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The Tell Tale Heart Lesson Plans

“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. It's a suspenseful story and one of Poe's well known pieces, perfect for chilly days of autumn.

Student Activities for The Tell-Tale Heart

Essential Questions for “The Tell-Tale Heart”

  1. What are ways that an author can build suspense?
  2. How do effective writers, like Poe, create mood in their short stories?
  3. How does the narrator's perception of reality affect his thoughts and actions?
  4. Why do you think Poe chose this title? What does it evoke in the reader?
  5. What are some of the symbols in the story and what do they represent?

A Quick Synopsis of “The Tell-Tale Heart”

Beware! “The Tell-Tale Heart” summary below does contain spoilers! This summary is meant to be a helpful recap for students after they have read the story. Or, a useful refresher for teachers to help them decide if they would like to use this short story in the classroom.

What is “The Tell-Tale Heart” about?

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.

More Storyboarding Activity Ideas for “The Tell-Tale Heart”

It is so easy to use our assignment wizard to create your own activity from scratch. All you have to do is: give your assignment a title, add directions, provide a template and send it to your students! You can even use any of the storyboards you see within our activities as examples by quickly and easily copying and customizing them for your intended purpose. Don't forget to look through our thousands of worksheet and poster templates as well! You can add as many templates to an assignment as you'd like!

  1. Use storyboards to specifically show cause and effect in "The Tell-Tale Heart".

  2. Create a storyboard just depicting the rising action to demonstrate how the author built suspense.

  3. Create an alternate ending to "The Tell-Tale Heart" with a storyboard that shows and tells the story from a different perspective.

  4. Complete a storyboard biography of Edgar Allan Poe. (This is a great pre-reading activity!)

  5. Ask students to create a graphic novel using multiple storyboards that depict the various works of Poe.

  6. Give students the opportunity to storyboard their answers to "The Tell-Tale Heart" Study Guide Questions using images and text, or write their own summary!

  7. Want to take Storyboard That offline? Create "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe worksheets with questions and illustrations related to the story.

  8. Add a presentation to create a "The Tell-Tale Heart"” interactive project!

Ideas for Post-Reading Activities for “The Tell-Tale Heart” for pairs, groups or individuals!

Storyboard That is an excellent tool for students to create fun and engaging projects as a culminating activity after finishing a novel or poem. In addition to our premade activities, here are some ideas that teachers can customize and assign to students to spark creativity in individual students, pairs, or small groups for a final project. Several of these ideas include Storyboard That templates that can be printed out or copied into your teacher dashboard and assigned digitally. All final projects can be printed out, presented as a slide show, or, for an extra challenge, as an animated gif!

  1. For Groups: Turn Edgar Allan Poe's story “The Tell-Tale Heart” into a short play to reenact the narrative for the class! Use the traditional storyboard layout to plan out your scenes. You can add text to your storyboards, or simply use the cells to visualize each scene of your play.

  2. Using one of Storyboard That’s board game templates, create a game based on the short story for your classmates to play!

  3. For Groups: Divide the parts of the story amongst your group members. Each member of the group creates a storyboard for their assigned part.

  4. Using the worksheet layout and Storyboard That’s worksheet assets, create your own “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe worksheet! They can be in the form of a test or a quiz for other students in the class. You can create all kinds of questions such as multiple choice, short answer, and even matching! When you are done, be sure to make an answer key.

  5. Using one of Storyboard That’s biography poster templates, create a poster about the character or the author. Be sure to include important biographical features such as: place and date of birth, family life, accomplishments, etc.

  6. Create a book jacket of “The Tell-Tale Heart” using one of Storyboard That’s book jacket templates. Use Storyboard That art to create the cover, and write a summary of the story on the back, just like real books have!

  7. Using one of Storyboard That’s social media templates as a starting point, create a social media page for the character or the author! Be sure to think how the character thinks while creating this page.

  8. Create a scrapbook page made by the character or the author. Storyboard That has lots of premade templates that you can use as is, or change to fit your character’s personality! Check out our scrapbook templates today!

Edgar Allan Poe Lesson Plan

Author Study

Extend and enhance your students' knowledge of Poe and his works by conducting an Author Study. Students can research more about Edgar Allan Poe, read his various stories and poems and make connections to his life and the time period. Students can use storyboards to analyze his work, his style, prevalent themes and more!

Buy “The Tell-Tale Heart” on Amazon

About the Author: Edgar Allan Poe

"Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”

- Edgar Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher", 1839

Edgar Allan Poe was an American short-story writer, poet, critic, and editor. He is internationally known as a literary genius. Some of his most famous short stories and poems, like “The Tell-Tale Heart”, are dark tales of grief, mystery, macabre and the supernatural.

Some of the most famous works by Edgar Allan Poe in order of their publication are: "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839), "The Masque of the Red Death" (1842), "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1843), "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843), "The Black Cat" (1843), "The Purloined Letter" (1844), "The Raven" (1845), "The Cask of Amontillado" (1846), and "The Bells" (1848). All are considered literary classics today.

Early Life

Poe was born January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. His life was fraught with tragedy from an early age. His father, David Poe, Jr. abandoned the family when Poe was just a baby. Poe's mother, English-born Elizabeth Arnold Poe, was a well-liked actress who tragically died of tuberculosis when Poe was only 3 years old. He carried an image of his mother throughout his life.

