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

    • There aren’t many other professions that allow you to have the kind of impact on a child’s life the way that teaching does. ⁣
⁣
And teaching English (yes, I know I started my sentence with “and”) always made me feel ALIVE. ⁣
⁣
It brought out so much emotion, and joy, and passion. ⁣
⁣
The reason I wanted to become an English teacher was because of my high school English teacher, Mr. Jaeger. He stood on desks, walked around with a wooden sword as a prop, and loved Gatsby and Kerouac and Emerson. ⁣
⁣
What an impact he had on my life!!⁣
⁣
Just know that in some way, YOU are having the same sort of impact on a student’s life in your classroom, too. ⁣
⁣
As the year gets just a little bit closer to starting, I just wanted to remind you of the impact you have and the difference you really DO make. ⁣
⁣
You are amazing 😘
    • As I’m sure you may have seen on our IG and social media, we recently opened the doors to our EB Teachers’ Club ...⁣
⁣
As a teacher, you know teachers can be ...⁣
⁣
Overstressed. ⁣
⁣
Overworked. ⁣
⁣
And just plain TIRED. ⁣
⁣
Now is the time to change that narrative. ⁣
⁣
Take back your summer. Take back your Sundays. Take back your TIME. ⁣
⁣
Just like Kasey, an EB Teacher, has taken back her time: ⁣
⁣
“EB Academics has come at such a pivotal time in my life, and I feel like there is hope for me to prioritize family time over urgent teaching needs. I knew there was a way to plan well, teach well, AND have joy, but I was not able to get there myself. ⁣
⁣
I appreciate both Caitlin and Jessica, and I look forward to what's in store!”⁣
⁣
Doors close TONIGHT at 9PM California time!!⁣
⁣
This is your LAST CHANCE to become an EB Teacher before doors close until January 2020! 🎉⁣
⁣
Let this be the year you get your balance, confidence, and clarity back!⁣
⁣
Come join us tonight by sending us a DM, visiting the link in our profile, or going to ebacademics.com/membership ⁣
⁣
We can’t wait for you to become an EB Teacher! 🥳
    • Don’t miss out! Doors close tomorrow! ⁣
⁣
Our EB Teachers absolutely LOVE The EB Teachers Club - the amazing content, the professional development Trainings, the community! ⁣
⁣
We can’t wait to have you join us!⁣
⁣
This is the LOWEST price our membership will ever be, so if you’re on the fence, feel free to send us a DM because we wouldn’t want you to miss out on this opportunity!⁣
⁣
Send me a DM if you’d like more information!
    • Let me know in the comments if you have a special reading area or nook for your students! If so, what does it look like?⁣
⁣
I really love the various nooks and design ideas that Elizabeth from @4thgradeunicorns ⁣shares ♥️
⁣
Not everything about the design of your classroom has to be crazy and over the top. Just giving students a special place to sit and read a book with a floor pillow is pretty much all you need to make reading feel just a bit more magical and special to them. ⁣
⁣
Don’t get caught up in having an IG or Pinterest-worthy classroom library!⁣
⁣
Grab some old furniture and a throw pillow and you’re good to go 🤗⁣
⁣
Hope you guys have a great weekend!
    • Being a teacher is seriously TOUGH work. ⁣
⁣
It can be so incredibly exhausting sometimes that even folding that massive pile of laundry ends up going to the wayside for WEEKS. Please tell me I’m not alone in that?! 😱⁣
⁣
But I’ll tell you right now that what made a difference for me in my classroom for the past handful of years was ...⁣
⁣
... being prepared. ⁣
⁣
Yep. As simple as that sounds. ⁣
⁣
Lesson planning in advance. ⁣
⁣
Knowing EXACTLY what I was going to teach and when. ⁣
⁣
Knowing how I was going to open and close my class each and every day. ⁣
⁣
Knowing how I was going to incorporate engaging activities that nailed those standards. ⁣
⁣
And honestly, it finally made me feel like. I. Got. This. 🎉⁣
⁣
And THAT was a great feeling. ⁣
⁣
Jessica and I are here to help you get that same feeling with our totally **FREE** Balanced Teaching Approach Online Workshop specifically designed for Middle School ELA Teachers. ⁣
But, it’s being archived on July 9th, so now is the time to join us!⁣
⁣
If you’re interested in getting your weekends and weeknights back and feeling that same way I did, send me a DM, and I’ll get the link to register for free over to you ASAP!⁣
⁣
We’ve got you! 😘
    • How often do you have students clean out their binders/desks? Because I love this idea to Marie Kondo student binders from @theclassroomsparrow 😂🤗 She has great blog posts and ELA content ideas, if you’re looking for another ELA teacher to follow! ♥️

    Follow @ebacademics

    ×