Eight Great American Short Stories For Your High School Students
List of Short Stories They'll Love
1. "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.
- London's "To Build a Fire" embodies naturalism in literature. For classes that emphasize literature, identifying naturalistic elements is appropriate.
- "To Build a Fire" is the perfect example of a person v. nature conflict.
2. "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 waits to be hanged...
- "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" uses flashbacks and dream sequences, an excellent opportunity for teaching plot and sequence.
- Find the Twilight Zone episode of the short story. It's fantastic and follows the narrative exactly.
3. "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.
4. "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry: Buying someone the perfect gift sometimes turns out more than perfect.
- I love irony. I love this short story. Use this irony lesson plan to teach it.
- Worried about the political-correctness police harassing you around the holidays? O. Henry's got your back. "The Gift of the Magi" makes a great short story right before Christmas... holiday...winter break.
5. "The Revolt of Mother" by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman: Mom's not happy with Dad's new barn, so she does something about it.
- Freeman's short story involves discussions of marriage, the role of women, and being responsible.
- This making decisions lesson plan can be adapted to use with "The Revolt of Mother."
6. "The Open Boat" by Stephen Crane: Four men in a life boat struggle to reach land. Who will survive?
- Crane's "The Open Boat" is an excellent example of naturalism.
- Make a chart of the four characters, their attributes, and the likelihood of survival. Make predictions.
7. "Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allen Poe: A really weird prince thinks he can keep out death.
- Discuss the Bubonic Plague and other plagues in history.
- Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" contains numerous symbols. Here's a good teaching symbolism lesson plan.
8. "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?" This story offers plentiful writing opportunities.