Poe was taken in by John Allan, a successful tobacco merchant in Richmond, VA and his wife, Frances Allan. While Poe was sadly separated from his siblings William and Rosalie, he was afforded the opportunity of a good education and was doted upon by Mrs. Allan, who had no children of her own. Poe showed great promise with writing at an early age but was discouraged by his foster father who preferred he go into the family business.

It is said that Poe had a loving relationship with his foster mother but sadly, Mrs. Allan, too, died of tuberculosis when Poe was a young man. Poe had a difficult relationship with his strict foster father. Mr. Allan helped Poe attend the University of Virginia for one year and later the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, but otherwise he and Poe had a tumultuous relationship. Mr. Allan did little to help Poe financially and even left Poe out of his will. Despite his talents as a writer, Poe struggled with money, gambling, alcohol, and poor health throughout his life.

Career and Marriage

At the University of Virginia, Poe impressed his classmates with his talents as both a writer and an artist. While away at school, Poe's fiancee, Sarah Elmira Royster became engaged to another. Heartbroken, in 1827, Poe moved to Boston where he published his first pamphlet of poems followed by another volume in 1829 in Baltimore. In 1833, Poe published the short story, "MS. Found in a Bottle" and in 1835, he became the editor of the "Southern Literary Messenger" in Richmond. Having finally found a stable profession, Poe was then married to his much younger cousin, Virginia Clemm.

Poe was known as a harsh and combative critic at the "Southern Literary Messenger" and his stint there didn't last long. His reputation as being antagonistic was well known and he even had a feud with another famous poet of his day, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poe bounced around, working for various other magazines and journals and in 1844 he moved to New York City with his wife, Virginia. Despite his numerous publications prior, it wasn't until he published "The Raven" in 1845 that he was finally considered a popular literary star of his day. So much so that Poe's nickname even became, "The Raven". It was published in "The Evening Mirror" where Poe worked as a critic and it became an overnight sensation. While the publication of "The Raven" brought Poe great acclaim and fame, it did not bring him any fortune. In fact, he earned a mere $14.00 for it. Having lived most of his life impoverished despite steadily working, Poe was an advocate for better wages for writers.


When Poe wrote "The Raven" he was foreshadowing the loss of his own beloved. On January 30, 1847, in a tragic twist of fate, Poe's young wife, Virginia, died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 - the same age his mother was when she died and the same cause of death as both his mother and foster mother. Poe fell into a deep depression and although he continued to work, suffered poor health, both mental and physical. Poe did manage to write an ode to his lost love called, "Annabel Lee".

Poe was known to have abused alcohol and was said to have looked pale and sickly in the days leading up to his death. It is unknown the exact cause of Poe's death. Some suspect foul play, others believe that it was actually rabies that led to his early demise. He was found delirious and semi-conscious on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland and died in the hospital on October 7, 1849 at the age of 40. Poe's final words were, "Lord, help my poor soul."

Edgar Allan Poe is remembered as a singular talent of imaginative storytelling. His works helped define the Romanticism and American Gothic Literary Movements of his time and he is recognized as one of the first authors of detective fiction. His works continue to influence many books and movies today. Despite his sorrowful life, his legacy lives on.

Read more in our Picture Encyclopedia entry on Edgar Allan Poe!

How To Compare Various Stories of Edgar Allan Poe


Select Interesting Stories

Teachers can select a couple of interesting short stories written by Edgar Allan Poe for comparison depending upon the understanding and proficiency level of different students. Stories such as The Cask of Amontillado, Tell Tale Heart, and The Black Cat are usually preferred. Students also find these intriguing and see many points to discuss


Introduce Gothic Literature

Begin by explaining the concept of Gothing writing to students as this style of writing is the basis of Poe’s short horror stories. Students can also perform independent research to understand why Poe and other writers who used this style preferred it.


Divide Into Groups

Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students. Ask the students to pick two stories for comparison from the chosen ones. If students want to use other stories, give them flexibility. Guide the students and give them a structure on how they can perform this comparison and what are the objectives of this comparison.


Look For Recurring Themes

Ask the students to check out the stories for recurrent themes. Poe's writings frequently deal with subjects like death, insanity, loneliness, the paranormal, and the macabre. Write down examples where these themes appear frequently. Themes can only be a single basis for comparison, students can work on different segments such as comparison between settings or characters.


Analyze the Tone

Poe is renowned for establishing a certain atmosphere and tone in his writings, which are frequently characterized by a feeling of dread, suspense, and discomfort. Examine the writing style, word choice, and descriptions to see how he does this.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Tell-Tale Heart By Edgar Allan Poe

Who is the main character of “The Tell-Tale Heart”?

The story's narrator and the main character are never identified in full. His insistence on their own sanity and their meticulous, even obsessive, account of the crime they committed sets him apart. Students can focus more on the mindset and personality of the narrator rather than their physical appearance and background to understand their motivations and goals.

What conflict is at the heart of "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

The battle the narrator is having on the inside is the main conflict in the novel. Between his need to demonstrate his sanity and his remorse for the crime he perpetrated, he is split. Students can discuss the sociopathic tendencies of the narrator and the reason for him to be struggling with himself.

Why does the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" desire to murder the elderly man?

The old man's vulture-like eye is the focus of the narrator's attention, which he finds revolting and interprets as a sign of the old man's depravity. In the end, his fixation leads them to murder.
Image Attributions
  • an old self portrait . . . • hortulus • License Attribution (
  • Edgar Allen Poe - The Raven • oddsock • License Attribution (
  • Old • Jeremias Pereira • License Attribution (
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