Teaching Short Story Elements

Teaching short story elements works best when using…short stories. These classic short stories with lesson ideas will help you focus on specific elements of a short story.


Teaching the Elements of Literature with Popular Short Stories

Teaching short stories is an integral part of the high school English curriculum. Teach the elements of a short story with the following:

(Note: Click on the titular links for free awesome lesson plans, analysis, and more. Click on the pictures, if you’re interested in an entire unit with graphic organizer handouts with answer keys, common core aligned lesson plans, writing topics, rubrics, summaries and analysis, discussion topics, quizzes, and more)

1.  “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell – Ship Trap Island claims another victim, world famous hunter William Rainsford. Will the island’s lone inhabitant, General Zaroff get his prey or will Rainsford turn the tables.

“The Most Dangerous Game” provides the perfect example of man vs. man conflict. Create a three-column chart with Rainsford on top, Zaroff in the middle, and student on the bottom. Include four categories at the top–views on hunting, views on animals, views on humans, and other important characteristics.


2.  “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant – Mme. Loisel will do anything to be a part of the upper class. She borrows a necklace from her friend, loses it, and spends the rest of her life paying for it.

The theme of “The Necklace” is relevant today. After reading the story, instruct students to write the theme of the story at the top of their paper. List 5-10 specific facts about the story that supports the theme.


3.  “The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst – Break out the tissues as Doodle’s brother explains what happened many summers ago.

“The Scarlet Ibis” provides an excellent example of first person point of view. Discuss why this story would lose its power if it were written in third person. Instruct students to write a passage from the story in third person to show them why author’s choose to write how they write.


4.  The “Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe – A crazy narrator murders an old man, gets away with it, goes crazy, and confesses

Use this teaching suspense lesson plan for either the “Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Black Cat,” or “The Cask of Amontillado.”


5.  “The Interlopers” by Saki – Ulrich and Znaeym resolve their feud, but will anyone hear of it?Examine conflict–man vs. man and man vs. nature.

Think irony. Adapt this lesson plan for teaching irony to help your students think about it.


6.  “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber – Walter Mitty is a brow-beaten middle aged man who dreams of so much more. Join Walter on his life-and-death adventures in James Thurber’s most popular short story.

Walter Mitty is one of the most popular short story characters in American Literature–even inspiring the formation of Walter Mitty societies shortly after its release. Teach characterization by instructing students to find specific facts from the narrative that characterize Mitty.


ELA Common Core Standards Covered

Amaze your administrator when he or she observes you teaching this creative book report idea by sharing the ELA Common Core Standards covered by this short story project.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. RL.9-10.6  Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
  4. RL.9-10.10 By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
  5. Common Core Writing Standard 1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  6. Common Core Writing Standard 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  7. W.9-10.6  Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically

Teaching Literary Elements with Short Stories

Understanding literary elements is necessary for literary analysis.  These short stories will help you teach literary elements.

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