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Comparing Two Poe Classics

Teacher Lesson


Language Arts


6-8, 9-12

Brief Description

Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast two Edgar Allan Poe classics.



  • apply previously taught literary terms to new stories.
  • use a Venn diagram to assist them in comparing and contrasting two pieces of literature.


Poe, Venn, diagram, literature, October, Baltimore, classic, Halloween, cat, heart, October, Valentine

Materials Needed

  • copies of the Edgar Allan Poe stories "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart"
  • Venn diagram work sheet
    Better yet, have your students copy or download Education World's editable Venn diagram work sheet. Then they can type their own information in the diagram's editable areas.
  • six strips of poster board -- two with statements about facts or literary elements that tell only about The Black Cat, two with statements that tell only about The Tell-Tale Heart, and two with statements that tell about both stories (If you have time, it helps to laminate the strips so you might reuse them in the future.)
  • additional strips of poster board, one for each student

Lesson Plan

Once basic literary terms (such as point-of-view, dynamic and static characters, conflict, exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution) have been taught and reviewed by the teacher, the students are to ready to read Edgar Allan Poes story "The Tell-Tale Heart" and discuss it in terms of plot sequencing and character development.

Have the students diagram the plot of the story so they can see how plot development works. Discuss The Tell-Tale Heart while applying the literary terms listed above. You could also discuss other terms such as setting, motive, and cause and effect.

Next, have the students read "The Black Cat" and discuss the story in the same way.

If your students are unfamiliar with the Venn diagram as a graphic organizer, or if they might benefit from a quick refresher course before using it in the next part of this activity, draw a sample diagram on the board. Write the word Dog under Circle A. Write the word Cat under Circle B. Then ask students to list on a sheet of chart paper some characteristics of dogs and/or cats. Discuss which of those characteristics are specific to each animal and which are characteristics the two animals share. Write the characteristics specific to dogs in Circle A. Write the characteristics specific to cats in Circle B. Write those characteristics that both animals share (e.g, they make good pets, they have fur) in the area where the two circles connect.

Next, draw a large Venn diagram on the board. Share the six statement strips you prepared in advance of the activity (see Materials section above). Discuss whether each statement is something that tells a fact about an event or literary element in The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, or both Poe stories. Attach them to, or rewrite them on, the Venn diagram on the board.

Divide students into groups of 3-5 for the next part of the activity. Have students create in their groups a list of five statements that tell about events or literary elements in The Tell-Tale Heart, five more statement that tell about The Black Cat, and five statement that tell about common elements of the two stories. Challenge students to really think -- to come up with statement that their peers in the other groups might not originate.

Now provide each student with a blank strip of poster board. Have each student choose one statement their group came up with that they think will be unique and create and interesting discussion. They should write that statement on a sentence strip.

Draw or create a large replica of a Venn Diagram on the floor. Use yarn, masking tape, chalk, or cut large circles out of butcher paper. (If its a nice day, you might even take this activity outdoors; use chalk to draw the diagrams circles on the pavement or use rope to draw them on the grass.)

One at a time, invite students to share their sentence strips with the class. The class will discuss each statement and come to an agreement about where it fits best on the Venn diagram -- in the area of statements about The Tell-Tale Heart, the area with statements about The Black Cat, or the area with statements that tell about both Poe classics.

Finally, tell students that they will be writing an essay in which they compare and contrast the two Poe stories. Hand them the Venn diagram work sheet and suggest they copy, or make notes about, the statement on the diagram that stand out in their minds. They might also include statement that were discussed in their groups but that were not included in the active part of the activity. They will be able to use this work sheet during the final assessment stage of the activity (see Assessment section below).

e essay might be assigned for homework, or you might tell them they can use their notes to compose it in the next class session. The essay serves as the formal assessment of this activity.


The following day, you might 1) give a quiz based on the information discussed (e.g., have students list two similarities and two differences between the stories, 2) have them recreate the Venn diagram, or 3) challenge them to use the notes on their diagrams to aid them as the compose an essay that compares and contrasts the two stories.

Submitted By

Alexis H. Groah, Daniel Morgan Middle School in Winchester, Virginia

Originally published 10/17/2002
Links last updated 12/04/2007

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