The Masque of the Red Death
1 Hook (5-10 minutes)
When students begin this lesson, I want to know how they might describe fear. I pose the question: describe something that you are afraid. I encourage students to edit their responses based on whether they've incorporated figurative language, sensory vocabulary, etc. Then, I ask them to respond to at least one other person's fear. This allows students to create and revise easily and saves us time.
[Hopefully] students indicate that dying is a fear that many people share. If not, I will discuss this as a fear and incorporate some examples. This will eventually lead us to discuss one of the overarching themes of The Masque of the Red Death.
2 Direct Background Instruction: Gothic Literature & Edgar Allen Poe (15-20 minutes)
I create and share an outline of notes via Google Drive. With my lower level classes, we edit one copy of these notes together. With classes who are able to independently take notes and adjust them as necessary (pacing is key), they will add to their skeletal notes to this.
In general, I take the information I teach from Shmoop since it is easy to digest, understand, and is concise. Using this information, students will add to their presentations on Gothic Literature by adding a slide for Edgar Allen Poe and The Masque of the Red Death. Sometimes I let students explore Shmoop independently, and sometimes we include the citation and I share with them the information. This, again, depends on the level of the student. (For our curriculum, they will also read The Raven, and will later add that slide to the presentation).
The Google Drive presentation allows students to have their background information in one place, cite information (such as Shmoop), and allows me to have direct access to their notes at any time. I can adjust as necessary before they prepare for an exam or I can help them add information or links for further research.
3 Direct Instruction: Vocabulary (15-20 minutes)
I use the vocabulary portion of SpellingCity to help students learn some of the major vocabulary words that Poe incorporates in his short story. I am especially deliberate in choose words that help describe fear, as students will be encouraged to use these words in their written response project at the end of this lesson.
Some students prefer to use Quizlet, so I might offer a word list there as well. The games are more competitive and the interface seems better suited for higher grades. I can easily check whether a student is comprehending the words based on their scores within the app. Depending on the level of the learner, I might include synonyms, a sentence, or a full definition (or any combination of these) on the Quizlet cards.
Once all students have demonstrated mastery of the vocabulary we move on to reading the short story.
4 Reading: Independent, Whole Group, or Small Group (time varies)
Using Qlovi, I can ensure that students are interacting with the text. The Masque of the Red Death is a free resource provided by Qlovi. The site allows teachers to add reading questions within the text, assign quizzes and comprehension checks as students complete the reading, and collects CCSS mastery.
This activity is scaffolded to class or group reading ability:
For higher level groups, I allow them to independently sign into Qlovi, open the lesson, and complete the activities I've assigned. Typically, this will include reading and check-in questions which provide immediate feedback on whether they are accurately comprehending this difficult text. I will also incorporate vocabulary questions within this reading check, since I want to make sure they are identifying those words in text. Every three or four page turns, I will include a written response question for studnet to summarize what they have read so far or ask them to describe Prince Prospero, depending on what portion of the text they have navigated.
For middle level groups, we will alternate between independent reading and whole class reading. We will also alternate between reading sections independently and as a whole group. Where I might ask for theme-based questions of my higher level classes, here I might only ask for literal or inferential information based on plot, setting, or character concepts. This class would take the quiz at the end of the entire reading.
For my lower level groups, we read this piece together. In general, I have found it easier to read a hard-copy of the text with lower level students, highlight important text or information, give them the answer to the questions they haven't seen yet, and then have them use Qlovi to reinforce this information. In essence, they will read this text multiple times. This seems to help them focus on the text itself at first, and then use their reading strategies to answer questions on Qlovi. These students would NOT be given the reading quiz following the reading + check in process provided.
5 Reading Reaction & Take Away
Students are given the opportunity to demonstrate what they know based on teacher-selected questions via student-selected interface. By giving students the opportunity to select their output, I ensure that they remain engaged in the process and are able to more easily produce the information in a way that is valuable and meaningful to them. When presenting their project to their classmates, it also gives them an opportunity to reinforce this information.
Example of project-based questions:
- Who is Prince Prospero? Create a Facebook page based on what you've learned from this reading. (Google Sites, pre-created by teacher/community)
- What does Prince Prospero's home look like? Create a 3D map illustrating the setting presented by Edgar Allen Poe. (Minecraft)
- Create a book trailer for this short story. Be sure to include key story elements without giving away the ending. The mood of the trailer should match the tone introduced for Gothic Literature. (iMovie)
- Write a graphic novel sequel to this story. Incorporate elements from the original short story to create a seamless transition into the next part of your story. (Pixton)
- Write from a different perspective than the one given by Edgar Allen Poe. For instance, you might be the Red Death. Or you might be a visitor to his manor. Or you might be the floor tiles. (Google Drive - Document)
Using non-fictions texts, have students compare elements from Poe's Masque of the Red Death with those of non-fiction articles (namely comparing setting, royalty, and the plagues of the dark ages).
Comprehension checks and leveled articles are provided from NewsELA. If I used the Britannica articles, I would create reading check-ins via Qlovi (attached to the Poe lesson requirements).
With my higher classes, I might require that they include some information from these texts into their final project (described above). For my lower classes, this might just be additional information, because of the complexity of the short story text.
Key Standards Supported
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).
Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.