Short Story Unit Plan with Student Choice

I never teach the same short story unit twice. I begin standard English classes with short stories which allows me to encourage student choice and assess student needs. Read on for ways that I use short stories in the first nine weeks!

Welcome to ELA Today, a monthly chat where the authors of Reading and Writing Haven and Language Arts Classroom cover different ways of approaching common decisions in the ELA classroom.

I use a short story unit to build relationships, evaluate my students’ needs, and build expectations. Also, I love to have fun with the short stories I teach. Since I teach short stories during the first quarter, I establish that reading and literature offer students more than words. The following ideas shape my short story units during the first nine weeks of school.

Student Choice

Since I teach short stories first, I use that time to establish that student voices matter. I want students to have ownership of the class, and I give them a say in what stories we read.

The caveat is that I won’t fill the unit with one type of literature. Students typically do a wonderful job of choosing a variety of authors, but I would never let a class only experience all male authors, for example.

Allowing students a voice in which stories they read greatly contributes to my classroom management and community.

Mentor Sentences

No matter what we read, my students and I analyze the language. We typically do this through mentor sentences. I do direct instruction with grammar, but then I pull sentences from stories and study the language in what we read.

Mentor students allow me to study the eight parts of speech – which I really need my students to understand for vocabulary lessons! (You can read about my first nine week grammar lesson plans.)

Variety of Components

I cover public speaking, poetry, grammar, nonfiction, and writing with short stories. Since I strive to create relationships with students at the start of the year, I have built that notion into my lessons. I want each student to feel success those first nine weeks with me. By connecting other curriculum areas to short stories, students can find a passion.

We have fun exploring our new classroom community with a variety of ELA components.

Graphic Organizers, Task Cards, Interactive Notebook Pieces…

Yep! Students cannot sit and take notes all class period. Part of teaching underclassmen is showing them a variety of ways to learn. I specifically tell them when we use charts or graphic organizers that these are tools for learning – tools they can duplicate in other classes! Not only do students appreciate the movement and choices in learning, I am modeling metacognition.

Plus, some classes really enjoy stations while others tend to perform better with partner work. During our second nine weeks, we read a novel. I can create activities based upon what I learn from the short story unit.

A dynamite short story unit that allows for student choice. Every short story activity provides mentor sentences as well as graphic organizers, quizzes, vocabulary, and more. #MiddleSchoolELA #ShortStoryUnit

I teach short stories during the first nine weeks of my ELA classes. These reasons provide me with structure and help me build a rapport with students. You can find the complete short story unit here. The short story bundle contains many short stories because I always change with my students’ choices.

Still need more ideas for the first quarter of ELA? Melissa teaches short stories, too. You can read her ideas for short stories.

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