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Lesson Plan by Christina Bouwens M.A.

The Fall of the House of Usher

This free, printable Pixton lesson plan brings Gothic fiction to life with comics and storyboards.

Make Gothic fiction come to life with comics!

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Featured Layouts

When students complete the activities in this lesson plan, they will use the following comic layout types.

  • Character Map
  • Comic Strip
  • Storyboard
  • Mind Map

Your students will create amazing images like these in no time!

This free, printable Pixton lesson plan brings Gothic fiction to life with comics and storyboards.
This free, printable Pixton lesson plan brings Gothic fiction to life with comics and storyboards.

Featured Props

The Fall of the House of Usher

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  • Book
    Book
  • Crack
    Crack
  • Dragon
    Dragon
  • Envelope
    Envelope
  • Gravestone
    Gravestone
  • House
    House
  • Lightning
    Lightning
  • Moon
    Moon
  • Shield
    Shield
  • Spotlight
    Spotlight
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Teacher Guide

The Fall of the House of Usher

Step 1Class discussion with students

Getting Started

Consider:

  1. Read the article here on American Gothic Romanticism as a precursor to Poe.

  2. Invite students to team into small groups to identify the following from the article (as a Google doc or other):
  • What is Romanticism in literature (generally speaking)?

  • What are three (3) core elements of American Gothic literature, according to this article?

  • What does Edgar Allan Poe have to do with any of the above genres? Provide at least two (2) specific points/examples.

  • What do you expect our short story from Poe to be like? Do you think you'll enjoy it? Why/not? (Predict)

Opening Discussion

How do you define the descriptor "crazy"? In other words...

  • what does it mean?
  • what might it look like?
  • how would a "crazy" person behave?
  • what are some current examples in the media or news that somehow illustrate/are an example of "craziness"?
  1. Brainstorm ideas on your own (suggestion: paper, Google document or other).
  2. Partner with another student to share and discuss your ideas and reasoning.
  3. Whole group discussion and attempt to formulate a general, "accepted" definition of "crazy" for classroom purposes.
  4. Introduce the author Edgar Allan Poe and the short story "The Fall of the House of Usher." Suggestions for reading/viewing:

    • Introduction to Poe video of 3.36 minutes, including sound
    • Introductory Prezi presentation including a 2:47-minute video on Poe, the 5:52-minute Tim Burton short film Vincent, and an Exit Ticket activity
    • The Poe Museum website for an in-depth biography, easy to print and assign to students to read with targeted questions as you wish
    • Introductory Biography on bio.com
  5. Notice the opening of the Poe story "The Fall of the House of Usher": it begins with an epigraph -- a quote from the French poet de Beranger which translates to "His heart is a tightened lute; as soon as one touches it, it echoes." Discuss with students what this might mean, and what kind of tone is set at the start of this story. Ask students to predict what this story will be like, based on the epigraph and all you've read/viewed/discussed this far.

  6. Dive into "The Fall of the House of Usher"! Short story located also at the Poe Museum as needed.
Step 2Pixton comic-making activities
Step 3Concluding discussion with students

Based on our reading and Pixton activity, create a Poster or Storyboard to identify the following, from your own perspective:

  1. Depict Madeline, Roderick Usher's sister: what does she look like, based on the story and your reading?
  2. What is "odd," "off," "different," or "crazy," even about her? Explain with textual references.
  3. Do you feel that Madeline is "of this world" or is she somehow more than human? Why/how do you feel this way?
  4. What is your understanding of the relationship between Roderick and Madeline in this story? Explain with detail, discussing whether you read this story literally &/or figuratively. If you read it figuratively, do you see the story as a metaphor for something? If so, what/why?

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Pixton Activity: The Fall of the House of Usher 1 Character Map

Featured Layouts

  • Character Map

Intro

Be sure to have read Poe's short story "The Fall of the House of Usher."

Character mapping allows us to further engage with a literary figure, to "see" him or her with a different, more in-depth focus as we analyze both internal as well as external characteristics.

