How to Create an Awesome Short Story Unit for Your Middle Schoolers: Part 1 - EB Academics

Grab Your Free Writing Guide

Become an EB Insider Today

How to Create an Awesome Short Story Unit for Your Middle Schoolers: Part 1

November 7, 2018 3 min read

How to Create an Awesome Short Story Unit for Your Middle Schoolers: Part 1

November 7, 2018 3 min read

Welcome to our 4-part series that will teach you how to create a short story unit using 4 easy steps! Using the framework we’re about to share is going to make this an incredibly easy and streamlined process for you – saving you tons of time AND keeping your students engaged!

When creating our short story units for middle school, we always aim to include four main elements:
  1. A hook
  2. A high interest story (see our list of favorites in this post)
  3. Standards-aligned activities
  4. An assessment

Sticking with this framework ensures that our students are engaged from the beginning (even anticipating the lessons!) and have plenty of opportunities to interact with the text through high level thinking opportunities.

In this 4-part series, we’re going to show you exactly how we applied the four elements to our short story unit to Shirley Jackson’s, “The Lottery,” one of our 8th graders’ favorites! Use this example and framework to begin creating your own 🙂
Alright, let’s start with A HOOK:
A few weeks before the start of our “The Lottery” unit, we hang posters all around our classroom that read: “June 27: All villagers meet in the town square. Everyone is expected to attend. No excuses!” (This date is significant in the short story and the posters make sense to students once they start reading.) We don’t address the posters at all and let the kids wonder what could possibly be happening. Talk about building suspense …
Picture via @amrikastumpf

We hook students even more on day one of the unit by introducing a “popcorn predictions” activity (which you can read more about and grab a free download here). This can easily be done with any short story or novel your students will be reading.

  • We type up enough sentences from the text that are intriguing without giving away key information from the story so that each student can receive one sentence. (It’s also fine to double up the sentences and have repeats.)
  • Organize the sentences on sentence strips and distribute one to each student. Students will then walk around the room, partner up with a classmate, and in one-minute intervals, read their sentences aloud to each other and predict what the story is about.
  • Rotate a few times (four seems to work well for us) so that students are able to build on their predictions. On the fifth rotation, have students create a final prediction and then share out with the class.
  • By this point, students are more than eager to start reading and see if their predictions are accurate!

Another hook we like to use is what we call a “5 Words Hook.” We list five words that are important to the story on the board and have the students create a prediction about what the story will be about based on those 5 words. Generally, we like to have students work with a partner for this activity because they tend to be a bit more creative!Finally, one of my favorite hooks to use is called “Popcorn Predictions,” which you can read all about in this blog post.

Now it’s time to start thinking about your hook! How can you pique student interest before you even begin a novel? Think about certain themes or specific dates or time periods that you could possibly tie into your hook. 

You can read the rest of this blog series below:
And if you’d like, feel free to grab our unit for “The Lottery” here – it’s a student favorite.
Save this post for later!
Caitlin

All posts

3 Comments

  • tarafarah7 November 11, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    Thank you – such a helpful post! I'm excited to read part 2 next week! 🙂

    • EB Academic Camps November 12, 2018 at 8:52 pm

      So glad you enjoyed the post, Tara! Part 2 will be going live tomorrow 🙂

      Caitlin

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Welcome!

    Welcome!

    Hi there! We're two middle school ELA teachers with a mission to share ideas, tips, and tricks for effectively teaching reading and writing in the secondary classroom. We're so happy you stopped by!

    Caitlin + Jessica

    Your 15 Free Resources Are Waiting!

    Immediately receive access to our
    Free Resource Library

    We promise we won't spam you.

    Let’s Connect

    Popular Posts

    Our Latest Posts

    Categories

    Instagram

    • This honestly might be my favorite tip I’ve EVER come across on IG. EVER!!! 🤗🤗🤗 It’s from my friend Melissa @readingandwritinghaven ⁣
⁣
It’s meant to ensure you’re not teaching writing genres in isolation. KEY 👌🏼 ⁣
⁣
Here’s how it works:⁣
- Take a topic and put it in the middle⁣
- Brainstorm possible titles or questions related to that topic that could be addressed in different genres ⁣
- Give students choice and have them pick 1-2 genres to write ⁣
⁣
Honestly. Brilliant. ⁣
⁣
Thanks @readingandwritinghaven !! And if you aren’t a fan of Melissa yet, you definitely should be 😘♥️
    • It’s about this time of year that I always seem to think about quitting. Every year. Without fail. ⁣
⁣
And I think it’s because it’s the hardest part. ⁣
⁣
Just like how at the gym you think there’s no way in HECK you can do that last push-up or that last squat. ⁣
⁣
May is that last lunge. ⁣
⁣
But I remind myself every time, that I’ve left teaching twice only to be MISERABLE. ⁣
⁣
The grass almost always looks greener. But it’s not always greener. ⁣
⁣
Just take care of yourself, let things go, give every piece of effort, and then enjoy your summer knowing you reached deep within yourself to make it there. ⁣
⁣
And make it there happily, filled with contentment. ⁣
⁣
Happy Friday in May, friends. Love you guys 😘 📸 @carlacoulson
    • Tell me what you’re teaching right now 👇🏼 Seriously! Let’s get a catalogue of awesome content, so we can all learn from each other!⁣
⁣
I’m currently teaching a fan favorite “The Cask of Amontillado” - the irony, the foreshadowing, the evil soul of Montressor ... it is SO GOOD. ⁣
⁣
Anyhow, we’re still trucking along to the end! Keeping it interesting and engaging with great lit!⁣
⁣
Love you guys 😘 Keep up the good work!
    • When is your bedtime? Because please tell me I’m not the only one 🙋🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️ (I might even change that to 8:30 at this point 😆).⁣
⁣
Happy Monday, friends 💕 ⁣
⁣
Let’s kick this week off with a bang! I’ve got an awesome podcast episode coming out tomorrow with my friend, Holly @researchandplay and next week’s episode is going to be *JUST* what you need to hear this time of year. ⁣
⁣
Love you guys! 😘
    • My Mom’s best advice ...?⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣
Life is short. Drink the Chardonnay. Eat the carbs. Travel the world 😂😘 (Which is precisely what we’re doing in this pic from our last trip to Italy together) ♥️ Gotta love her. ⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣
Happy Mother’s Day! I am a proud momma to my little William and two furry boys, Charlie and Huckleberry 👶🏼🐕🐕 and just want to celebrate all the women in our lives - whether you are a mom, hoping to become a mom, or don’t have the desire to be a mom. ⁣
⁣
Women are amazing!⁣
⁣
What’s your mom’s best advice?
    • Double tap if this students’ response was on point and made you laugh 😂😆 Honestly this is one of my favorite IG posts I’ve ever seen! Thanks @helloteacherlady for spreading the laughs 🤗

    Follow @ebacademics

    ×