Modern Short Stories for High School English

modern short stories for high school English

What modern short stories for high school English classes can you teach? Add these modern and diverse voices to your curriculum. High school short stories can reflect our students’ lives. 

Modern short stories for high school English students are a must. While students enjoy older stories, I have found that when students are familiar with “alive authors” (as my students call them), they are more likely to engage with their work in other ways.

For instance, if I want students to be active in their classroom library, I need students to believe that literature matters to them and can be part of their lives. One way I work toward building that culture is to teach modern short stories. People today, people who are alive, still write short stories.

I follow writers on Twitter who promote their works. I also (try!) read literary publications that publish small pieces. Once you engage in the literary community a bit, you’ll be able to find more pieces to fit your specific community of learners.

Below, I’ve listed five (with a few bonus links) short stories that you can teach with your high school English classes. At the end of the post, I’ve provided a sign-up sheet to my library. After you complete the form, I’ll send you 101 activities you can use with any piece of literature.

Finally, dynamic high school short stories are online, often for free. Continue reading for easy pieces to put in your high school curriculum.

7 Modern Short Stories for High School English

Moments Earlier

“Moments Earlier” by Kate Doyle is an excellent piece for discussing dialogue and pacing. The main character reflects on his friend (a young twenty-two year old) who collapses and eventually dies. The narrator reflects from college to the present to family events. High school students often enjoy reading about college, and “Moments Earlier” is a clean story.

Only Daughter

I love Sandra Cisneros, and I teach her writing whenever I can. “Only Daughter” is less of a short story as it is a reflective essay, but I often teach it in a short story unit when we discuss fiction and nonfiction.

You can also use “Only Daughter” alongside one of Cisneros’ short stories, such as Eleven. The teaching and discussion over those two pieces normally takes me two class periods.

What the Dead Man Said

Chinelo Onwualu’s short story is dystopian and covers climate change. Humans have bioengineered forests, but they did not procreate enough. As the main character returns home for his father’s wake, students will see a futuristic vision of life renewal. The story builds with suspense as relatives at the wake question Azuka.

Teachers can easily add informational texts alongside Onwualui’s short story. Because the story is dystopian, it is a perfect way to introduce a longer dystopian story. The subject matter is intense, and this short story, while stunning, might work best with juniors and seniors. I taught this short story with my seniors in creative writing.

Possible Disruptions on the Occasion of My High School Graduation

This story is another piece that I use with older students. You could also give a disclaimer for language. The story is an application to college by a student who has a far superior (in the academic realm) twin.

The story offers many discussion points. What sort of students do colleges want? Are college essays forced parts of American teenage life? Students typically have opinions on writing them, making this story applicable to them.

On the Bridge

“On the Bridge” by Todd Strasser allows students to wrestle with conflicts between peers. I use this short story with freshman as a way to build relationships with them. I ask students to reflect on the story’s theme and the characters’ struggles, and then I respond to their ideas. Freshmen always enjoy “On the Bridge.”

Neil Gaiman

Students know who Neil Gaiman is because they enjoy Coraline. Many of them have read “Click Clack the Rattle Bag.” He has other short stories on his website if you are looking for additional ones.

Fresh Ink

I bought Fresh Ink after I saw a discussion of it on Instagram. Simply put, I am loving all of the stories in it! I am going to pull from it for years, so I highly recommend it. If I’m remembering correctly, it was about $13.

Finally, since I am working to diversify my curriculum, I found several lists of short stories that will work for older young adults. I know buying books can be expensive, but you can maybe get a few of them through a library to start.

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Contemporary short stories for high school can engage high school English students.

Other Short Story Ideas

Whether you are completing an entire short story unit or sprinkling short stories throughout your curriculum, you’ll appreciate the ideas and free downloads I have on my blog. Read about:

Short Story Lesson Plans

Short Story Unit Plan with Student Choice