External Characteristics: character's appearance

Internal Characteristics: character's thoughts and emotions leading to behaviors.

Instructions

Analyze one of the two major characters of this short story: Roderick or the narrator.

Draw from specific sections of the story and share quotations to address the various sections of our Character Map:

  1. External Characteristics / Physical Appearance (as many as possible, or a minimum of 2)

  2. Personality Traits (how does this character behave? Provide specific details)

  3. Relations to Others (identify at least 4 descriptors &/or facts)

  4. Important Quotes (minimum of 2)

Rubric: Character Map

Use this interactive rubric for easy, thorough assessment. It can even be used by students for self-assessment!

5 4 3 2 1
Overview Each panel is detailed with accurate content and fully responds to the prompts, along with an image that corresponds well to the character as it is developed upon from the story; relevant details are selected to support each quotation. Each panel has accurate content and responds well to the prompts, along with an image that corresponds to the character as developed upon from the story; relevant details are selected to support each quotation. Each panel has content which seems to adequately address the prompts. An image is provided with little detail to the character from the story; details are somewhat unclear for the quotations as textual support. Each panel has content which minimally addresses the prompts. An image is provided but lacks detail to the character or setting; details are lacking or are unclear for the quotations as textual support. One or more panels is missing appropriate content, or each very minimally addresses the prompts. An image is provided with little to no detail (character or setting); textual support is minimal or missing in each of the quotations.
Meaning Ideas, information and use of appropriate textual detail • strong point of view
• develops ideas clearly and logically with details, examples, and descriptions
• relevant ideas with consistent analysis
• logical descriptions or examples clarify and develop the ideas
• relevant ideas with some analysis
• examples or descriptions are simple and consistent
• few relevant ideas
• examples or descriptions may be poorly developed or illogical
• ideas are not developed
• few details or descriptions
Style Clarity, variety, impact of visuals and language • language is clear, varied
• flows smoothly; variety in sentences
• images and characters are fully developed; high attention to detail
• language is clear with some variety
• includes a variety of sentence lengths and patterns
• images and characters have purpose and significance
• language is clear with little variety
• basic sentence structures with a few variations
• images and characters are basic, but have purpose
• basic language; vague at times
• repeats a few basic sentence structures
• images and characters have minimal development
• vague, incorrect and repetitive language
• poorly constructed sentences; little variety
• images and characters are poorly developed
Form Organization and sequence (supporting examples identified) • proper organization
• text/details are properly referenced
• panels are thoughtful and detailed, fully addressing required content
• all panels are organized or logical
• text/details are properly referenced
• all panels are present and detailed
• most panels are organized or logical
• text/details are properly referenced
• all necessary panels are present
• some panels are organized or logical
• text/details are not/improperly referenced
• minimal use of panels &/or some panels appear to be missing
• panels are disorganized or illogical (flow doesn't work)
• text/details are not referenced
• panels do not seem to be targeting required content
Conventions The text demonstrates standard English conventions of usage and mechanics • demonstrates precise English conventions
• uses eloquent words, rich sensory language and mood to convey a realistic picture
• demonstrates precise English conventions
• uses precise words, controlled sensory language and mood to convey a realistic picture
• demonstrates standard English conventions
• uses words and phrases, telling details and sensory language to convey a vivid picture
• demonstrates some accuracy in standard English conventions of usage and mechanics • contains multiple inaccuracies in Standard English conventions of usage and mechanics
Total

Example Character Map

Roderick Usher in The Fall of the House of Usher by Student
Physical Appearance-"wan being"

-"cadaverous" complexion

-"large" eyes

-"thin" and "pallid" lips

-very aged compared with the narrator, who is apparently the same age

-"in want of moral energy"

-"wild gossamer texture" to his hair
Personality Traits- seems to have "excessive nervous agitation" or be in a constant state of arousal/anxiety

- spends his days alone, save for his sister Madeline

- in the throes of some sort of mental instability or illness, growing older and less stable by the hour

-has "superstitous impressions in regard to the dwelling" or believes other-worldly things about the house in which he and Madeline live

