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The Raven Comprehension Questions

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Poetry is not the easiest form of literature to teach to your students, which is why it is important to test their comprehension. This lesson offers comprehension questions to help you assess student understanding of Poe's The Raven.

The Raven

As a teacher, do you try to guide your students when reading a new text or do you leave them to process literature on their own? Both strategies can have advantages, but oftentimes students need some sort of guidance to fully comprehend a difficult piece.

This guidance can take the form of comprehension questions, which can serve more than one purpose. First, it can give your students some sort of direction of thought while reading. Second, it can show you which students are struggling and with what. This lesson focuses on using comprehension questions for Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven, which is a narrative poem telling the tale of an unnerving encounter with a spooky bird.

Comprehension Questions

Before we get to the actual questions you can use in your classroom, let's first clarify the meaning of comprehension questions. There are many types of questions you can use for various purposes. Some are used for deeper analysis, some for discussion and debate, and some for research and application.

However, your students can't truly move to those higher level thinking skills until they can prove their understanding. Enter comprehension questions, which ask about the basic knowledge of a topic. Most of the time these questions remain in the lower level thinking skills, but they indicate what confuses your students and what needs further instruction.

Setting

This first set of comprehension questions focus on the setting, which is the time, place and social situation of a story. To fully understand the events in The Raven your students need to know when and where this story is taking place. In addition, the social situation involves any cultural or personal events that can have an effect on the story. For this poem, the social situation centers on the recent death of the beloved Lenore.

Here are some examples of basic comprehension questions focused on the setting of the poem.

  • What month does this event take place? What could be the significance of that?
  • What time of day does this event take place? What could be the significance of that?
  • What details are used to describe the chamber?
  • What type of mood describes the beginning of the poem?
  • How does the Raven's entrance change the tone/mood of the narrator?
  • After the Raven perches above the chamber door, where does the narrator sit to think? What is he trying to figure out?

Plot

Next, we can discuss questions that center on the plot, or the series of events in a story. The plot of any story includes the actions of the characters and the consequences of those actions. If your students do not understand the basic events in The Raven, then you can design further instruction for clarification.

Here are some examples of comprehension questions for the plot of this poem.

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