Short Story Project for Middle School Students

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Quick Review of Literary Elements

Before starting, review the literary elements for the project. Select five or six basic literary elements such as setting, characterization, theme, mood, point-of-view and conflict to include in the project. Make sure students have written the definitions and understand the literary term through examples.

Outline the Project

Give students an information sheet, explaining the requirements for the project and a due date. Students can take notes as the project is discussed and refer back to the sheet throughout the project. Below are the basic requirements for the short story project. Students should read three to five short stories.

  1. A creative drawing, representing the story and incorporating the title and author of short story.
  2. Literary Elements: Assemble a page of the selected literary elements. Give this as an assignment after reading the story and then discuss it the following day, encouraging students to take notes and share information.
  3. Author Page: Integrate technology into the classroom, asking students to research information about the author such as where he was born, other stories he wrote, his writing style and interesting facts from his life.
  4. Extras Options: This can be done for some or all the short stories. For example, in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” ask students to list the triggers for going into and out of daydreams.


One of my favorite stories to read with middle school students is The Ransom of Red Chief by O’Henry. Below is a brief outline of the information expected in a student’s project.

  1. Creative Drawing: a copy of the note, a sling shot or rocks sitting near a cat
  2. Literary Elements:

Setting: Summit, Alabama, cave, 2 miles outside of Summit, Poplar Grove, horse and buggy days, sundown, on a mountain

Mood: doubtful, dangerous, desperate, exciting, relief, anxious

Characterization: Red Chief: red-haired boy, 10 years-old, creative, only child, mean, rude

Bill Driscoll: overweight, Red Chief’s playmate, desperate, scared, beat-up, nicknamed Old hank

Sam: fast runner, not intelligent, leader, narrator, nicknamed Snake Eyes

Conflicts: Man vs. Man (Red Chief vs. Bill and Sam)

Man vs. Self (Bill and Sam vs. desire to get money easily)

Theme: Dynamite comes in small packages. Crime doesn’t pay. The best laid plans of mice and men sometimes go astray.

Point-of-view: 1st person

3. Author Page:

Real name: William Sidney Porter

Born Sept. 11, 1862

left school at 15

Unexpected endings is his trademark

Wrote short stories while in prison

This post is part of the series: Teaching Literary Elements in Context

Teach literary elements by teaching literature.

  1. Strategies for Teaching Theme: A Lesson Plan Using “The Interlopers” by Saki
  2. Lesson Plan: Short Story Project For High School Language Arts
  3. Middle School Short Story Project
  4. Teaching Irony in Literature: A Review
  5. Teaching Short Story Elements