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Eight Great American Short Stories For Your High School Students

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/30/2014

These great American short stories will entertain and delight your students. Try them in your classroom settings and reading lists.

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    List of Short Stories They'll Love

    Great teachers find great pleasure teaching Great American classics. Don't know where to begin? Try these famous short To Build a Fire by Jack London stories.

    • "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 Lesson Idea - "To Build a Fire" is the perfect example of a person v. nature conflict.
    • "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...
    • Lesson Idea - "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" uses flashbacks and dream sequences, an excellent opportunity for teaching plot and sequence. Lesson Idea - Find the Twilight Zone episode of the short story. It's fantastic and follows the narrative exactly.
    • "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.Gift of the Magi by O Henry 
    • Lesson Idea - I love irony. I love this short story. Use this irony lesson plan to teach it. Lesson Idea - 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.
    • "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 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 Allen 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 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.


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