Looking for short story lesson plans?
First, most of these short stories are in the public domain and are on the Internet for free. You can search for each story with the story’s name + PDF. (For instance, “The Necklace” + PDF.) These make perfect online options.
I’m prepping for the first quarter of school, and that means… short stories! You can read my previous post about what I hope to accomplish by starting the school year with short stories. Now, what short stories should we teach? I have summarized ten stories below.
These short stories will work for various ages; however, you might want to use certain ones for older students due to the content. For instance, I’ve had upset students with The Monkey’s Paw because Herbert returns from the dead. I’ve reviewed the stories below and indicated where I thought the content was mature. As always, teachers know their students best.
I’ve included a summary of each short story along with hashtags for each. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Download my free Hashtag a Character activity. Use it with any short story lesson plan!)
Now, onto the short stories:
A beautiful woman does not live the life she believes she deserves. Wearing a borrowed necklace, she attends a party with her husband. She loses the necklace and replaces it. She spends years paying off the debt, only to learn that the original necklace was a fake. #SpoiledWomanNeedsAGrip
A young girl during the Great Depression lives in poverty. Her parents spend the day working or looking for work. Bored, she and her friends bother an elder’s garden. One night after hearing her parents’ desperation, she returns to the elder’s marigold patch and destroys the flowers. The woman catches her and says nothing. Reflecting, she realizes that she is facing adulthood. #PerfectComingOfAgeStory
Ray Bradbury imagines what would happen if humans destroy themselves. Does life continue? Will technology ruin us? Will robots cook us breakfast? The poem by Sara Teasdale is included and provides for excellent discussion. #ActuallyWeDoHaveRobots
A barbaric king learns of his daughter’s lover and condemns the man to opening a door. What is behind the door? A lady? A tiger? The king’s daughter knows, and she directs her lover to open one of the doors. #OfCourseItWasTheTiger
(Students do become upset with this story.) A young boy has a little brother with an unnamed disability. Out of pride, the brother teaches his younger sibling to walk. His internal conflict concerning his brother grows, and he leaves the youngster alone in the rain. Upon returning, he finds his brother has died. #ICryWhenIReadThis
Set on a desert, the story opens with a man escaping the police. He visits an old friend who runs a vineyard. The friend provides him with water, food, and shelter. To avoid the police, the criminal destroys his friend’s irrigation system, forces the friend to pack him water, steals his gun, and leaves to cross the desert. He avoids breaking into his water for hours, but when he ultimately does, his friend actually got his revenge. #YepItIsWine
A poor but loving couple sells their most prized possessions to buy the other a Christmas gift. But! The gifts are now useless because they were for the prized possessions. #ALittleBitCute
This story is a fun twist on the “three wishes” tale. A family receives a mummified monkey’s paw and makes a wish for money. They receive the money in exchange for the death of their son. The next two wishes are sometimes upsetting to students. You might warn them before assigning this story. #ZombieHerbert
A poisonous snake has sneaked into a man’s bedroom. It hides under his blanket. A doctor is summoned, and suspense builds as everyone carefully removes the bedding, antidote ready. What happens when the sheet is finally removed? #ThereNeverWasASnake
A young boy stands with his father. A colomber passes the boy, and the father sternly tells his son that he must avoid the colomber for the rest of his life or the fish will devour him and his family. The son avoids water for fifty years, but he still sees the colomber chasing him. At the end of the boy’s life, he discovers what the colomber actually wanted. #ItWasn’tToKillHim
I hope these short story summaries provide you with the fun you can have reading them with students. If you are looking for my complete short story lesson plans, I’ve linked to the individual ones above. They are bundled into a complete unit for a discounted price. You can find my short story lesson plans here.
Also! I teach other stories than this… Raymond’s Run, Rules of the Game, Blues Ain’t No Mockingbird, Poe… I will add them to my unit soon! As always, I provide free lifetime updates for all of my activities.
My friend Melissa teaches short stories, too. Her approach is slightly different. Read about her short story unit ideas if you want more inspiration.