The ONLY Figurative Language Short Story Activities You'll Ever Need! No Hyberbole 😉


Danielle here from @Nouvelle_ELA talking to you about NEXT year already...I really hope I haven't lost you already! 😅

When one school year comes to a close, another one is about to open. I always like to end my school year having fully planned and prepped my first unit when I come back. That first unit is always a short story unit.


With rotating rosters and little to no existing data on my students' learning levels, I start "at the beginning." I focus on plot, characterization, symbolism, etc., and my summative assessment is a nonfiction narrative prompt, where they implement these figurative language elements in a piece of writing about their own life (bonus: I get to learn more about my new kids!). 

Also, short stories are an easy way for me to diversify whose voices are amplified in my classroom and help me set the tone for important inclusivity conversations we will have throughout the year.

This is one reason why I love our latest figurative language short story analysis bundle. Friends, it's a GOOD one.

If you...
✨ Teach figurative language elements
✨ Implement an engaging short story unit
✨ Enjoy amplifying diverse voices in your curriculum
✨ Appreciate structure, scaffolds, & optional ways to extend learning

With this unit, students will...
✅ Be introduced to the figurative language element in a bell ringer activity that includes guided practice

✅ Read the corresponding short story

✅ Collect and analyze evidence of the figurative language element

✅ Determine how the element impacts the theme using T.A.G. (title, author, genre) and/or the purpose of it

✅ Make text-to-text, -world, and -self connections through OPTIONAL short-answer questions

Want to get to the good stuff, AKA what texts and figurative language elements are used in this resource? I share a little but about each of the 8 short stories and their corresponding elements below, so you can get a better sense of what to expect in this fantastic figurative feast!

  1. THEME in Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Stay True Hotel”

Shihab Nye, a Palestinian American author, writes about Jane, a young girl who moves to Berlin with her father. This is a simple short story that really allows students to analyze how a theme develops over the course of a story. 

  1. CHARACTERIZATION in Amy Tan’s “Fish Cheeks”

Tan is a popular and talented Chinese American author who writes about the shame she experienced when her crush came over for Christmas dinner with her family. Students will analyze evidence of indirect and direct characterization and the impact it has on the theme.

WANT TO TEST THE WATERS? Snag this Fish Cheeks freebie to get a sense of how scaffolded and awesome this bundle really is!

  1. POINT OF VIEW in Dax Everitt’s “Crowd”

Everitt is a nonbinary bisexual wheelchair user who uses their experience as inspiration to write this short story about a nonbinary person commuting to work using their powered wheelchair. Students comparatively analyze the first person point of view to the people the protagonist encounter on their commute. 

  1. CONFLICT in Susan Muaddi Duraj’s “Gyroscopes”

Muaddi Darraj is a Palestinian American author who writes a short story about an Arab-American teen who unexpectedly confronts racism. Students analyze what conflict types are present in the short story and defend their position with evidence and analysis.


  1. SIMILE, METAPHOR, & IMAGERY in Sandra Cisneros’ “Puro Amor”

Cisneros is a renowned Mexican American author most popularly known for writing The House on Mango Street. The tumultuous, eccentric relationship between Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (and their hoard of animals) inspired this short story. Students identify and analyze the impact of the vivid figurative language throughout to understand what it reveals about character relationships.

  1. IRONY in Ken Liu’s “The Paper Menagerie”

Liu is a Chinese American author who writes a fictional short story of a boy who is ashamed that his Chinese mother is not “American” enough. Students analyze examples of the irony of the protagonist’s shame as they learn more about his mother’s life.


  1. SYMBOLISM in Jason Reynolds’ “Eraser Tattoo”

Reynolds is an award-winning author who often writes and shares his (and others) experiences as Black Americans. In “Eraser Tattoo,” two teens who are dating are saying their goodbyes as one of them prepares to move to another state. Students analyze three symbols throughout the short story and support their analysis with evidence.

  1. SUSPENSE in Neil Gaiman’s “Click-Clack the Rattlebag”

Gaiman is a British-born author who writes a chilling short story about a young boy being escorted to bed by his sister’s boyfriend while being told a spooky story. Students identify how suspense is built and align it with specific characteristics of suspenseful traits.

If you’re not convinced yet, be sure to download the “Fish Cheeks” freebie to “test drive” this awesome figurative language short story analysis bundle. We don’t want to brag or anything…but we’re pretty confident they’ll love it. 😉

Happy teaching, friends! 

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