Teaching Conflict in Literature: A List of Short Stories for Teaching Conflict

Short Stories for Teaching Conflict

I had a great lesson planned for my administrative observation.

“OK class, what’s conflict?” I asked. No answers. “Nobody knows what conflict is?” No answers. “Well, let me show you.” I walked over to my administrator, punched her in the arm and laughed. Unaffected, she lifted me over her head, body-slammed me, did 15 WWE style leg drops on my neck, fired me, and suggested I begin teaching conflict in literature by getting a list of short stories for teaching conflict.

I ran into her at my disciplinary board hearing where she gave me more tips on teaching conflict in literature and handed me her list of short stories for teaching conflict.

I share it with you.

Before we get to our list of short stories for teaching conflict, I want to make sure you get something useful for your classroom: Understanding Conflict in Literature Chart.

Great Short Stories for Teaching Conflict

Short Story Conflict Lesson Plans

Resolve your lesson plan conflict with these short story lesson plans for teaching conflict.

  1. “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connel: Man vs. Man – Zaroff and Rainsford engage in a battle for the ages. Apparently Zaroff approves of hunting humans. Rainsford discovers that being chased by hounds and shot at is not as fun as chasing with hounds and shooting. Rainsford does, however, possess one attribute the animals do not. Will it be enough to outsmart the ruthless General Zaroff? Use this teacher’s guide for “The Most Dangerous Game.”
  2. “To Build A Fire” by Jack London: Man vs. Nature – Pay attention when the locals tell you not to venture outside when you’re traveling through the Yukon. This moron ignores the advice of local experts and is threatened with death, unless he can build a fire. “To Build a Fire” may inspire a creative writing assignment addressing a time when the weather posed a threat–life-threatening or non-life-threatening. For example, that day last July when my van’s engine caught on fire at the intersection of Lake Mead and Boulder Highway on the hottest day of the summer–119 degrees to be exact. I suppose London’s narrator could have borrowed my van and survived (side note: never own a 1998 Plymouth Voyager van, especially a purple one that caught on fire last year, unless you plan on driving in the Yukon).
  3. “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs: Man vs. Supernatural – Sergeant Major Morris returns from India with a Monkey’s Paw, cursed by a fakir. The sergeant pulls the equivalent of “I would tell you this joke, class, but it’s not appropriate for school” and conjures up a desire in his listeners to possess the paw. Herbert decides to make fun of it (Note to reader: never, ever make fun of a cursed monkey’s paw). As with all conflicts involving the supernatural, the doomed are warned in advance. Check out this lesson plan on foreshadowing and suspense (bottom of linked page). 
  4. “Through the Tunnel” by Doris Lessing: Individual vs. Self – A young English mama’s boy attempts to become a man by swimming through an underwater tunnel. His descent into the underwater tunnel involves heavy breathing, blood, ecstasy, and an incredible sense of accomplishment. You can pretend, however, that the story isn’t really about sex during the parent-teacher conference and retain your job. A chart listing challenges faced by individuals in the class with a report on whether or not the challenge was accepted and what the result were works well for a quick lesson. Here’s more “Through the Tunnel” lesson plans.
  5. “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut: Individual vs. Society – Harrison Bergeron is physically and mentally gifted–time to give him some handicaps. Will Harrison be able to overcome his government mandated handicaps and restore sanity? This makes an excellent Big Brother is watching type lesson. Have students list five specific incidents from the short story and write how they are true or partially true. Remind your class that “Yes, we can.”

ELA Standards Covered

Teaching conflict in short stories may cover 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.
  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.

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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