Teaching Ideas / resources

Comprehensive Short Story Ideas for English Class

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All my favorite short story ideas for English class – teaching tips, story recommendations, timesaving resources, and much more!

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I’ve thought a lot about teaching short stories over the years. I’ve designed and redesigned my short story unit, I’m always on the hunt for the latest and greatest short story anthology, and I’m constantly striving to make sure that I’m including not just one perspective, but a chorus of voices.

I think that by having a wide range of contemporary short stories, embracing alternative media (like songs and film), and giving students the tools to embrace their own creativity, you can make short stories relevant, engaging, and memorable for your students.

I tried to make sure that this post has short story ideas for English class that every ELA teacher can use, but if you don’t find what you’re looking for, feel free to reach out 🙂

If you’re looking for a standards-aligned resource that uses diverse short stories to teach some of the most essential figurative language elements, check out this resource bundle we released in 2024!

Short Story Ideas – Beyond the basics!

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Inclusive Short Horror Stories for Teens

5 scary (but age-appropriate!) stories that you can use in the classroom! Great for teaching suspense, characterization, and other literary elements, or for use as model texts for creative writing.

Bonus: These stories are all by Queer or BIPOC authors.

New Ideas for Teaching Short Stories

Need ideas for how to revitalize your short story unit? In this post, I share some of my favorite ways to change it up, without sacrificing your standards.

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Poetry & Song Lyric “Story Starters”

Use these poetry snippets & song lyrics to inspire creative writing and storytelling, and to show students they can draw inspiration anywhere! Check it out in my shop, or download a free “lite” version of this resource 🙂

New Short Stories for Middle School

Middle school teachers, I have heard your cries! In this post, I share some contemporary and inclusive short stories for middle school, as well as some non-traditional short texts like songs and TV shows you can use in the classroom.

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Contemporary Short Stories for High School

… and this post is for you, high school teachers! Here are modern, inclusive short stories and other short media that will help your students identify and connect with the elements of storytelling.

Short Stories by Latinx Authors

From sci-fi to fantasy to historical fiction, these short story ideas have something to interest every student.

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If you’re teaching classic short stories, I have resources to help you too:

“Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl

“The Lady or the Tiger?” by Frank Stockton

“The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs

“The Dinner Party” by Mona Gardner

“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin

“The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe

Teaching “Lamb to the Slaughter”

Usually, I’m all about finding contemporary short stories to teach in middle and high school. However, one classic short story my students adore is Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter.” In this post, I share what short story ideas and activities worked best for my students.

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Teaching Social Justice with Short Stories

Short stories can be great foundational texts for conversations about social justice and current events. Because they’re short, they can act as common reading before students work on discussion and research. They can help students hone in on the relationship between literature, politics, and “the real world.” (This makes literature more relevant.) And it’s always easier to talk about big issues through the lens of fictional characters.

Short Story Ideas for High School – YA Anthologies

In this post, I share my favorite YA Short Story anthologies. These collections are great choices for your classroom library, plus you can use them to find new material for your short story units and lit circles.

Short Stories Analysis Unit – Resource

This resource gives you a full lesson plan for each topic, plus handouts, rubrics, presentations, tests, AND it can be used digitally or on paper. Each lesson has a suggested short story but can be used with the text of your choice.

You can also check out this blog post for ways to simplify and streamline your short story unit 🙂

Short Stories by AAPI Authors

This is a guest post by Joan King, a Korean American author, and educator. Her short story ideas are perfect for AAPI Heritage Month (May), and her thoughtful teaching tips make it easy to fit these short stories into your curriculum year-round.

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Do you like using short stories to teach literary elements and ELA concepts? Me too!

I’ve shared tips and text recommendations for teaching setting, symbolism, metaphors, suspense & pacing, irony, conflict, characterization, and figurative language with short stories. Enjoy!

Short Texts by LGBTQ+ Authors for Secondary ELA

While this post contains a mixture of fiction and nonfiction texts, all would fit right in when teaching short stories. They’re also great choices for celebrating PRIDE and LGBTQ+ History Month (October).

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Short Story Ideas – Inclusive Ideas & Recommendations

This resource has everything you need to make your short story unit more relevant and inclusive. The story suggestions are organized by teaching topic. This makes it easy to find places in your curriculum where you can make updates.

Teaching Short Stories: Innovate & Engage

Here are some reading and writing exercises for teaching short stories. I share ideas for both group and solo activities, with the goal of getting students to feel more engaged and connected with the literature that they’re studying.

Here are some of my favorite resources and ideas for teaching short stories in middle school and high school. Teaching short stories can be a great way to build student confidence and endurance with a number of skills. These texts span all genres and are hugely versatile – teach them as a unit or woven in with other texts throughout the year. (blog post)
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Writer’s Workshop

One of my favorite short story ideas for English class is a writer’s workshop! Hosting a mini writer’s workshop in your classroom is a great way to promote creativity and collaboration. In this blog post, I share my process, step-by-step.

Short Story Ideas for American Lit

Need some fresh content? These short stories are all contemporary and diverse, and they’re all available online for free!

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Other Short Texts and Short Mediums for the ELA Classroom:

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Personal Narrative Examples by Latinx Authors

Teaching personal narrative writing? Check out this post first! Plus, these 4 personal narratives examples are all by Latinx authors (from the wonderful anthology Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed), so they’re a great way to include more voices in your ELA curriculum.

TEDTalks for Young Writers

These TEDTalks are all centered around language and storytelling. What better way to learn than directly from authors like Nnedi Okorafor, Jaqueline Woodson, and Gabby Rivera? Plus, you’ll find explorations of grammar, artistic inspiration, Twitter fiction, and more!

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15 MORE Songs to Use in Secondary ELA

I love using songs in ELA so much that I have two posts dedicated to the subject! Songs can be approachable, high-interest ways to talk about themes, storytelling, literary elements, writers’ purpose, and much, much more.

15 MORE TV Episodes to Use in ELA

TV episodes can be much more than just time-fillers or rewards; they can be valuable teaching materials. Oftentimes, students have an easier time connecting with something that feels relevant to them, and TV can be a great “way in” for students to understand big literary concepts.

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Short Films for ELA

I go beyond the typical Pixar favorites in this post and share 7 of my favorite short films, plus teaching ideas and activities.

Last thoughts:

I hope that my short story ideas for English class have filled you with inspiration and excitement for teaching short stories in ELA! Do you have a short story “hack,” or a short story that really resonates with your students? Share it below!

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If you use any of these short story ideas or resources in your classroom, let me know! I’d love to hear a “review” from you and your students. Comment below or reach out on IG @nouvelle_ela 🙂

Happy teaching!

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