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#8: Our Favorite Short Stories to Teach

May 7, 2019 4 min read

#8: Our Favorite Short Stories to Teach

May 7, 2019 4 min read

Today I’m going to be sharing some of our favorite short stories to teach with my middle school kiddos. I’m always looking for more, so if you have another good one you’d like to share, please send me an email!

Before we dive right in to the short stories I love, I want to just quickly address two of the main reasons WHY I love using short stories throughout the school year or even as a complete unit.

One – short stories allow for higher student engagement. If a student doesn’t connect with the story, it’s only for a short period of time, not like a novel which can take weeks to read and analyze

Two, short stories are great for scaffolding evidence-based responses because the quantity of material isn’t as daunting, so it’s a bit easier to search for quality evidence for a literary response

Okay, without further ado, I’m going to walk you through my school year month by month and share the short stories I like to use within that month. To preface this, I will say that I don’t get to all of these short stories every year, but I have them in my back pocket to break out at any moment where I can fit them in!

Back to School Short Stories

Okay, let’s start with August …. When we head back to school, I like to use “My Name” by Sandra Cisneros, which is one of the vignettes from The House on Mango Street —when I use this short story, I also have students write their own versions of “My Name” – it’s actually a great story to start the year with.

I also love using “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros – this is actually the short story I have my students work with over the summer and then we utilize those first few days of school as well.

October / Halloween Short Stories

Moving into October and Halloween …  this is the perfect time of year for a creepy story, and “The Most Dangerous Game” and “The Lottery” are hands-down class favorites this time of year – I usually don’t have enough time to do both, so I just alternate them each year.

When I teach “The Lottery,” I actually have an awesome pre-reading activity that I do with my class, which you can learn more about in Episode 1 of the podcast.

November Short Stories

In November during the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I try to squeeze in “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen.” If you haven’t read this one, it has a great twist ending that O. Henry is famous for. I also include some art analysis with this unit using Norman Rockwell’s famous painting, “Freedom from Want” – it’s a great academic lesson that keeps my students engaged.

December Short Stories

For December, I usually continue with the O. Henry trend, and I segue into one of his most famous texts, “The Gift of the Magi.” Now, I love using this short story because it’s a fantastic one for my students to use to practice their literary analysis writing. I always give my students an in-class essay with this story asking them the question: Who made the larger sacrifice, Jim or Della? We also do a little gift exchange with this one.

In the New Year Short Stories

After the break and to move into the New Year I like to use Langston Hughes’ “Thank You, M’am.” Now, the reason I love using this short story is that it focuses on starting fresh and making better choices – a perfect tie in to New Year’s Resolutions.

Springtime Short Stories

Come springtime, I always love to teach “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant. If you don’t know this one, it has an incredible twist ending that completely shocks the kids. I try to make this one even more fun by having my students work with symbolism, evidence, and justification in an Instagram activity.

End of the Year Short Stories

The last short story that I want to share is the one I use at the end of the school year if time allows and that is Hemingway’s “The End of Something.” It’s such a great short story to end the year with because after students read this story, I end the unit with students writing their own narratives titled “The End of …” and then I compile all of their stories into a class anthology for them to take home with them.

So there you have it! Nine short stories that I love to teach throughout the year and not just in an isolated short story unit. Again, they are:

  • My Name and Eleven by Sandra Cisneros
  • The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
  • The Necklace by Shirley Jackson
  • Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen and The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
  • Thank You Ma’am by Langston Hughes
  • The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
  • The End of Something by Hemingway

If you’d like to use the same exact units that I use in my own classroom, I have individual units for each of these short stories in our store. You can find them through below in the show notes!

Links mentioned in this episode:

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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!

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