This is a fun activity to help students analyze a classic short story and practice using logical evidence and reason in persuasive writing and speech.
NOTICE that this "Insanity Plea" activity is included in the Psychotic Short Stories unit, so don't purchase both as you'd be paying twice for the same thing!
One of the most fascinating aspects of Edgar Allan Poe's classic short story, "The Tell-Tale Heart," is the fact that the narrator insists so adamantly that he is NOT insane while explaining actions that clearly show him to be insane. I wanted to create an activity that would let students play with that idea.
The Common Core State Standards for seventh, eighth, and ninth grades mention the word "evidence" nearly twenty times! But one of the things my students struggle the most with is how to use logical evidence in persuasive essays, speeches, or debates. This activity will help student practice and experiement with this skill.
In this two-day to three-day activity, students pretend to take part in the narrator's murder trial, in which the defendant is pleading "not guilty by reason of insanity." To make their case, students will comb through the facts and events laid out in "The Tell-Tale Heart" and look for evidence the could prove either that the murderer IS insane (to help the defense lawyers) or that he is NOT legally insane and therefore guilty (to help the prosecution.) All the while, students will practice the following skills:
* Arguing persuasively using logical evidence
* Discriminating between evidence that helps them prove their point and evidence that either doesn't help or actually hurts their case
* Organizing evidence in a logical sequence
* Understanding and explaining what a particular piece of evidence proves
Your students will have a blast with this! It's structured in a way that struggling students can still understand the concept and participate (I have included a list of quotes from the story that you could provide as scaffolding), while advanced students can get wildly creative with it.
This activity is a great way to analyze this classic story, but it could also be used to introduce students to...
* Persuasive essay writing
* Persuasive speaking
* Mock trials (I love holding mock trials where we put a literary character in the defendant's seat!)
The product will come in a zip file containing a PDF file along with the original Word file--just in case, like me, you like to make little tweaks to purchased lesson plans. The file will also contain a teacher's guide with lesson plan instructions, objectives based on the Common Core Standards, a key with possible answers for both the defense team and the prosecution team, and a list of quotes from the story divident up by those that help the defense and those that help the prosecution. I've also attached a full-text version of the short story itself. It's available for free anywhere on the internet, but I thought I'd include it for the sake of convenience just in case the story isn't in your literature textbook.
If you like this product, check out two of my other products:
* "Psychotic Short Stories -- Literary Analysis Mini-Unit!"
This product is a full one- to two-week unit that covers "The Tell-Tale Heart" as well as Roald Dahl's haunting story, "The Landlady." The "Insanity Plea" activity is included here, along with nearly 50 pages of other activities including vocabulary worksheets, quizzes, reading logs, essay assignments, grading rubrics and answer sheets, and more!
* One of my most popular products, "The Trial of SpongeBob SquarePants!"
Although this activity has nothing to do with Poe or Halloween, it does deal with using evidence to prove a point, the same as this "Insanity Plea" activity. It's a fun, creative activity, and the students always have a riot with it. Give it a look!
Enjoy! And don't forget to write a review!
Created by Arik Durfee