Carolyn Hance
English Language Arts
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Lecture Notes, Reading, Unit of Study
High School
  • NE ELA
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs, Text/HTML, Video

    Education Standards

    Short Story Remote Learning Unit

    Short Story Remote Learning Unit


    This lesson plan was created by Carolyn Hance as part of the 2020 NDE OER Workshop. Educators worked with coaches to create quality curriculum that can be shared with others.

    The lesson plan is designed for Grade 8-9 English Language Arts students. Students will gain knowledge about the characteristics of short stories. Students will broaden the scope of literature by reading various classic short stories. A worksheet is provided that can be used as a formative assessment if desired.  This lesson plan addresses the following NDE Standards: NE.LA 10.1.1;    NE.LA 10.1.3.A;   NE.LA 10.1.5. A;  NE.LA 10.1.5.C;  NE.LA 10.1.6.B; NE.LA 10.1.6.D;  NE.LA 10.1.6.L; NE.LA 10.1.6.N; 


    It is expected that this lesson will take students approximately 10-14 class periods depending on grade level and individual student ability. This is a rough estimate.

    Short Story Video

    This short video will give students a visual opportunity to enforce some of the details they will learn about later in the unit. You can skip it if you want, but I find students listen better if there are some videos and music once in a while to get their attention.

    To get started, let's watch a short video about the elements of short stories. After the video, we'll go into more depth about the characteristics and elements of short stories.

    Short Story Elements


    Characteristics of Short Stories

    A short story differs from a novel in several ways. They have specific characteristics that can help you identify them with ease. Knowing these characteristics can also help you understand the stories better.

    Characteristic 1: SHORT!

    The most obvious characteristic of a short story is that they are SHORT! 

    In general, short stories can be read in their entirety in just one sitting. Short stories don't have chapters or sections. They authors get in, tell their stories, and get out rather quickly.

    Characteristic 2: Concise

    What does concise mean? It means giving a lot of information clearly and in a few words. Short stories stick with one story told from one narrator’s point of view. The stories have few characters. That means the author usually gives the reader only the thoughts and feelings of one or two characters. The remainder of the characters are flat (they’re basically mentioned, but never developed). In addition, short stories have pretty vague or limited settings. This is where that “Once upon a time” thing comes into play. 

    The setting can be a bit more developed than that, but don’t expect to always know the date, year, or even specific place where the action takes place in a short story. The idea is that short stories should be timeless. No matter when a reader reads the story, he/she should be able to relate to the story and understand the basis of the story.


    Characteristic 3: Specific Theme/Message

    Short stories most often focus on leaving the reader with a single impression, theme, or message. Usually, though not always, the theme is built around one character, place, idea, or act. The theme is the total meaning of the story. Without theme, the story lacks meaning or purpose.


    Point of View

    Point of view refers to the relationship of the narrator, or storyteller, to the story. There are three main types of point of view.

    1. First-person point of view: The narrator is a character in the story, referred to as “I," " me," or  "we”

    2. Third-Person Limited Point of View: The narrator is not a character in the story. He/she reveals the thoughts of only one primary character, referring to that character as “he” or “she" or by name (Harry, Sally, etc.).

    3. Third-Person Omniscient Point of View: The narrator is not a character in the story. In this case, the narrator knows everything about the story’s events and reveals the thoughts of most of the  characters. The characters are referred to as "he" or "she."  

    Many short stories are told from either first person or third-person limited point of view. There usually just isn't enough time to flesh out more characters.

    5 Stages of Plot Development

    Plot is the action that takes place in the story.  It is a series of connected happenings and their result.  In order to have a result, we must have an initial event, conflict, or problem. 

    Five Stages of Plot Development:

    • Exposition: introduces the story’s characters, setting, and conflict
    • Rising Action: Occurs as complications, twists, or intensifications as the conflict occurs.
    • Climax: The emotional high point of the story.
    • Falling Action: The logical result of the climax.
    • Resolution: Presents the final outcome of the story.





    Types of Conflict

    Conflict is the problem facing the main character in the story. Short stories focus on one incident. The struggle must be with some opposing force, which can be man vs. man, man vs. society, man vs. nature, or man vs. self, and man vs. fate. There are other types, but these are the main ones you'll encounter in short stories.





    Every short story has to have beings that think or act in order to keep the story going.  They must seem like living and feeling individuals in order for us to feel strongly about them. The worst thing that could happen for the writer is that you feel indifferent toward the characters. If we don’t care for the characters, we are not inclined to keep reading.


    Characters are the actors in a story’s plot. They can be people, animals, or whatever the writer chooses.

    Protagonist: The protagonist is the main character


    Antagonist: The antagonist is in conflict with the main character. Not all stories have antagonists. An antagonist does not have to be a character; it could be nature or anything else that works against the main character



    --Actions or thoughts of the character

    -- Conversations the character engages in

    -- Conversations of other characters about a third character


    Common Elements

    Most short stories will also contain some of the following elements:

    Foreshadowing.  Many stories, despite their surprise ending, have left clues through the story.

    Repetition.  Helps drive home a point.

    Suspense. Draws readers to the work.

    Dramatic Irony: Occurs when the reader knows something important that the character(s) in the story do not know. 

    Time to READ!

    The linked stories are all in the public domain and can be shared freely. 

    Students may have difficulty with downloading and saving the worksheets on their own. I recommend doing so as a class. 

    The vocabulary worksheet is optional. However, I find if I offer extra credit, students are much more likely to actually fill it out. 

    Now that we've gone over all of the elements of short stories, it's time to read some classics! There are links provided below to some of the most popular classic short stories. Some of the stories have the option to listen as well, so take advantage of that if necessary.

    Because these stories are classics, the language may be difficult at times. Use a hard copy dictionary or an online dictionary to help understand challenging words. Don't just skip over them. For each new/unfamiliar word you encounter, add the word to your Short Story New/Unfamiliar Vocabulary Sheet. Be sure to download this sheet and open in Microsoft Word. If you don't, you won't be able to type in the boxes provided. In addition, you must save each time you add information. If your teacher allows, you may work in pairs. Always check with your instructor before pairing up! She may require each of you to turn in work, even if you work in pairs. 


    After you read each short story, there is a worksheet you must fill out and turn in to be graded. Here is a link to the form. Download the form, fill out the answers, and print it to turn in. If you want to save your work, be sure to click on File, Save As, and then rename the file with the title of the short story you are working on. If you forget to rename it, you'll end up replacing your file over and over and lose your work, so be careful about following directions. You may want to check with your instructor to be sure you've done this right before moving on to another story.


    "Short Story Worksheet"  Download this file!

    You must download the file and open in Microsoft Word in order for the worksheet to be fillable. 


    Short Stories

    Lady, or the Tiger

    The Gift of the Magi

    The Monkey's Paw

    Cask of Amontillado

    Tell-Tale Heart

    The Lottery

    The Necklace

    The Secret Life of Walter Mitty