10 Creative Short Story Activities for the Secondary ELA Classroom

10 Creative Short Story Activities for the Secondary ELA Classroom

By The Daring English Teacher

I love to try out and include as many fun and engaging activities as possible when teaching short stories. And since stories are short and filled with literary richness, they are absolutely perfect for bringing in and trying new ideas and activities. Here is a look at 10 of my favorite short story activities in the secondary ELA classroom.

1. Auditory Sketch Notes

A great way to engage students with the story before they even set eyes on the text is to have students listen to an audio recording of the short story. As students listen, instruct them to create sketch notes capturing as much information from the story as possible. In their sketch notes, students can write words and phrases and draw anything that catches their attention. 

When I have my students do this, I always tell them that it is okay if their mind wanders a bit as they listen, and if they catch that happening, they can jump right back into the story and continue their sketch notes. Once the story is done, my students are always so amazed at what they were able to capture during this activity. Without even knowing it, they capture big ideas, symbols, motifs, and key events from the plot. Then, when we go through and read the story, they can understand it so much more. 

10 Creative Short Story Activities for the Secondary ELA Classroom

2. Movie Trailer

A great way to assess student understanding of the plot is to have them create a movie trailer of the short story. Without spoiling the end of the story, students can work individually or in small groups to create the trailer. It can be a low-tech option where they write the script and a description of the images, or you can pull in technology and have students use their phones to film a trailer. 

3. Literary Analysis Flip Book

This literary analysis flipbook works so well as a final short story assessment. As students create the mini flip book, they analyze various literary elements like theme, plot structure, and conflict. For each literary device, students will identify the element in the story, illustrate it, find and cite a quote, and write a brief explanation. It is the perfect alternative to an essay!

What I like about this project is that it is a great assignment to share on classroom walls for a fun and interactive classroom display!

10 Creative Short Story Activities for the Secondary ELA Classroom
literary analysis flipbook

4. Collaborative Theme Presentation

Another great way to engage students with short stories is to have students work on a collaborative theme presentation. As a class, work together to decide on a complete theme for the students. Then, break students up into smaller groups. Each student group will work together to create additional slides explaining how various literary elements help contribute to the theme.

For the group slides, each group would be assigned a literary element. As a group, students should identify that element, find and cite a quote, and write a brief explanation about how that device helps establish the theme. Here is a list of different groups for this project. 

  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Setting
  • Internal conflict
  • External conflict
  • Suspense
  • Foreshadowing
  • Symbolism 

5. Character Wanted Sign

Who doesn’t love a good antagonist? Having students create a character wanted sign at the end of a short story unit would be a great culminating activity. Instruct your students to select one of their favorite antagonists from the short stories you read. Then, they’ll create a wanted sign for that character. They must illustrate the character, write their name, and provide enough textual details to explain why that character is wanted. 

6. Close Reading Analysis

It never fails; a good close reading activity helps students better understand the story. My close reading short story units include links to the short stories, carefully selected close reading passages, and writing prompts for a week-long short story close reading unit.

What I like best about these close reading units is that they are scaffolded to help students succeed. The close reading passages are directly related to the writing prompt so that students feel empowered to complete the writing prompt!

Short story close reading
close reading short story units

7. Story Cube

If you are looking for a fun and colorful short story activity, try this story cube assignment! Click here to receive a free copy of this story cube activity. I like to assign this activity to my students to work on as a review before a short story writing assignment or test. As students work on the story cube, I like to put on some soft jazz music in the background and let them discuss the story, complete their cubes, and enjoy the day.

An added bonus of these story cubes is that they can be used as class decor once students assemble them. You can either hang them from the ceiling or string them along a wall like a garland for added classroom color and flair!

10 Creative Short Story Activities for the Secondary ELA Classroom
FREE story cube activity

8. Collaborative Paragraph

To help my students learn how to write a literary analysis response, I like to assign collaborative writing projects to them before they set off on their own essays. For the collaborative paragraph, students work together, writing a structured paragraph on poster paper. To help students with the writing instruction, they color-code their responses. For example, I’ll have them write the topic sentence that answers the prompt in one color. Then, they will introduce the quote in another color, write the quote in another color, and then cite the quote in a different color. They’ll use black for the commentary and another color for the closing sentence.

This is one of my favorite activities for my short story unit. You can read more about it in this blog post

9. Write an Alternate Ending

Do you ever find that your students aren’t happy with the short story’s ending? I seem to get that a lot. A great short story activity to assign your students is to write an alternate ending. In their alternate ending, students must demonstrate their understanding of the characters. I encourage them to keep the writing style similar. 

In their alternate ending, students must write from the same point of view and in the same tense. They should also follow similar dialogue structures. This is a great short story activity for students to complete in small groups or individually. 

10. Sticky Note Analysis

Finally, another great way to analyze short stories is by using this sticky note literary analysis unit! This is a complete short story and fiction unit in itself! This teaching unit includes an instructional slide for direct instruction and plenty of analysis organizers and writing prompts! With each organizer, students get to use sticky notes to add an extra layer of analysis. They will draw the device on a sticky note and write the quote underneath it. 

After my students complete one of the assignments in this unit, I display their work on my classroom walls. My students always enjoy coming in and seeing their work displayed!

Sticky Note Literary Analysis
sticky note literary analysis unit

More Engaging Short Story Activities

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