Looking Ahead Blog Hop | Why Secondary ELA Should Start off with Short Stories


Let’s set the scene- Your students show up. Everyone has first day jitters. You’ve printed and dispensed the syllabus. Your students go over the class rules. You are looking shiny and new. The kids have new hair cuts. Your newly decorated classroom is the cleanest it will be all year. 

Stop! Don’t pass out a novel. Take a step back. Think about it. Your kids just had an entire summer off! 

Why should you re-think the back-to-school novel? September should be a time to hook your students on your curriculum. A fast paced short story unit will give your students timely satisfaction and opportunities for success. 

You can also take this time to assess your students’ needs and strengths. Guided novel reading is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but it opens the year for some usual suspects feeling:
Secondary English Language Arts teachers must approach beginning of the year as their best “performance time,” in their classroom. I find the most success introducing the year with a short story unit. 


You can stretch it out for the entire months of August and September. By adding student centered activities with each story your students can explore literary devices (great for covering irony, sarcasm, satire, and characterization), the plot diagram, author’s purpose, and thematic response. 

A generous selection within your unit – Need to have variety! Native American creation myths, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, background information on legends and myths, could be very cross-curricular.  

Where can you find short stories?

There is such an amazing selection of short stories available in the public domain. I find my short stories online in full texts. I also use a text book. At home, your students can access the stories online through website links you can provide.

One of my favorite short stories, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow can be found online, for free! I recommend using audio and your students will love concluding the unit with viewing the film Sleepy Hollow (1999).   

How can you engage your students in a short story unit?

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Reading, Writing, Craftivity, and Flip Book provides you with organized pages that cover it all. Secondary students “aren’t too big,” to enjoy some creative expression. The cover of this flip is also a craftivity!

Here are some more short story unit ideas!

Conclude your unit with viewing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) starring Ben Stiller and Sean Penn. It is heartfelt, visually appealing, good music, and the end is surprising. 
TpT Newsletter, featured, July, 2014

Edgar Allan Poe short stories collection. All found online, in the public domain. Great gothic tales perfect for the fall months.

Edgar Allan Poe’s, The Raven. This is not a short story. It is a narrative poem. Use this right before Halloween. You can find it online using audio and have your students read along. 

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I’m so glad you are here! My name is Danielle. I am passionate about helping teachers and homeschool parents promote critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication with their students. 

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