The Tell-Tale Heart
Clever formatting and careful structuring make Edgar Allan Poe’s 1843 masterpiece of terror and suspense perfect for the classroom. This is the story of a man who’s lost his mind. When he imagines he hears the thumping of the old man’s heart under the floorboards, his terrible crime is uncovered. While working on this play, consider reading aloud Poe’s most famous work, The Raven. It requires a strong lead, but includes parts for eight additional performers. Originally published in the Oct. 2008 issue of Storyworks (and later reprinted in Scholastic News and Scope), this play is geared towards grades 4 through 8. It’s available individually through TeachersPayTeachers.
Mark Twain’s “A Ghost Story”
When a farmer “discovered” in his field a ten foot tall “petrified man,” it became a sensation, earning it’s “owners” tens of thousands of dollars. The famous showman P.T. Barnum successfully copied it, and Twain wrote a short story about it, but by the time the facts finally caught up with it, the perpetrators had already cashed out and fled. Twain’s story is as absurd as the hoax itself—by design, one should assume. As the story goes, after viewing Barnum’s copy of the giant, Twain takes lodgings in a creepy building across the street. While there, he is haunted by the original giant’s ghost. The ghost claims he’s trying to scare them into returning his body back to the farm. When Twain tells him it’s Barnum’s copy and not his own body across the street, the giant feels humiliated and pleads with Twain not to tell anyone. When paired with “Giants in the Land,” there are parts for thirty or more students. “Ghost Story” itself has parts for just six. All six roles are challenging, but Twain’s role requires higher-level skills. Suitable for reader’s theater or full stage production and aimed at grades 5 and up. Includes teacher notes, comprehension activity, and key.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The Headless Horseman conjures up images of ghosts and zombies–always engaging topics for young students. But Sleepy Hollow is more than just a ghost story. Set during the post-Revolutionary War period, it’s the story of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, one of the most interesting characters in American literature. Students will enjoy theorizing about the truth behind the Horseman. Did Irving intend for readers to believe the legend? Or are their other explanations for Ichabod’s disappearance? This play hearkens back to the days of Old English and the Jolly Roger, so encourage your kids to try out their best pirate accent! This play appeared originally in the Nov/Dec. issue of Storyworks and was later reprinted in the December 2010 issue of Scope. It includes parts for ten to fourteen students depending on your casting needs. Preview or purchase it by clicking here.
The Monkey’s Paw
What would you do with three wishes? Readers of The Monkey’s Paw learn that those who meddle with fate do so at their own peril! This adaption of W.W. Jacobs”s gothic masterpiece is perfect for fourth through eighth graders. Originally published in the April 2012 issue of Scholastic’s Scope magazine, use it as fluency-building reader’s theater or as as a full classroom production or podcast. Meet the CCSs by using by using it to introduce the original text, or simply perform it for Halloween! This twenty-minute play includes nine pages, parts for up to eleven students, and comprehension activities. Just click on the cover to preview or purchase at TeachersPayTeachers.
Build fluency and meet Common Core Standards with this adaption of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic tale, The Birthmark. Georgiana’s beauty is nearly perfect. When the noted scientist, Professor Aylmer, takes her as his bride, he becomes obsessed with her one flaw–a small, hand-shaped birthmark on her face. But Aylmer’s obsession soon turns to madness. Will Georgiana survive Aylmer’s quest to conquer nature? Originally published in the Jan. 2013 issue of Scholastic’s Scope magazine, this compelling classroom play is perfect for reader’s theater or stage performance and it comes with comprehension and vocab activities. It includes parts for seven actors (and a few non-speaking extras) and is appropriate for grades 4 – 8. Click on the cover to preview or purchase at TeachersPayTeachers, or see it performed by fifth graders on the “Podcasts” page.
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a slightly modernized version of the Nathaniel Hawthorne classic, “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” The original is set it 19th-century Italy, while this version could be set at nearly any point in the 20th-century. The story is about a scientist who rears his beautiful daughter alongside an equally-beautiful but highly toxic plant. As the girl matures, she takes on the poisonous attributes of the shrub and consequently is estranged from society. To stem her loneliness (no pun intended!), the scientist lures a young man into her life, dooming him to the same fate. The play has additionally been designed to focus on the scientific inquiry process. Encourage your students to evaluate each character based on how well that character applies it. The play is loaded with numerous themes. Be sure to discuss the references to Frankenstein, Eden, and Baglioni’s concluding line. Suitable for reader’s theater, podcast, or full stage presentation, the play has parts for just six strong readers in fifth grade and up, though numerous extras could participate as non-speaking extras. Though not “spooky,” the mad scientist theme makes it a great play for Halloween. Pair it with The Birthmark, The Monkey’s Paw, and Tell-Tale Heart for a Halloween Spectacle or Classic Short Story Extravaganza. Available on TpT, Amazon, and Etsy. Includes comprehension activity and performance rights!
Penelope Ann Poe’s Amazing Cell Phone
“My students loved this reader’s theatre! What a great way to get them exploring fluency and expression.” — Sneek
“My seventh graders really enjoyed this script and had fun with the presentation. They could see the connection to the original Edgar Allan Poe story and had an excellent group discussion. Thanks!” — Amy M.
My most popular item! This play has frequently appeared on TeachersPayTeachers‘ best-seller list. It’s a fun, modernized version of Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart play. Pair with “Tell-Tale Heart” (above) for an interesting compare and contrast activity, including the original text, a mock trial activity, and a traditional version script.