-has "a morbid acuteness of the senses" or is highly sensitive and cannot tolerate much -- sound, touch, taste, etc.
Relations to Others-"overdone cordiality" upon greeting the narrator, so seems to be warm and somewhat vivacious

-asks the narrator to spend time with him at his house, never leaving it; discusses at length "The Haunted Ballad" with the narrator

-places his sister in a coffin for two weeks, claiming she has died while she's actually alive

-in the climactic scene, Roderick asserts that he's heard Madeline all along but never said a thing, didn't utter it aloud and instead allowed his sister to slowly waste away in a coffin within the house
Important Quotations1. "I shall perish... I must perish in this deplorable folly. Thus, thus, and not otherwise, shall I be lost."

2. "[Madeline's] decease... would leave [me] ... the last of the ancient race of the Ushers."

3. "And you have not seen it?"

4. "[B]ut stay! you shall."

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Pixton Activity: The Fall of the House of Usher 2 Imagery

Featured Layouts

  • Comic Strip
  • Storyboard

Intro

Imagery is the use of vivid language employing or involving the five (5) senses in a creative description. It can involve any of all of the following senses:

  • touch
  • taste
  • smell
  • sound
  • vision

Analyzing the use of an author's imagery provides us with a powerful method of furthering our understanding of the text, and envisioning (picturing) it in our minds! Truly, it puts us in the center of a story's action, helping it come to life.

Instructions

Create a Comic Strip or Storyboard to:

  1. Identify at least 4 examples of imagery throughout Poe's short story. Try to identify an example of each type (ie. vision, touch, taste, smell, hearing).

  2. Clearly identify the word(s) from the story for each of your four (4) examples with proper citation.

  3. Create an image in your comic to best depict the scene &/or imagery established.

  4. Evaluate the overall impact on the story the imagery creates (eg. Does it create tension or drama? Fear? Foreboding? Disgust? Something else? Why or how?). In this way, you're analyzing the tone this imagery establishes and the mood it enhances for the reader.

Rubric: Imagery

Use this interactive rubric for easy, thorough assessment. It can even be used by students for self-assessment!

5 4 3 2 1
Overview At least 4 clear examples of imagery are accurately identified and highly developed from the story; relevant details are selected to evaluate the impact of the use of imagery throughout the work. At least 4 clear examples of imagery are accurately identified and highly developed from the story; relevant details are selected to evaluate the impact of the use of imagery throughout the work. 3 examples of imagery are accurately identified and developed from the story; relevant details are selected to evaluate the impact of the use of imagery throughout the work. Fewer than 3 examples of imagery are identified and somewhat developed from the story; relevant details are selected to evaluate the impact of the use of imagery throughout the work. Fewer than 2 examples of imagery are identified yet not fully developed from the story; relevant details are not clearly selected nor evaluated for their impact on the work.
Meaning Ideas, information and use of appropriate textual detail • strong point of view
• develops ideas clearly and logically with details, examples, and descriptions
• relevant ideas with consistent analysis
• logical descriptions or examples clarify and develop the ideas
• relevant ideas with some analysis
• examples or descriptions are simple and consistent
• few relevant ideas
• examples or descriptions may be poorly developed or illogical
• ideas are not developed
• few details or descriptions
Style Clarity, variety, impact of visuals and language • language is clear, varied
• flows smoothly; variety in sentences
• images and characters are fully developed; high attention to detail
• language is clear with some variety
• includes a variety of sentence lengths and patterns
• images and characters have purpose and significance
• language is clear with little variety
• basic sentence structures with a few variations
• images and characters are basic, but have purpose
• basic language; vague at times
• repeats a few basic sentence structures
• images and characters have minimal development
• vague, incorrect and repetitive language
• poorly constructed sentences; little variety
• images and characters are poorly developed
Form Organization and sequence (supporting examples identified) • proper organization
• text/details are properly referenced
• panels are thoughtful and detailed, fully illustrating each example of imagery
• all panels are organized or logical
• text/details are properly referenced
• all panels are present and detailed
• most panels are organized or logical
• text/details are properly referenced
• all necessary panels are present
• some panels are organized or logical
• text/details are not/improperly referenced
• minimal use of panels &/or some panels appear to be missing
• panels are disorganized or illogical (flow doesn't work)
• text/details are not referenced
• panels do not appear to fully illustrate imagery examples
Conventions The text demonstrates standard English conventions of usage and mechanics • demonstrates precise English conventions
• uses eloquent words, rich sensory language and mood to convey a realistic picture
• demonstrates precise English conventions
• uses precise words, controlled sensory language and mood to convey a realistic picture
• demonstrates standard English conventions
• uses words and phrases, telling details and sensory language to convey a vivid picture
• demonstrates some accuracy in standard English conventions of usage and mechanics • contains multiple inaccuracies in Standard English conventions of usage and mechanics
Total

