The Best American Short Stories for High School
Great American Short Stories for High School
"To Build a Fire" by Jack London: A foolish man foolishly starts his journey in foolishly cold weather, foolishly gets wet, and struggles to build a fire or die.
- Lesson Idea - London's "To Build a Fire" embodies Naturalism in Literature. For classes that emphasize literature, identifying Naturalistic elements is appropriate (linked above).
- Lesson Idea - "To Build a Fire" is the perfect example of a person v. nature conflict.
- More Lesson Plans - Check out the "To Build a Fire" teacher's page.
"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce: Peyton Farquhar thought it would be a good idea to burn a Union bridge during the Civil War, the same Union bridge on which he now waits to be hanged...
- Lesson Idea - "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" uses flashbacks and dream sequences, an excellent opportunity for teaching plot and sequence.
- Lesson Idea - Find the Twilight Zone episode of the short story. It's fantastic and follows the narrative exactly.
"The Minister's Black Veil" by Nathaniel Hawthorne - An eccentric preacher attempts to teach his congregation by wearing a mysterious black veil over his face.
- Lesson Idea - Think symbolism. Discuss what the minister's black veil represents. Follow it up with a literary analysis paragraph.
"The Gift of the Magi" by O'Henry: Buying someone the perfect gift sometimes turns out more than perfect.
- Lesson Idea - I love irony. I love this short story. Use this irony lesson plan to teach it.
- Lesson Idea - Worried about the political correctness police harassing you around the holidays?
- Lesson Idea - O'Henry's got your back? "The Gift of the Magi" makes a great short story right before Christmas... holiday...winter break. Here's a full week's worth of lesson ideas right before the holidays.
"The Revolt of Mother" by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman: Mom's not happy with Dad's new barn, so she does something about it.
- Lesson Idea - Freeman's short story involves discussions of marriage, the role of women, and being responsible.
- Lesson Idea - This making decisions lesson plan (coming soon) works well with "The Revolt of Mother."
"The Open Boat" by Stephen Crane: Four men in a life boat struggle to reach land. Who will survive?
- Lesson Idea - Crane's "The Open Boat" is an excellent example of Naturalism.
- Lesson Idea - Make a chart of the four characters, their attributes, and the likelihood of survival. Make predictions.
"Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe: A really weird Prince thinks he can keep out death.
- Lesson Idea - Discuss the Bubonic Plague and other plagues in history.
- Lesson Idea - Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" contains numerous symbols. Here's a good teaching symbolism lesson plan.
"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe: A really weird party-goer comes up with the perfect revenge.
- Lesson Idea - Ever had your students write an instruction manual or a process paragraph. Here's step-by-step instructions on how to get revenge, according to Montresor.
"The Lady or the Tiger" by Frank Stockton: Imagine a woman in love. Would she rather see her man with another woman or see him mauled by a tiger?
- Lesson Idea - Teach suspense with "The Lady or the Tiger?"
- Lesson Idea - This story offers plentiful writing opportunities. For more lesson ideas, check out "The Lady or the Tiger" teacher's page.
ELA Common Core Standards Covered
Teaching theme in short stories can accomplish the following ELA Common Core Standards. This is for your administrator, not your kids. Kids need student-friendly worded objectives.
- RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
- RL.9-10.3 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
Teaching Literary Elements with Short Stories
Understanding literary elements is necessary for literary analysis. These short stories will help you teach literary elements.