Teaching Great American Short Stories

The Best American Short Stories for High School

edgar-allan-poe-lock-of-hair_612x380-600x372Great teachers find great pleasure teaching Great American classics. Don’t know where to begin? Try these famous short stories.

Great American Short Stories for High School

American Short Stories Lesson Plans

"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...

"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.

"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.

"Cask of Amontillado" Lesson Plans

Check out the 'Cask of Amontillado' teacher's guide. It contains the story, a story summary and analysis, lesson plans, graphic organizers, and a lot more.

"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?

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.

  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.9-10.3 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.

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