Example Storyboard

Imagery: The Fall of the House of Usher by Student
Touch (Feeling)The opening lines to this short story provide imagery through a terrific sense of feeling (touch). Upon approaching the House of Usher for the first time, the narrator informs us that he feels "an iciness, a sinking, a sickness of the heart..." The mere sight of this house causes our narrator such gloom, such foreboding that his blood seems to go cold and fill him with absolute trepidation. Thus, Poe's opening paragraph strikes a chord of darkness, a sense of evil as its tone from the get-go, creating for the readers the mood of fear, tension, and expectation. Vision (Sight)Continuing with his initial impressions of the House of Usher, our narrator informs us that he decides to draw his horse nearer and withstand the sense of fear and foreboding he has at the sight of his long-ago friend's home. With strong visual imagery, he shares: "I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down --but with a shudder even more thrilling than before --upon the remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows." We can see the image he sees, as he so thoroughly details it for us in such a way that we can imagine the rest -- and it is horrifying. Sound (Hearing)In the rising action developing rapidly toward this tale's climactic scene, our narrator begins to hear something he cannot ignore. He initially notices it between the loud cracks of lightning in the raging storm outside. He describes it as consistent "certain low and indefinite sounds which came, through the pauses of the storm, at long intervals...." We feel a sense of fear, perhaps, and of doom just as the narrator seems to be clenching for a certain something awful. Poe's mastery at developing the tone of terror, a sense of mystery and mania, is clear in this use of sound imagery. Scent (Smell)Our narrator expresses a certain dark and foul odor which seems to pervade the scene at the House of Usher. This furthers the notion that only malevolent things can persist here. Indeed, he describes this smell in such a way that one wonders how he can stand it: "there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity-an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn --a pestilent and mystic vapour, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued." This establishes once again a mood of foreboding, a tension which will only increase as we move further into the plot.

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Student Handout

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Imagery in “Cinderella” by Pixton
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Pixton Activity: The Fall of the House of Usher 3 Theme Analysis

Featured Layouts

  • Comic Strip
  • Storyboard
  • Mind Map

Intro

Theme is an underlying message, point, or main idea of a work of literature.

Theme goes beyond simply identifying a topic or subject. Rather, theme is a statement about the subject or topic. While the topic could be fear, a theme on this topic might be "When we fear, we shrink our lives and no longer learn or grow," or "Fear often leads to misperceptions and misunderstandings between different groups," etc.

Review the attached example to see the expectations within this activity!

Instructions

Identify at least one major theme in "The Fall of the House of Usher," creating at least two full panels to accomplish the following:

Your panels must include:

  1. An image/scene depiction to illustrate the theme.
  2. A detailed statement in your own words of the theme.
  3. Relevant details to support or "prove" your choice of theme (i.e. specific phrases, words, etc. from the story).
  4. Any additional detail you feel helps support your thematic analysis of Poe's story.

Rubric: Theme Analysis

Use this interactive rubric for easy, thorough assessment. It can even be used by students for self-assessment!

