Bring the magic of short stories to your classroom

I love storytelling, I suppose that’s not surprising as a teacher and a writer. As such, I try to bring stories into my classroom at every opportunity.

Introducing something new. This could be to introduce students to a new situation or historical period – tell them a story which embodies this. I do this for introducing Shakespeare and War Poetry, stories which I will get around to writing down for you so that you can share them with your classes.

To do something creative. Tell them a story, but stop halfway and have them rewrite how they think it will end. I do this with the Anthony Horowitz story below, pausing just before the assassin is about to shoot, and have the students discuss and then write their own endings, they love it.

Just to listen. A lesson where we’ve finished an assessment or scheme of work and I just want the students to (for once) enjoy listening to a story. As a side note I don’t think we, as teachers, should ever be afraid of this. Reading to students for an extended period of time is a great thing, it reminds them how they can get absorbed into the story without worrying about the task that follows. In the past I’ve been scared that they’re inactive, that I can’t tell if they’re paying attention, you could use as worksheet like my PAWS FOR READING one, but sometimes pressure-free listening is best.

Here’s some short stories I use frequently with my students:

For copyright reasons I’ve not uploaded any  – I don’t want to upset these hardworking writers. Most, however are available as PDFs to download with a search.

White Carnation – Anthony Horowitz

This is a great short story about an assassin who is contacted by a mysterious but beautiful young lady and asked to kill her identical twin sister. The story follows the assassin planning the shooting. I often stop just before he is about to shoot her and have students write their own ending – you’d be surprised what brilliant ideas for endings they come up with, some I prefer to Horrowitz’s

Lamb to the Slaughter – Roald Dahl 

Roald Dahl’s short stories are great aren’t they? In some ways I prefer them to the books of his that everyone knows and loves. They’re much more dark, sinister and intriguing and Lamb to the Slaughter is an embodiment of this. A wife kills her husband, will her ingenious plan to get away with it work? I also love The Surgeon by Roald Dahl as a slightly longer read.

The Best Christmas Present in the World – Micheal Morpurgo 

This is the story of First World War Christmas Day truce. A great one to tie in if you’re studying war poetry as it also puts it into the modern day allowing students to see that it’s not all that distant history.

The Lottery – Shirley Jackson 

I’d use this for older students or higher ability. It’s (arguably) the short story that inspired the Hunger Games books so students should be able to relate to it.

The Pedestrian – Ray Bradbury 

A short dystopian story about a man who still enjoys walking, even in the futuristic world where no one else does. Great if you’re going to be looking at dystopian or futuristic writing.

The Little Match Girl – Hans Christian Andersen 

Another one for higher ability, particularly to have a discussion about how Andersen uses language to show us how bad the girl’s life is and how that foreshadows what’s going to happen. You could also go on to discuss whether he’s making a political and social point about it.

Do you use storytelling as much as you would like to in your classroom?

How do your students react to these, or stories like these?

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Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

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