Knowing Poe: The Literature, Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe... In Baltimore and Beyond

Maryland Public Television
2005 Webby Award Winner!
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Classroom Connections
Random Raven

A note from our advisors Joseph Czarnecki and Suzanne Clewell about using this site with any reader.

Dear Teachers,

You are embarking on an exciting electronic field trip with your students to understand the literature, life and times of the one of America's greatest writers, the father of the modern short story, and the inventor of detective fiction, Edgar Allan Poe.

You are going to find that students may not know all the words and phrases which were commonly used in the Poe's text. This is a quite common response. Urge your students not to worry about those strange words (e.g., ere long - meaning "before long.) Instead have them focus on what is happening in the stories.

Here are a few tips for using Knowing Poe with less skilled readers:


You might want to start with the Poe the Writer section to read aloud and model fluency. There is a great audio reading of "The Bells". You can choose to hear this poem read by a male or female, and with or without emotion. Following a first listening, students can choral read with you.

  • Make sure students have the poem in front of them on the screen or in hard copy.
  • Begin by listening to the audio selection of the poem as students follow along.
  • Play it again and have students join in or you read individual lines and have students echo them.

In fact, you can use any of the audio readings on the site to encourage less skilled readers to practice fluency and experience the joy of reading. Try listening to (and reading along with) "The Raven," or "The Cask of Amontillado". You could even have your students listen to audio interpretations of letters (primary source documents) relating to Poe's life and death.

Before you begin, you might want to give the students a brief "book talk" about what they will be reading. Don't give away the best parts, but motivate them by telling some parts you really enjoy.

Vocabulary Issues

If students cannot pronounce crucial words in the text, try a lesson on decoding using parts of words they might know (e.g., uncontrollable). By breaking the word into a root word and ending, students might be able to figure out how to say the unknown word. Always start with chunks of the word (not individual letters) because it is easier for students.

Providing a Purpose for Reading

Take advantage of the content questions throughout the site to provide a purpose for reading. Use the questions to help students find answers.


With less skilled readers, concentrate on the "big" reading strategies — summarizing, question answering, monitoring vocabulary/comprehension, and using those graphic organizers. When in doubt, model for students how to use a strategy.

You're not alone!!

There are lesson plans to assist you in using this wonderful, rich site with your students, no matter what their reading level. Enjoy!

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