Search form

Home > School Issues Channel > Archives > WIT Archives > Whatever It Takes WHATEVER IT TAKES ARTICLE Poe, Baseball Are Focus at Bennet Poe, Baseball Are Focus at Bennet

The rich language and intriguing plots of Edgar Allan Poe's short stories are up against the baseball playoffs at Bennet Middle School. Despite the suspense and late hours of the games, Poe still holds students' attention. Included: More Edgar Allan Poe activities.

Two icons of U.S. culture -- baseball and Edgar Allan Poe -- went head to head at Bennet Middle School the third week in October, and Poe had his literary hands full with the likes of Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter.

"Baseball," one teacher says wearily, "has to end soon."

The Royal 7s are continuing their study of Poe in language arts, but it is late-night baseball capturing the attention and fostering some inattention at Bennet.

After the New York Yankees imploded just before sweeping the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, the fourth, fifth, and sixth games played on through the late night into the early morning. By October 20, the day of deciding game 7, grogginess was pervasive at Bennet.

"Mark," language arts teacher Jenna Brohinsky says to one drowsy student in a Yankees' shirt, "you need to go to bed earlier."

An invisible line divides Connecticut between New York Yankees fans -- more to the south -- and Boston Red Sox fans. Manchester is deep into Red Sox territory, so fans of all ages, hoping for a miracle, cannot bear to turn off the television and miss history. Yankees' fans, certain of another curse-driven victory, even after some stumbles, need to reassure themselves that the universe remains intact by watching their team clinch live. (For those few who don't already know, the Red Sox beat the Yankees, and went on to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.)

Yankees and Red Sox jerseys and jackets dot the hallways and classrooms, and "Did you see the game?" has replaced "hi" for many. "Yankees Rule!" appears on a white board.

Many faculty members are glued to the games as well. Science teacher David Sutherland, a Yankees' fan, has agreed to wear a Red Sox badge when his team loses, and social studies teacher Gary Tracey pins on Yankees' pinstripes when the Sox lose.

"My life depends on these Red Sox," sighs principal Kathleen Ouellette, noting ongoing faculty discussions.


What Did You Say?

With a few minutes before language arts class starts, special education teacher Jack Crockwell teases a student, Mark, about his lunch conversations.

"What are you doing talking to two girls?" Mr. Crockwell asks. "You can only date one girl at a time."

"I don't want to date M," Mark replies. "She's ugly."

"Don't ever say that," Mr. Crockwell interjects. "Only say nice things about people. All girls are beautiful. All boys are handsome."

"Some are," Mark mutters.

"All are," Mr. Crockwell responds. "Beauty is more than skin deep."

Ms. Brohinsky presses on with her lessons, but with an awareness of the events, loyalties, and the intensity of feelings. "I'm not a baseball fan, but I've been turning the games on just to see who will be upset the next day."

After greeting each of the students in her first-second period class at the door, (students have double periods of language arts), Ms. Brohinsky starts reviewing the short story, "The Tell-Tale Heart" with the eight students in the class.

"When does the story take place?" she asks students. "How do you know? What do you think is going to happen? Why?"

"In the past," one student volunteers, "because Poe is dead and they are using lanterns." Another predicts a murder will be committed, "because that's what happens in other Poe stories."

The students divide into groups to finish reading the story; one group, with Ms. Brohinsky, continues the discussion, while in the other, led by an aide, students draw scenes or images from the story.


Third-fourth period students work on a word puzzle before tackling "The Fall of the House of Usher." Someone has written on the board, "Ms. Brohinsky is cool!"

As part of a review, Ms. Brohinsky asks students about the time period of the story.

"The past, because the character has a horse."

"Maybe he has a horse because his car is broken," a boy suggests.

"If his car was broken, he would just rent one," another insists.

"Hey, if you crash a horse into a tree, can you get a rental horse?" someone calls out.

"He [a character] hears noises in his head; now there would be doctors to fix that," a girl adds.

Homework was to suggest what will happen next in the story: "I watched The Haunted Mansion, and the butler was the bad guy, so I think he's the bad guy," a girl predicts.

Students fill out a sheet that describes the story's setting, atmosphere, and three main characters, and then track the plot, and the three most important events in the story. For homework, they will answer five discussion questions.


The focus of the rest of seventh and eighth grade language arts curriculum is discrimination and prejudice, so students will move on to reading novels and essays related to those themes after the unit on Poe.

Royal 7 teachers like Poe because not only is he a good fit for the season (Halloween, not baseball), but his works contain common themes, according to Ms. Brohinsky. "They can see a lot of connections in modern culture, and it helps them understand that literature is universal," she says. "The parents also like Poe and remember reading him themselves and like that the kids are reading classics."

Asking students to make predictions about what they read helps them meet standards and builds skills, Ms. Brohinsky says. Students are required to extrapolate when they take the Connecticut Mastery Tests. "It also is part of being an active reader," she says. "It gives them a reason to read. When you ask them to make predictions, you generate connections, and you get more intellectual discussions. You enter a new phase of the learning process."

Lessons and insights whose value students will appreciate in the future -- once they get some sleep.

Education World Goes Back to School

Education World news editor Ellen R. Delisio is spending several days a month this school year with the Royal 7's, a seventh grade team at Bennet Middle School, a grade 6 to 8 school in Manchester, Connecticut. She is observing and participating in students' learning, and talking with staff about their strategies and perspectives on improving student performance. She is a graduate of W. Tresper Clarke Junior-Senior High School in Westbury, N.Y.

(Editor's Note: All students' names have been changed) 

Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World