To encourage the love of literature in classrooms all over the world, we have selected the following short stories as suggested reading for Middle School students. These engaging selections were chosen to encourage a passion for reading and thinking and discussing great literature.
The selected short stories show-off the incredible variety of approaches and techniques that some of the world's greatest writers have used to entertain us with the short story genre. These stories wander from suspenseful to humorous to surprising; they often feature a surprise or "twist ending" and drive home the concept of irony. They provide a great starting point for classroom discussions and allow students to have fun while building critical reading and analysis skills.
- The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
This tender story is a "must read" and one of the most famous in the short story genre. The story is a discussion starter for the role of irony. Reading this story first, then following up the next lesson with "The Necklace" will allow students to compare and contrast two important short stories while absorbing import life lessons.
- The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
Madame Mathilde Loisel is blessed with great beauty but little wealth. Though she dreams of attending extravagant parties and balls bedecked with sparkling jewels, she is married to a low-paid clerk of modest means. Her husband sets the story in motion when he manages to acquire an invitation to a society party in a quest to make her happy. This is a classic morality tale highlighting the twin pitfalls of vanity and pride.
- A Horseman in the Sky by Ambrose Bierce
A soldier in the American Civil War disappoints his Virginian father to join the Union army and fight for the North in this emotionally jarring masterpiece by Ambrose Bierce.
- The Open Window by H.H. Munro
A mischievous young woman with a very big imagination and a gift for drama "entertains" a house caller waiting on her aunt by spinning a theatrical tale. One can safely assume that Mr. Framton Nuttle will never be the same again. The point here is simple: short stories are fun!
- To Build a Fire by Jack London
"The dog did not know anything about thermometers" but it had the sense to know "that it was no time for travelling." The man's judgement was not as good as the dog's, and that sets the stage for a classic man vs. nature story.
- The Lady, or the Tiger? by Frank Stockton
The problems of middle school pale in comparison to the dilemma faced by the princess. The title of this iconic story has become a catchphrase to describe a problem that has no solution.
- The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs
Three wishes and a Monkey's paw. What could possibly go wrong? The English author W.W. Jacobs demonstrates how the short story can be used effectively to relate a horror story. A good introduction to the broader gothic
genre as well.
- The Sniper by Liam O'Flaherty
The setting for the The Sniper is the Battle of Dublin, a series of street fights that occurred between June 28th and July 5th, 1922. These battles marked the beginning of the Irish Civil War. The protagonist is a sniper that takes a calculated risk; the consequences of that decision have lethal consequences . . . But for whom?
- The Treasure in the Forest by H.G. Wells
Allow H.G. Wells
to provide an introduction to the morality tale as two Englishmen use an ill-gotten map to hunt for treasure.
- The Star by H.G. Wells
Another selection from H.G. Wells
. This is a suspenseful, gripping and well written story, where the author smartly plays "what if" with a potential ending of the world, and turns a beautiful phrase or two while doing it, "So, too, barbarism and savagery, already tired of the novelty, went about their nightly business, and save for a howling dog here and there, the beast world left the star unheeded."
- The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln
There is no American more american than Abraham Lincoln's. His struggle was our struggle and his voice was our voice. And it was with his voice -- in both writing and speaking -- that the country finally broke free and clear of European traditions in prose to find a distinctly American voice.
- Federigo's Falcon by Giovanni Boccaccio
This tale, from Boccaccio's The Decameron (1353), makes an interesting companion piece to O. Henry's classic The Gift of the Magi. Both stories feature irony and a twist, but they make an interesting foil when paired together for classroom discussion.
- The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
This is a rather long short story but a funny and rewarding read, as Oscar Wilde turns the typical ghost story on its head. Sir Simon de Canterville has been happily haunting Canterbury Chase, frightening its inhabitants, for over three hundred years. Then the estate falls into the hands of an American family armed with American manners and sensibilities. It really is more than an aristocratic British ghost can bear.
- More Short Stories for Middle School students are available in Volume II