The Bells: Reading and Responding to Edgar Allan Poe's Poem
10th Grade, 11th Grade, 12th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade
After being introduced to the vocabulary from the selection, students listen to a reading of Edgar Allan Poe's poem, "The Bells" (either teacher-read or on CD), focusing on the differences in mood and rhythm within and among the stanzas. Students, as a whole group, discuss possible meanings of the poem, and the symbolism used by Poe, using the clues of mood and rhythm that they heard during the read-aloud.
After the whole-group discussion, students break into small groups to read a copy of the poem, and discuss possible meanings beyond the literal. Regroup and share ideas. (Students enjoy choral reading the poem in parts. Each small group is assigned a stanza. They should be allowed time to read their part independently and practice with their group first.)
As a whole group, discuss the symbolism in the poem. Do students recognize any other literary techniques used in the poem? (e.g., alliteration, onomatopoeia, personification, repetition, and internal and end rhyme) "The Bells" contains many examples of these techniques.
Students break into small groups again to identify and record as many examples as they can find of these literary techniques. Regroup and share findings.
For homework, students create at least two original examples of each technique. Share with the class.
As a writing connection, students will write their own poem, based on the style of Poe. They should use as many of the literary techniques as they can, and also try to use some new vocabulary. They can write their poem independently or in pairs. Final pieces can be published in a class anthology of "Edgar Allan Poe-inspired poems".
After successfully completing this activity, students should be able to offer an interpretation of Poe's poem, "The Bells" that goes beyond the literal, and to identify examples of various literary techniques.
- How can poetry convey hidden meanings?
- What literary techniques are commonly used in poetry?