At Springville Junior High School, room 54 is full of astute thinkers reading advanced books. The eighth grade students of Mrs. Mary Rice’s class have been reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Black Cat.”
“We used this text as an opportunity to learn vocabulary and also to acquaint ourselves with the Gothic or Dark Romantic style,” said Mrs. Rice. She went on explain that before reading the text, the class explored the contrast between dark and light, the exotic adornments on the cathedrals that coincide with the rich language of Gothic writing. They also explored the ways in which Gothic art invokes certain conflicting emotions. The students then tracked those ideas throughout reading “The Masque of the Red Death.” Finally they shared their experiences by writing dialogues on what they thought might have happened at the masques, made masks, and then performed the dialogues in class.
Following their projects on The Masque of the Red Death, the eighth grade students read Poe’s “The Black Cat.” Mrs. Rice explained, “For [The Black Cat], we explored the idea of an unreliable narrator, a concept popularized by Poe.”
To explain the idea to the students, the class held a “sanity hearing” for the narrator. In this, everyone in the class wrote witness statements based on characters in the story while some students were lawyers. Mr. Brian Rice’s English class served as the jury. Mr. Rice’s class listened to testimonies, evaluated arguments, and delivered a verdict.
To finish their studies on argument, the students read articles on possible ways Poe might have died. The students then built mini arguments on the possible ways. “One important idea for students is that they are rarely in a position to prove or disprove phenomena, but they can use evidence from text to make a convincing argument,” said Mrs. Rice.
Students enjoyed Mr. Poe’s writing. Hayde Blanco, a student in the class, said she loved his descriptive words. Lyndsee Mecham simply said, “He was an interesting writer.” Both Hayde and Lyndsee said their favorite text was “The Black Cat.”