An Occurrence at Owl Creek High School
A man stood upon a teacher desk in northern Alabama, looking down into the not so swift students twenty feet below. The teacher’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack feel to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the desk supporting the boards. Mr. Bierce was going the extra mile to capture his students’ attention during the dog days of the school year.
His lesson bombed and he got fired.
“A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury. Of all the high interest short stories for high school students, this is the only one that involves time machines, hunting dinosaurs, and controversial elections.
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce. This plot-twisting short story set during the Civil War plays with time and the reader. I recommend you show the Twilight Zone version of the story after you read it.
“Contents of the Dead Man’s Pocket” by Jack Finney. Remember that time you stayed home to grade papers while your family went to a movie and your rubric blew out on the balcony so you risked your life to save it? Me neither. Only an idiot would do that.
“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. In the year 2081, people are punished for success. Harrison Bergeron revolts.
“The Lady or the Tiger” by Frank Stockton. Students getting on your nerves? Get even by reading a short story without an ending. Whom does the young man choose: the lady or the tiger?
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. Congratulations! You’ve won the lottery! Of course, winning the lottery in this short story doesn’t mean what you might think it means.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber. I once got in trouble for showing a clip of this movie after reading the story. If you’ve seen the movie, you’re probably trying to figure out how that could be. I still am. Anyhow, it’s a great story and a really good movie with nothing in it that could be deemed inappropriate by the most conservative of movie viewers, excepting my over-reactive principal from four years ago.
“Thank You Ma’am” by Langston Hughes. A would-be teenage thief gets more than he bargains for when he tries to steal an old lady’s purse.
Most of these high interest short stories for high school students are available online. Just print it out, bring cookies to your copy guy or girl, and engage students. These stories are often found in high school literature books as well.