Best Short Stories for High School

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Reluctant Reader Books
Grade Levels
8th - 12th
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • PDF
89 pages
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Reluctant Reader Books

What educators are saying

I used these stories for "Twilight School" (after school twice a week for students who failed first semester). Students were very engaged and the accompanying activities were just what was needed.


In conjunction with our free PDF of the Best Short Stories for High School, we have created a complete set of lesson plans for all eight stories.

Lesson plans are for the following stories:

  • The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Murder by John Steinbeck
  • Guests of the Nation by Frank O’Connor
  • The Little Room by Madeline Yale Wynne
  • An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
  • A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
  • Dark They Were and Golden-Eyed by Ray Bradbury
  • The Storm by McKnight Malmar

Stories are not included in lesson plans but can be found for free on our website.

Our lesson plans are divided into the following sections:


Each of our lesson plans begins with a short intro page giving a brief review of the story and its publication history: when it was first published and where.

Story in Context

Brief background is provided for certain concepts that students may be unfamiliar with. Enough to encourage class discussion, but not enough to be distracting to the story itself.

In these lessons we explore how prisoners were hung during the civil war, the history of unreliable narrators, ponder the legal concept of coverture, and learn about the legacy of Southern Gothic literature.

Stories in Conversation

Stories do not exist in a vacuum. Our lesson plans try to connect the dots between the story itself and other stories, movies, and media that came before and after.

In these lessons we draw connections between a wide range of stories, songs and movies from Bruce Springsteen to Stephen King to The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.

Interrogating Characters

Interrogating Characters presents students with a way to engage with specific characters in the story. We select characters other than the main character or narrator so that students can ponder other points of view.

In these lessons we interrogate an old man with a vulture eye, an adulterous cousin, a slave-owner who attempts to blow up a Union bridge, a young boy exploring abandoned Martian cities, and a husband who just might be a murderer.

Missing in Action

Every story has gaps or missing points of view. In Missing in Action, we ask students to consider those neglected viewpoints in order to gain a better understanding of what the author has left out.

In these lessons we ponder why the Martians died out thousands of years ago, whether or not an escaped convict is as horrible as he seems, question why a Union scout sets up a civilian to be caught and hanged, and wonder about a sea captain who once had his hand refused in marriage.

Analyzing Language

Analyzing Language provides 6 questions that look specifically at the language the author has used and asks students to consider those choices to better understand the story.


Each lesson plan has one Activity. Some are solo projects, others are done with partners or in groups. Activities engage students with the text in ways that are analytical but not based on essay responses.

In these lessons we debate just what a good man really is, ask why time seems to speed up and slow down depending on what you’re doing at the moment, consider what kind of romantic relationship codes of conduct are still acceptable and examine whether or not we would execute prisoner of war.


Launchpad asks students to write their own stories using the story selection as a starting point. Usually this is a continuation of the tale that asks students to use their imaginations.

In these lessons we contemplate the fate of a woman who has rushed into a terrible storm, craft letters to the mother of a POW we executed, and imagine ourselves in the stands of a horrific murder trial.

Lessons for all eight stories are included in their entirety.

Total Pages
89 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.


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