5 4 3 2 1
Overview The theme is accurately identified and highly developed from the story; relevant details are selected to support this thematic statement. The theme is accurately identified and sufficiently explained based on the story; some details are selected to support the choice in thematic statement. A theme is identified but either somewhat unclearly or somewhat undeveloped from the story; details from the story do not seem to fully support the thematic statement. A theme is identified but either somewhat unclearly or somewhat undeveloped from the story; details do not seem to fully support the thematic statement. The theme isn't clearly established or developed upon; story details are inadequate or missing to support the theme.
Meaning Ideas, information and use of appropriate textual detail • strong point of view
• develops ideas clearly and logically with details, examples, and descriptions
• relevant ideas with consistent analysis
• logical descriptions or examples clarify and develop the ideas
• relevant ideas with some analysis
• examples or descriptions are simple and consistent
• few relevant ideas
• examples or descriptions may be poorly developed or illogical
• ideas are not developed
• few details or descriptions
Style Clarity, variety, impact of visuals and language • language is clear, varied
• flows smoothly; variety in sentences
• images and characters are fully developed; high attention to detail
• language is clear with some variety
• includes a variety of sentence lengths and patterns
• images and characters have purpose and significance
• language is clear with little variety
• basic sentence structures with a few variations
• images and characters are basic, but have purpose
• basic language; vague at times
• repeats a few basic sentence structures
• images and characters have minimal development
• vague, incorrect and repetitive language
• poorly constructed sentences; little variety
• images and characters are poorly developed
Form Organization and sequence (supporting examples identified) • proper organization
• text/details are properly referenced
• panels are thoughtful and detailed, fully illustrating each thematic statement
• all panels are organized or logical
• text/details are properly referenced
• all panels are present and detailed
• most panels are organized or logical
• text/details are properly referenced
• all necessary panels are present
• some panels are organized or logical
• text/details are not/improperly referenced
• minimal use of panels &/or some panels appear to be missing
• panels are disorganized or illogical (flow doesn't work)
• text/details are not referenced
• panels do not appear to fully illustrate themes
Conventions The text demonstrates standard English conventions of usage and mechanics • demonstrates precise English conventions
• uses eloquent words, rich sensory language and mood to convey a realistic picture
• demonstrates precise English conventions
• uses precise words, controlled sensory language and mood to convey a realistic picture
• demonstrates standard English conventions
• uses words and phrases, telling details and sensory language to convey a vivid picture
• demonstrates some accuracy in standard English conventions of usage and mechanics • contains multiple inaccuracies in Standard English conventions of usage and mechanics
Total

Example Mind Map

The Fall of the House of Usher Theme Analysis by Student
Mind MapTheme: The Things We Own Can Sometimes Own Us The Ushers: Madeline and RoderickRoderick and Madeline certainly have a complicated, unhealthy relationship -- not only to one another, but seemingly also to the House which neither have "ventured forth" for several years, according to the narrator. Indeed, our narrator informs us of the House's "unredeemed dreariness" and "insufferable gloom" from the story's opening paragraph.

The narrator realizes his old childhood friend, Roderick, has deeply changed since he last saw him, as he claims "[i]t was with difficulty that I could bring myself to admit the identity of the wan being before me with the companion of my early boyhood." This man who never leaves the home seems to somehow be owned by it, altered dramatically (and negatively) by it, causing some form of mental illness.

When Roderick declares that "the lady Madeline was no more" in an abrupt fashion and wants to entomb her for two weeks, it seems the House has gotten to him, driving him mad. Who owns who here? And once we later learn Madeline was still alive, it seems it's a hierarchy: Madeline is owned by Roderick, who is owned by the House.
The Usher HouseIt is the House itself which seems to exert power and control over the Usher family, as once Roderick and Madeline both die within it, the House envelops them and sinks into the ground. The "fissure rapidly widened -- there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind -- the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight... and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments" we read at the end of the story. Poe's message seems to be one of ownership. Madeline and Roderick no more owned that house than it owned them, preventing them from leaving it and in the end, collapsing around them. We must be careful not to align ourselves too closely to any one thing, and to remain open -- in a healthy, mental state! -- to new ideas, people, places, and perhaps boundaries.

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