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5 Short Stories Your Students Will Love

Do your students find short stories boring? Can’t find short pieces of literature to have great discussions in class?

Well, today’s post is about exactly that. With just a few days before the holiday break, short stories can be the perfect short lesson plans you need, if you choose the right ones.  Short stories with cliffhangers or interesting endings are the ones that students love to analyze.

Love to analyze?  Yes, you read the words correctly! I’ve used these stories in my classes and tutoring sessions (even with intermediate+ ESL students!). We had a lot of fun with these.  They are old classics, but great!

As part of January’s printables pack, I’ll be adding a worksheet on how to teach story writing. January’s theme is writing, so there will be lots of writing resources ready for you in the printables library. You have access, right?


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5 Short Stories With Cliffhangers & Interesting Endings

1. The Necklace  (Guy de Maupassant)

Mauspassant’s  “The Necklace” is a story I’ve used time and time again in English and ESL classes.  It tells the tale of middle class woman who is envious of high society and her friends that move in high social circles. While she’s still middle class, she feels like a pauper next to her husband, who is an ordinary clerk. Then, an invitation to a high society ball changes her life forever…


2.  The Million Pound Note (Mark Twain) 

I read this one recently, but Mark Twain has always been one of my favourite American authors. I had his giant book of his  Complete Short Stories on my bedside table as a kid.  In “The Million Pound Note“, Twain tells the story of two rich men who give a poor, honest man a million pound note. It’s enormous in value, but cannot be cashed. It will change his life, though…


3. Button, Button (Richard Matheson)

“Button, Button” is such a great story that it inspired the Hollywood movie, The Box, starring Cameron Diaz.  A woman is faced with a choice – hit the button, and someone you don’t know, somewhere, will die. You will, however, receive one million dollars.  This story watches people’s reactions as they keep the box in the homes, deciding whether or not to press it.  Check out the movie here, too. If you’re in the UK or Europe, click here instead.



4.  The Most Dangerous Game  (Richard Connell Doyle)

Richard Connell’s classic “The Most Dangerous Game” is an interesting twist on the sport of hunting. A renowned game hunter sets up “the biggest hunt ever” on his private island and invites the protagonist to play. While I can’t say too much for fear of giving away the plot, I do say you should read it.


5. The Cask of Amontillado (Edgar Allan Poe)

I first encountered this classic from Edgar Allan Poe in my first year university English class many years ago. It has remained one of my favourite stories. Set in during the festival of Carnival in Italy, this gothic horror story is bound to have your students ready to discuss the characters’ personalities. Revenge. Justice. Honour. So many themes appear in this dark story about an ancient family feud.  However, I will caution that it’s quite an advanced level, so if you work with ESL students, save this one for your upper intermediate or advanced learners.

Hever Castle

Hever Castle (childhood home of Anne Boelyn), April 2011

 Why Short Stories?


Well, it’s simple really. Here’s a list of a few good reasons to use short stories in your classroom or tutoring sessions:

  • They’re Short!   –  Students can engage with a text without committing to hours and hours of reading. Great for ESL students, too!
  • Strong Character Development –  Given the short space, short story authors must develop compelling and believable characters -quickly and effectively!
  •  Human Nature –  Short stories usually seem to focus on a particular aspect of human nature. It’s great for class discussion!
  • Compelling Settings – Often, the backdrop for a short story is an interesting, historical point in time or a unique location
  • Surprise Endings – Your students will love to analyze how short stories end.


Basically, short stories are one of my favourite genres to use in teaching.  I love listening to students’ reactions and character analysis after reading only a few pages of literature.

Have you used short stories in your class? I’d love to hear about your favourites. Leave your favourite short story title in the comments or tell me about the short story that has worked best for your class.

Remember to sign up for the printables library at the end of this post if you haven’t already. Your lesson plan on teaching short story writing will be added soon!


Happy Teaching!


P.S.  For my fellow photographers and fans, I took both the images in this post at Hever Castle, UK in April 2011. Hever Castle was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home.

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