Teaching Literary Devices Through Short Stories

As an added resource (for my sister and for anyone with an English Language Arts class), I’m going to take my Lesson Plans for High School English Teachers post and try to organize the short story ideas into something a little more resembling a curriculum. For a full list of resources for each short story listed below, see that post.

Ongoing Grammar & Vocabulary work: Holt Handbook for Grammar is an entire textbook of grammar lessons, exercises, and tests. // Holt Vocabulary Workbook with lessons on prefixes, roots, and making new words.

Teaching Literary Devices through Short Stories

a. Theme

All Summer in a Day, Ray Bradburylesson focusing on theme
The Open Boatguided reading lesson with an emphasis on Theme
The Necklace, Guy du Maupassant — a classic example of teaching theme
Thank You Ma’am, Langston Hughes — journal response: had she turned the boy in and gotten him arrested, how would that have changed the theme of the story?
Minireads on Theme — Pages 49 – 54 of this pdf have two single-page minireads and worksheets related to figuring out theme, or “the big idea.”

b. Character

Mother and Daughter, Gary Soto Close Read with emphasis on Character
Everyday Use, Alice Walker Analyzing Character lesson // Persuasive Writing Lesson
A Rose For Emily, William Faulkner — Close Read on Culture, Character, Color, and Doom
Analyzing Character Development in Three Short Stories About Women ReadWriteThink lesson plan
Minireads on Understanding Characters
— Pages 43 – 48 of this pdf have a lesson on Understanding characters, and a miniread assignment with worksheets

c. Conflict

The Most Dangerous Game, Richard ConnellClose read resource, great story to teach conflict.
The Interlopers, SakiConflict Lesson Plan // Close Read Lesson Plan
Broken Chain, Gary Soto Close Read with Conflict Emphasis
A Sound of Thunder, Ray BradburyClose Read Lesson
The Gold Cadillac 
Close Read
The Monkey’s Paw, W.W. Jacobs  — Character vs. Supernatural
Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut — Character vs. Society
The Lottery, Shirley Jackson — Character vs. Society

d. Irony

Lamb to the Slaughter, Roald DahlClose Read with Irony emphasis
A Modest Proposal, Jonathan SwiftClose Read with Verbal Irony emphasis
Ransom of Red Chief, O’ Henry — great for irony
Tell Tale Heart, PoeThis is a close read with an emphasis on irony, but you could feed suspense/foreshadowing themes into the lesson, transitioning into the next segment…

e. Foreshadowing

The Landlady, Roald Dahl — close read lesson. Great journal prompt: write a TripAdvisor review of the inn warning potential visitors with examples from the text. 
Three Skeleton Key — 
close read with emphasis on foreshadowing and suspense
The Birds, Daphne du Maurier — great story to build a foreshadowing lesson around

f. Figurative Language & Imagery

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings
Three Wise Guys — 
Close Read resource with an emphasis on imagery
MiniReads on Figurative Language — from pages 55 – 60 of this .pdf, quick minireads and work on figurative language

h. Symbolism

The Minister’s Black VeilClose Read with emphasis on Symbolism    
Young Goodman Brown, Nathaniel Hawthorne Teacher’s Guide // Activity with New England Gravestone Symbolism
Poems such as The Road Not Taken, and Sylvia Plath’s passage about The Fig Tree

PINK line

I don’t know if this is particularly helpful, but if you’re looking to teach literary devices through short stories, it at least breaks them up a little — makes it a little less overwhelming. You can easily devote a week or two to each literary device in this way, to really drill the concept into the kids’ heads.


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