


"The Tell-Tale Heart" Literary Conflict

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in “The Tell-Tale Heart”.


  1. Identify conflicts in “The Tell-Tale Heart”.
  2. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  3. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
  4. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.



Literary Conflict Template

Example

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TWIST in "The Tell-Tale Heart"


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Another great way to engage your students, is through the creation of storyboards that examine Tone, Word Choice, Imagery, Style, and Theme. This activity is referred to with the acronym “TWIST”. In a TWIST, students focus on a particular paragraph or few pages, to look deeper at the author’s meaning.



Using any paragraph of “The Tell-Tale Heart”, students can examine, depict, explain, and foreshadow what will happen in the story to asses the tone of the story.

TWIST Example for “The Tell-Tale Heart”

TRUE! - nervous - very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses - not destroyed - not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily - how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture - a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees - very gradually - I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Edgar Allan Poe The Tell Tale Heart

T

TONE

Delusional: The narrator states that he is completely rational, but his obsessive, manic, and homicidal behavior says otherwise.
W

WORD CHOICE

nervous, mad, disease, destroyed, Hell, “my blood ran cold”, “to take the life”, “rid myself... forever”.
I

IMAGERY

“I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture - a pale blue eye, with a film over it.”
S

STYLE

The narrator attempts to use rhetoric to make the reader believe that he is not insane. In the following lines: “TRUE! -nervous - very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”; “Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold, I had no desire. …”.
T

THEME

The narrator states resolutely that he is not insane. However, it is clear that he is disturbed. The theme of this work is that not all narrators are reliable. Just because they present their reality, does not mean the reader has to accept it as truth.


"The Tell-Tale Heart" TWIST

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Perform a TWIST analysis of a selection from "The Tell-Tale Heart". Remember that TWIST stands for Tone, Word Choice, Imagery, Style, Theme.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Choose any combination of scenes, characters, items, and text to represent each letter of TWIST.
  3. Write a few sentences describing the importance or meaning of the images.
  4. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  5. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.



TWIST Template

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Don’t Let the Fun Stop There! Check Out Other Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Use storyboard to specifically show cause and effect in the Tell Tale Heart story.
  2. Create a storyboard just depicting the rising action to demonstrate how the author built suspense.
  3. Add a presentation to any storyboard project.

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•   (English) The Tell-Tale Heart   •   (Español) El Corazón Revelador   •   (Français) Le Coeur Tell-Tale   •   (Deutsch) Das Tell-Tale-Herz   •   (Italiana) Il Cuore Rivelatore   •   (Nederlands) The Tell-Tale Heart   •   (Português) O Coração Tell-Tale   •   (עברית) הלב המסגיר   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) قول من القلب   •   (हिन्दी) दिल की कथा बताओ   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Сердце-обличитель   •   (Dansk) Hjertet der Sladrede   •   (Svenska) Hjärtat som Avslöjar   •   (Suomi) Paljastavia Heart   •   (Norsk) Den Tell-Tale Hjerte   •   (Türkçe) Anlatı Kalbi   •   (Polski) Zdradzieckie Serce   •   (Româna) Inima-povesteasca   •   (Ceština) Příběh Srdce