If there is one thing that my students and I share, it’s our love for short stories. High school kids may not choose to read short stories on their own time, but they get very excited when the story I choose to teach a concept is short. I find that short stories pack a stronger emotional punch. They elicit real reactions, especially if the author manages to surprise them. In fact, short stories are the thing I use most often in my high school lessons to teach literary devices, act as mentor texts for our writing, and get students excited about reading. Here is a collection of 50 of my favorite short stories for high school students.
Why I love it: The dramatic irony. The discussion that follows: Who is the innocent lamb in this story?
Why I love it: This is one of those short stories for high school that engages all of my students. I love to ask them what they think the most dangerous game in the world is. I like to watch them figure out what is about to happen as we read through the story.
Why I love it: This story is great for suspense, irony, and characterization. It always creeps students out.
Why I love it: This story is heartbreaking and truth-telling. Bradbury takes us to Venus and uses the setting to drive the conflict and focus on the character’s behavior.
Why I love it: It’s a dystopian story about the power of technology in our lives. It’s easy to connect to students’ lives.
Why I love it: The brutality of this story sneaks up on you. For a while, you’re convinced this town is ordinary until you find out the dark consequences of blindly following tradition.
Why I love it: My students love a murder mystery. This one is made even more alluring while the narrator tries to convince the readers of his sanity.
Why I love it: It’s one of the best stories for high school to teach irony during the holiday season.
Why I love it: One of the classic short stories for high school about what can go wrong when granted three wishes. Students also love to know that there was a Simpsons episode based on this short story.
Why I love it: This story moves from the ordinary to the extraordinary. It highlights the mundane adult life while the main character escapes to fantastical situations, inspired by his surroundings. Bonus: The movie version that was released in 2013.
Why I love it: This story encourages high school students to consider the cost of happiness.
Why I love it: It’s about growing up and developing a crush that is all-consuming.
Why I love it: It’s a short story about the butterfly effect. The plot asks the question many have asked before, if we could travel back in time, how would it change the future?
Why I love it: It explores the complex mother-daughter relationship.
Why I love it: Use this for an example of extended metaphor and, again, the dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship.
Why I love it: I love a teenage love story. Focus on the symbolism of the eraser tattoo.
Why I love it: A beautifully written heartbreaking story about brothers.
Why I love it: It’s a great story for studying characters, their flaws, and their transformation by the end of the story.
Why I love it: It’s a tale of revenge with unexpected twists and turns.
Why I love it: Can a person die of a broken heart?
Why I love it: I use this when I teach creative writing. What changes when we turn 11? How are we different from when we were 10? Most agree that it is a significant change.
Why I love it: Your students will not see the ending coming.
Why I love it: Use this futuristic story to teach setting, foreshadowing, and theme.
Why I love it: We get to see simple moments become symbols for larger happenings in her life.
Why I love it: Read it for a tale of friendship paired with elements of suspense.
Why I love it: The ending will shock your students.
Why I love it: For the discussion afterward, what would you be willing to do for love? Bonus: Pair with a Twilight Zone episode.
Why I love it: The creative plot created in this story launches deep discussion after reading.
Why I love it: The plot is intriguing enough for students to be invested. Imagine a world where you outsource negative feelings and experiences to other people.
Why I love it: I still remember the first time I read this story in high school and the discussion about women and mental health and the symbolism throughout the story.
Why I love it: It’s a story about women being misunderstood and underestimated.
Why I love it: It’s a revenge story that allows students to see examples of irony throughout.
Why I love it: This story is great for any adventurous soul.
Why I love it: It’s a story that illustrates the pain and loss of war.
Why I love it: Use this as a short story that illustrates that actions have consequences.
Why I love it: This is one of the classic Poe short stories for high school about madness.
Why I love it: A Mark Twain story about a man who bets on anything. Use this next time a student says “Bet!” to you.
Why I love it: Read this story for symbolism, as the main character turns into an insect overnight. It’s an excellent story that illustrates alienation and loneliness.
Why I love it: A great read for American literature that explores the nature of humanity and questions of faith.
Why I love it: A story that focuses on overcoming limitations while an 11-year-old trains to swim through an underwater hole in a rock.
Why I love it: Fitzgerald was gifted in writing about tension in love. This story is about the tension between lovers from the North and the South. Read it for the story and the poetic language of Fitzgerald.
Why I love it: It’s a simple story of the conflict between what we desire versus what we need.
Why I love it: This is a very quick read and still manages to pack a punch.
Why I love it: The story is relatable and sends an important message.
Why I love it: It’s a message from a mother to a daughter on how to behave.
Why I love it: This is one of the great short stories for high school that explores the complexity of a father-son relationship.
Why I love it: This is one of the best short stories for high school about the strength and power of guilt in the presence of childhood and into an adulthood.
Why I love it: This super-short story is about a father’s tradition of decorating a pole in the yard and all that the pole represents.
Why I love it: This is a story about realizing when we’re growing up. This is one of the great short stories for high school students that they can connect to.
Why I love it: This story takes place in 2053. Ray Bradbury has a way of making the future feel like the present. Bradbury reminds us how important it is to not lose our humanity.
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