Short Story Lesson Plans

Short stories for high school help meet literature standards.

Looking for short story lesson plans and short story activities? You can easily add a sprinkling of these stories to your curriculum.

If you are looking for ideas for how to teach a short story, I can help. 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.

Second, teaching short stories can happen any time of the year. I’m currently prepping for the first quarter of school, and for me that means… short stories! You can read my previous post about what I hope to accomplish by starting the school year with short stories. The beauty of short story activities is they are short. You can fit the literature lessons to benefit your schedule and to meet standards.

Third, after you know what short stories you have available, what standards you’ll meet, and a what activities might work, you can narrow down the stories. I have summarized eleven 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.

Fourth, your students’ abilities matter. These can be short stories for high school. You can use a short story lesson plan from the list with middle school students. So much of short story activities deal with how you present the information. Don’t let students get bogged down with confusion.

Fifth, get started with teaching short stories with a free download. Download my free Hashtag a Character activity along with 100 literature activities. The variety will provide plenty of activities for short stories. I use my hashtag activities with any short story lesson plan! You’ll see how I use the hashtag in my summaries below.

Now, onto the short stories. Some of these will make the perfect short story lessons for middle school, while others will lend themselves to short story activities for high school. As you read, you might take notes about activities for teaching short stories. I’ve included links to my short story activities in the titles, but you can make your own! Consider your audience, your standards, and your community.

Here are short stories for high school (maybe middle school!) along with summaries and hashtags.

The Necklace

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

“Marigolds” contains beautiful mentor sentences for middle school, and students will cheer for the main character.

There Will Come Soft Rains

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. Plus, a futuristic setting intrigues students. #ActuallyWeDoHaveRobots

The Lady or the Tiger

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

The Scarlet Ibis 

(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

Typically, “The Scarlet Ibis” provides perfect short story activities for high school, and the plot structure is easy to map.

Do you need short story lesson plans? Add short stories for high school students to your ELA class. Activities for short stories can include mentor sentences and writing. Short story activities will meet language, writing, and literature standards. Add this short story lesson plan to your high school literature class.

Wine on the Desert

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

The Gift of the Magi

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

The Monkey’s Paw

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

Again, I would classify “The Monkey’s Paw” with short story activities for high school because students become upset about the son returning from the grave.


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

The Colomber

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

Years ago, “The Colomber” made perfect short story lessons for middle school.

Blue’s Ain’t No Mockin Bird

Two reporters invade a family’s personal property and are incredibly rude. The point of view is that of a young girl. The conversations with this story are endless. #OutstandingFigurativeLanguage

I often use “Blue’s” to answer the question, what are mentor sentences? We dive deeply into the rich language and with that short story lesson plan, I can meet language standards.

Do you need short story lesson plans? Add short stories for high school students to your ELA class. Activities for short stories can include mentor sentences and writing. Short story activities will meet language, writing, and literature standards. Add this short story lesson plan to your high school literature class.

Activities for teaching short stories should be plentiful. Be sure to download my free list of activities! As I mentioned deciding on short story activities for high school or planning short story lessons for middle school depends on what standards you can meet and your students.

Activities for short stories can be as simple or elaborate as you need. If students dislike a story, I often cut the activities short and move to the next story. Be ready to experiment with your short story activities!

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 too. They include activities for teaching short stories that took years to develop.

Also! I teach other stories than this… Raymond’s Run, Rules of the Game, Poe… I hope to add a short story lesson plan for those 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.

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Would you like more activities for teaching short stories or specific short stories for high school? Join our Facebook group, ELA Today, for discussions and ideas.

Teaching Short Stories

Teachers can accomplish so much with short stories: engage students, meet standards, and share literature. I’ve got more downloads and ideas in these posts too: