6 Inclusive Short Stories for Secondary ELA


6 Inclusive Short Stories for Middle and High School

Are you looking for new and inclusive short stories for middle and high school? The teachers from the Secondary English Coffee Shop have you covered! Here are some short story recommendations that we've loved teaching in our classrooms.

1. "The Space Between the Stars" by Geeta Kothari

My favorite short story is Geeta Kothari’s “The Spaces Between Stars.” Maya, the protagonist of the story, is struggling with her identity and a fishing trip with her husband acts as a catalyst for her to examine the choices she’s made in her life. It deals with the struggle that people often have between assimilating into the dominant culture and embracing their own. It’s also full of symbolism and metaphor, so students can practice their close reading skills with a story that always leads to great class discussions.

-ROOM 213

2. "Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains" by Tim Tingle

It’s so fun to do storytelling activities with students, and one great short story about storytelling is Tim Tingle’s “Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains.” In this story, Turtle Kid and their dozens of cousins listen to a story from Uncle Kenneth, and everyone knows you can’t believe a word Uncle Kenneth says. Kenneth’s story will keep your students on the edge of their seats, as he uses several red herrings to build suspense. He also uses humor and charm. The frame story can help us have great conversations with students about how stories are told and transformed, and how listeners participate. The dozens of cousins make predictions and ask questions, and our students can, too. If you’re looking for more recommendations for inclusive short stories and ideas for standards alignment, I have a huge list here!

-Nouvelle ELA

3. "The Seventh Man" by Haruki Murakami

It’s so tough to select just one favorite short story, but if I had to choose, it would be Haruki Murakami’s short story “The Seventh Man.” When I first read this short story in the HMH Collections Close Reader for tenth graders, I instantly fell in love. This story has it all: strong symbolism, suspense, and a strong theme. While this short story is on the longer side, I find that my students really enjoy it. Another reason why I love “The Seventh Man,” is that I can use it to discuss important topics in my classroom like mental health and climate change. 

-The Daring English Teacher

4. "Fish Cheeks" by Amy Tan

I love Amy Tan’s short story “Fish Cheeks” and teach it every year in my middle school classroom, though it’s perfect for high school as well. Students like it because it is short and has accessible vocabulary, but its theme of being proud of yourself and your culture resonates deeply with everyone. It’s a great story to use to teach indirect characterization and inference as well.

-Secondary Sara

5. "Borders" by Thomas King

It’s so hard to pick a favourite short story isn’t it?! However, if I had to pick one I’ll pick “Borders” by Thomas King. Told from the point of view of a 12 year old boy as he and his mother travel from Alberta to Utah to visit his sister.  However, the pair run into some trouble at the border when his mother refuses to identify as either Canadian or American and instead says she is “Blackfoot”. It’s a fabulous story to include in an identity unit as it explores the idea of citizenship vs cultural background vs personal identity.  King is a gifted writer and has many other fantastic short stories and novels to explore.

-Addie Williams

6. "The Jade Peony" by Wayson Choy

One short story that I absolutely love is "The Jade Peony" by Wayson Choy. In this story, the narrator describes his childhood relationship with his grandmother during her final days. Through the symbolism of the peony flower and wind chimes, the story reflects on the importance of family and the fragility of life. It also has a powerful message about the value of celebrating identity. The language is beautifully descriptive, but it is still accessible. I have found this one to be ideal for ELA students in grades 9 & 10. While students at these grade levels will likely get a little more out of the story, I also think that it could work well for the middle school ELA classroom. It’s also a great story for teaching a lot of core ELA concepts like figurative language and theme. I highly recommend reading this with your students!

What are your favorite short stories? Let us know and be sure to follow us on IG @secondaryenglishcoffeeshop

Happy Teaching!

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