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3 Considerations For Planning a Middle School Short Story Unit

Learn about three things to consider when planning a middle school short story unit that will engage and inspire your students.

Have you ever planned a middle school short story unit?

Short story units are very popular among middle school ELA classes.  Unlike novels and other longer works (which often require a whole vetting and purchase process before they can be added to or changed in the curriculum), short story selection is often at least partially left up to the teachers. 

With this freedom also comes an important question – what stories do I pick?  As you go about making your selections, be sure to make variety one of your considerations.  

Let’s talk about why variety in middle school short story selection is important.

Considerations For Planning Your Middle School Short Story Unit

Reason One: Developing Writers

Because humans often first learn through mimicry, good writing teachers will often tell you that the way we learn to write is by reading. This means that exposure to quality texts is particularly important in developing writing skills. Exposing students to a wide variety of texts not only opens their eyes to different types of stories that can be enjoyed in different ways and by different people, but also sets up students to experiment with different styles of writing as they explore their potential as writers.   

Reason Two: Representation

If all students ever read are stories written by people unlike themselves, the vast majority of them will never think of themselves as writers.  If all students ever read are stories about experiences completely different than their own, then they will never think of their own experiences as worthy of being put on the page. 

Conversely, if all students ever read are stories that are about people just like them, in places that are completely familiar, and with situations that they experience in their own lives, then those students will lose out on exposure to the much wider world that reading can open to us.  Including variety as a selection criterion as you pick material for your class – variety in genre, topic, setting, author, publication date, and so on – exposes students to a whole world of possibilities.

Reason Three: Interest

Keeping your students interested is a challenge all teachers face. Shorter works, like short stories, offer an opportunity to hold students’ interest that longer works do not. All students have different likes and dislikes. Some prefer one genre over another. Sometimes a story topic will grab some students and not others. A writer’s style can do the same. Regardless though, the great thing about short stories is that you spend only a short amount of time on each one. 

If a student is not particularly interested in a story, they know a new one is coming soon.  By including variety in your story selection, you can help make sure that your students stay interested in your curriculum.

Getting Started Planning A Middle School Short Story Unit

Don’t know where to start as you select short stories for your classroom?  

Check out these middle school short story unit collections

Each unit contains lessons on seven varied stories and focuses on such things as plot, character, setting, theme, and conflict, as well as literary devices such as simile, metaphor, symbols, and foreshadowing. 

Students will also complete engaging activities such as an Activating Prior Knowledge Graffiti Activity or an optional Drama Task, as well as quizzes and a test.  All this keeps students of all levels paying attention and working hard.

As a teacher using any of my middle school short story units, you get the benefit of already written questions, a variety of graphic organizers, a quiz and test, a unit plan with detailed daily lessons, and standards-based as well as points-based assessment options; you even get classroom posters!  

Your students will benefit from the differentiated and scaffolded material. These units also incorporate elements of student choice which will help your students feel more in control and investment in their work.  

If you are searching for a single title to add to your curriculum, you can also check out the materials for many individual short stories in the short story section of my store. 

Teacher Note: The 7th and 8th-grade short story units contain the same core lessons, but have different short stories, answer keys, and final tests. 

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