Using Edgar Allan Poe in a poetry unit in your middle school classroom is pure GOLD. Take it from our own experiences when we say, you should absolutely be teaching Poe, even in middle school!
We knew we had an incredibly effective unit when our students continued analyzing and talking about the content long after we had finished the lesson in class! We just never thought it would be a poem from 1849 that our students would become obsessed with and spend recess time wanting to continue discussions and asking their for their parents’ thoughts about the poem. And yet, Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” does just that!
It is the PERFECT spooky poem to use around Halloween (but we’ve also taught it in April during National Poetry month, so honestly, it really doesn’t matter!)
Here’s how we teach the Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” to our middle school kiddos:
- Start off with the essential question. Ask your students, “Is true love possible at a young age?” Let them discuss/debate this question for a few minutes with partners and as a whole group.
- Explain to them that they will now search for evidence in “Annabel Lee” to see whether the speaker in the poem thinks true love is possible at a young age.
- Review poetry academic language (tone, rhyme scheme, internal/external rhyme, etc…) with them so they can feel confident discussing the technical aspects of the poem.
- Preview the vocabulary in the poem using synonyms, antonyms, and pictures. We guarantee most students will not be familiar with “sepulchres” and “seraphs” and it’s important to understand the word choice before reading the poem.
- Turn off the lights, play some creepy background music, and do a close reading of the poem. We use these close reading bookmarks to guide our students’ reading.
- Annotate the poem. Read about how we teach students how to annotate literature by clicking here.
- Have a Socratic Seminar. (Read about how to set one up here.) These questions always encourage lively discussions:
- Are there different types of love? Identify them and explain the differences amongst these types of love.
- How might Annabel Lee’s death have affected the speaker?
- Do you think he will ever be able to move on or find love again?
- We usually have 5-6 questions to keep the discussion moving along.
- Have a writing workshop where students answer the essential question, “Is true love possible at a young age?” We use this evidence tracker to help students get their ideas set up in a logical and easy way! Then, we have the kids use this essay graphic organizer before they sit down to write their first complete draft.
Check out this excerpt from one of our fifth grader’s essays (mind you, this is 5th grade!):
“In the poem, ‘Annabel Lee’ by Edgar Allan Poe, a young man talks about his one true love, Annabel Lee. This man idolizes this woman and even after facing many obstacles, their love does not cease. In their home, a kingdom by the sea, even the angels are jealous of their love. Unfortunately, Annabel Lee is taken by the angels by the end of this poem, proving that young love is not possible.
Want to recreate this mini unit in your own classroom? Check out the resource we use by clicking here or on the image below!
We also have a complete Edgar Allan Poe Unit that includes “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven” – perfect for Halloween!