English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Quick Write
  • Short Stories
  • Short Story
  • Single Effect
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Quick Write: The American Short Story

    Quick Write: The American Short Story


    In this lesson, students will begin to learn about the American short story. They will have an opportunity to practice close reading, and they'll explore the qualities of the short story genre through Quick Writes and discussion.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Decide how you will group students for the activities.
    • Consider any vocabulary that might give students difficulty.
    • Plan any changes you will make to the Unit Accomplishments.
    • Review the provided Vocabulary chart in Teacher Resources. Throughout this unit, you can share it with students and/or use it in the way that works best with your class.

    Short Story Quick Write

    • Display the questions for students as they write and discuss.
      • ELL: Take a few minutes to check for understanding—do students know what a short story is? Provide a functional definition, but try not to provide information that will influence their thinking before they write.
    • If time permits, hear responses from students in a Whole Class Share.


    Take a few minutes to write about your understanding of the short story genre.

    Use the following questions to guide your thinking.

    • What short stories have you read?
      • Which did you enjoy and why?
    • What are elements of short stories that are specific to the genre?
    • How do short stories, like all art, reflect elements of the culture that produces them?
    • What do you want to know about short stories?

    Open Notebook

    Share your thoughts about the short story genre in small groups and take notes as you listen to your classmates.

    Intro to Unit Accomplishments

    • Introduce your class to the Unit Accomplishments. If you wish, share the full Unit Accomplishments document with them.
    • Give students examples of what the social and cultural landscape involves.
      • ELL: Explain anthology . Check with students to see what they know about the idea of an “analysis essay.” Let students know that they will receive detailed instructions later, when the assignment is given.

    Work Time

    Read the Unit Accomplishments.

    • As a class, you will read a number of American short stories that reflect the social and cultural landscape of America in different time periods. This reading will complement your study of 19th, 20th- and 21st-century American history.
    • You will choose works for your own exploration of ideas and insights about American literature and culture.
    • In groups, you will explore short stories from an assigned historical period.
    • After researching and reading several authors from the assigned historical period, your group will choose four short stories for a class anthology.
    • With your group, you will design and deliver a multimedia presentation about the authors and ideas reflected in the writings of your assigned era.
    • Each individual in the group will write and submit an analysis essay about how two of the stories reflect the social and cultural landscape of America in different time periods.

    Essay and Analysis

    • Throughout the unit, encourage students to annotate and make notes in the text for easy reference later. Differentiate for students by allowing them to read in pairs if necessary.
    • If you think it will be helpful for your class, model the annotation process before students begin reading.
      • SWD: It can be helpful to model the process using the Think Aloud method so that students can watch and learn from your decision-making process and strategic thinking.
    • Circulate among the groups to check for understanding.
    • Encourage students to also think about the author's purpose.
    • Additional questions might include:
      • ✓ What is his view on the American short story?
      • ✓ How do you think will he continue to pursue this view in the essay?
      • ELL: This reading is poised from a very particular point of view and uses potentially difficult vocabulary. Some students will be unfamiliar with the author’s frame of reference and language; if reading independently is too challenging, read the first few paragraphs as a class.
    • After students finish reading and sharing in small groups, facilitate a Whole Group Discussion about the article so far and students' responses to it.

    Work Time

    Working independently, read and annotate the first three paragraphs of the essay “In Praise of the American Short Story.”

    Then share your understanding of the essay so far in your small group.

    Answer the following questions, using evidence from the text to support your answers.

    • What, according to the writer, is “wrong” with the common view of the short story?
    • Who has this view? Why?
    • What qualities do short stories possess?
    • What words or phrases in the essay did you not know or understand?

    Open Notebook

    Share your ideas and insights with the full class.

    Essay Vocabulary

    • Again, circulate among students to check for understanding. If possible, have students look up definitions online or in a dictionary.
    • Give students a chance to get answers to the questions they have not been able to find for themselves in the full class discussion.
      • SWD: For students who benefit from visual reinforcement, you can create (on the board) a chart of the definitions and meanings that students share for reference during the reading.

    Work Time

    Finish reading and annotating the essay “In Praise of the American Short Story.”

    • Find three or four words or phrases that you do not know or understand and make a note of them.
    • In your small group, try to figure out the meaning of these words or phrases together.

    Essay Response Quick Write

    • Students can submit this for your review. If time permits, ask a few students to share their responses at the end of class.
      • SWD: Since students will be writing about the benefits of short stories for homework, this can be a helpful place to have students share examples and discuss the use of evidence from the text with the whole class.
      • ELL: Be aware that the idea of universality that the Guiding Questions address may seem more or less feasible to students based on their own experiences. Encourage them to explore and challenge this idea.
      • Emphasize the importance of using direct evidence from text to support ideas. This will be expected throughout the unit.
      • Lead students in a discussion of the Guiding Questions and answer any questions that they have. Students will revisit the Guiding Questions at the end of the unit.


    • Now that you have read the essay, revisit the question "What qualities do short stories possess?" Use evidence from the essay in your response.

    Next, consider the Guiding Questions for this unit and discuss them with your class.

    • If you were to write a short story about this decade, what issues might you focus on?
    • What defines a short story? Just length?
    • To what extent to these stories reflect the era or decade in which they were written?
    • To what extent are the themes they address universal?

    You'll revisit these questions at the end of the unit.

    Short Story Reflection

    • Tell the class that this writing is needed for the next lesson.
    • If you want students to share their homework with you, let them know.
      • SWD: For students who may have trouble with the abstract thinking that this homework assignment requires, it can be helpful to explore possible responses to check that students understand the prompt. Additional questions that may help scaffold the assignment include the following: What is the possible benefit of a short story? What does benefit mean? How can someone benefit from reading a short story? How can someone benefit from writing a short story? How are short stories different from longer stories, like novels?


    • Write one to three paragraphs about what you see as the benefits or qualities of a short story.
    • Use at least one idea expressed in the essay to support your response—either supporting your idea or contradicting it.

    Open Notebook