Graphic of ravens in trees

Marsteller Middle School's sixth and seventh grade English language arts classes experienced a virtual field trip to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia. Dean Knight, an employee of the museum, performed an age-appropriate, dramatic reading of "The Raven," by Poe, which is also part of the grade six curriculum. The reading was followed by a description of the museum and a workshop that focused on poetic meter.

Language Arts Teacher Kelly Nicols said, "We typically study Poe's 'The Bells' in sixth grade, 'Annabelle Lee' in seventh grade, and 'Tell Tale Heart' in eighth grade at Marsteller Middle. If students are aware of him as an author, recognize his name and historical information about him, and gain an interest, then we truly have found a way to align our middle school curriculum so that students benefit and produce greater outcomes, too. Buy-in is so important for students, and since this has been a difficult and unexpected start to the year, this virtual field trip was a fantastic way to encourage student engagement."

Students waited patiently as classmates from different class periods were added to the Zoom video call and were courteous to Knight during the poetry reading.

Knight conducted a poetry workshop on the "The Raven," a poem written by Poe that was first published in 1845 and brought him fame. Knight started by leading a discussion about poetry itself, going over terms such as, "iambic pentameter," or a line of poetry consisting of an unstressed syllable that is not said as strongly as the stressed syllable that follows. Knight continued to discuss meter, referring to "meter" in poetry as feet, and a "foot" consisting of two syllables together. He continued explaining that "pent" in pentameter refers to five sets of unstressed/stressed syllables. Knight said, "People speak in iambic pentameter all the time and don't realize it."

Knight also covered Poe's life and described how he was famous in Richmond, Virginia and in Baltimore, Maryland, where he resided from 1833 to 1835. In Baltimore, Poe wrote his first-prize winning tale, "MS Found in a Bottle."

Marsteller Language Arts teacher Judith McDaniel, elaborated on the poet's mysterious death, stating, "He had a literary enemy that wrote a horrible obituary when Poe passed away. Some people speculate Poe died of tuberculosis. We have no compelling evidence for that."

Students were invested in the virtual field trip, asking several questions during the question-and-answer portion at the end of the workshop. Sixth grade student, Emily Juarez Montoya, asked Knight how long he had been reading poetry to which he replied, "I've read verse aloud for 15 years." Another sixth-grade student, Christian Brown, asked where the museum was located in order to visit with his family.

Learn more about visiting the Edgar Allan Poe Museum.