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Narrative NoNfictioN, pages 4-9

Whispers from the grave


a hauNtiNg poem aNd the story of a hauNtiNg explore our eNduriNg fasciNatioN with ghosts

urrently, more than 10 ghost-hunting "reality shows" air on TV. Regardless of what you may think of such programs, there's no denying that ghosts are a hot topic these days. Of course, this fascination with ghosts is nothing new; ghosts have been floating around in our imaginations for ages. "Whispers From the Grave" examines this fascination and explores its roots through the bizarre--and ultimately heartbreaking--story of Sarah Winchester, who built one of the strangest homes in America in an effort to appease the angry ghosts she thought were haunting her. The article is paired with Valerie Worth's poignant poem "Haunted House."

or project "Visiting a `Haunted House'" to guide students through an in-depth analysis of the poem and how it relates to the article. Finally, have students respond to the writing prompt on page 9.

or tales whispered at sleepover parties or around the campfire. Have volunteers explain why ghost stories appeal to them. Then have a student read aloud the skills-focus box on page 4. Some students have explained why they like ghost stories; can anyone think of other reasons people might be fascinated by ghosts? As students read the article, they should look for the reasons they've identified, as well as additional reasons mentioned in the article. When students finish reading,

Next, return to the question of our enduring fascination with ghosts, and ask students to identify the reasons the article suggests for it. (Ghosts provide a source of entertainment; they connect to our curiosity about life after death, and they provide a way to hold on to memories of loved ones.) Now focus on the poem on page 9. Have several students read it aloud, then discuss the question Why do you think the poem is titled "Haunted House"? Ask students to consider whether

printable Worksheets for featured skill

visiting a "haunted house": a guided analysis of

the poem

Contest entry form:

for use with the writing contest on page 9

T-4 ScholaStic ScoPE tEachER'S EDitioN · octobER 31, 2011

Left to right: Scott ManSfieLd/getty iMageS; BettMann/corBiS; BettMann/corBiS



ConneCting nonfiCtion and poetry

invite them to share their opinions on what happened to Sarah Winchester. Were angry spirits really after her? the house is actually inhabited by ghosts, or if the poet might be using another meaning of haunted. Print

sk for a show of hands from students who enjoy ghost stories in some

form--movies, TV shows, books,

Yes, you could spend precious time coming up with


discussion questions, but why should you? We've got them right here--and the answers too! They're also available

printable skills Worksheets

Words and definitions:

print or project vocab words from the article before students encounter them in context.

online as a worksheet (without the answers) to use for small-group discussion or as a writing activity.


1 2 3 4

according to legend, why did sarah Winchester build her mansion? Why did she accept what adam Coons told her?

(synthesis) she built it because coons, a medium, told her that angry civil war ghosts would kill her unless she provided them with a house. she was susceptible to coons's influence because she was grief-stricken and depressed. plus, coons was famous, which probably gave him credibility.

voCabulary praCtiCe:

Because reinforcement matters

identify nonfiCtion elements: looking for a

self-guided, scaffolded activity to build reading-comprehension skills and strategies? this is it. quiz: a multiple-choice and short-answer readingcomprehension quiz with questions based on state tests. the quiz comes in printable and interactive versions.

Why do you think the author included the section "hunting for ghosts"? (craft and structure) it provides historical context for

sarah's decision to visit a medium, and it creates a bridge between sarah's time and our own time in terms of society's interest in ghosts.

how could believing in ghosts be harmful? (synthesis) you might

be susceptible to fraudulent mediums, ghost-hunters, etc. you might, like sarah winchester, even become obsessed with ghosts. Believing in ghosts can also be a way of avoiding the reality of the death of a loved one.

What can we say?

the last section is called "a tragic legacy." explain how the title applies to the section. (interpreting text) a legacy is something

handed down from the past. the section describes what happened to sarah winchester's house, and the house is her legacy--it is what remains from her life. it is a tragic legacy because the house represents the lonely, sad, and fearful life sarah led. it is tragic regardless of whether you believe that sarah was actually haunted by ghosts, or whether you believe she spent years of her life and millions of dollars expanding her house as a result of a false idea that a medium planted in her mind.


We've got a lot of ideas for you.

video poem

Divide students into pairs or small groups to create video presentations of "Haunted House." Students should: (1) Decide who will record the poem and discuss how he or she will read it--at what speed, with what tone of voice, etc.; (2) Select appropriate introductory/background music; (3) Select appropriate background images. Schedule a time to view the finished videos in class.



in the poem "haunted house," what is the speaker's attitude toward the former owners of the house? (analyzing poetry)

students may suggest that the speaker feels a sense of sadness or longing for them, feels fondly toward them, or feels comfortable with their presence/memories/energy in the house.

*supports featured skill

Find all worksheets and other support materials at

octobER 31, 2011 · ScholaStic ScoPE tEachER'S EDitioN T-5


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