Writers: Acclaimed Southern Authors

Students in grades 6 - 12 will be interested in these activities on the elements of a short story.

Lesson Plans

Travel Brochures: Highlighting the Setting of a Story


Grades 6-8

Imagine the images and detailed descriptions of the places depicted in a book you’ve read recently—whether a far-away land, a historical location, or a city just like the one you live in. Settings transport readers to these places, inviting them to consider what it would be like to visit these locations personally. This lesson plan takes that imaginary tourism one step further by asking students to create a travel brochure for location in a text that they have read. The activity requires students to think about and collect the details mentioned in the text that should be highlighted and conduct additional research on the location as they design their own brochures.

This lesson plan uses Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko as the example; however, any text in any genre would work well.

Empowered Fiction Writers: Generating and Organizing Ideas for Story Writing


Grades 6-8

This three-part lesson introduces students to the use of speedwriting (also called free writing) as a prewriting technique. Learning the technique of speedwriting allows students to generate a foundation of ideas on which they can build a narrative structure. Students then identify key ideas and phrases in their speedwriting, and organize their ideas around the main elements of a story (exposition, rising action, climax, conclusion).


Elements of the Short Story


Grades 7-8

By providing classic stories available on varying reading levels, we can give all students equal exposure to works of merit and hopefully bridge the gap which exists between high and low achievers. Too often our low achieving students are provided with reading material which was written for an eight year old. This material is not of interest to a seventh or eighth grader even though his ability to read may well be that of an eight year old.

We intend to expose students to the elements of the short story. For each element we will provide both reading and writing activities which revolve around that element. These activities can be used as a means of evaluating the students’ understanding of that element.


Interpreting a Short Story


Grade 8

Students will study the literary genre of the short story and examine how, through writing, an author can comment directly/indirectly on our society as a whole. Hopefully, the students will develop an awareness of the problems/concerns facing our society and an appreciation of how a skilled writer can mirror society's ills and sometimes offer solutions for the problems that plague us.


Teaching Plot Structure through Short Stories


Grades 9-12

There’s more to plot than identifying the series of events in a story. After viewing a PowerPoint presentation on plot structure, students identify the significant events that shape the structure of a familiar fairy tale, “Jack and the Beanstalk,” using an online graphic organizer. Students then read short stories as a whole class, in small groups, and, finally, individually, analyzing the plot of three different short stories using an online graphic organizer to diagram the structures.


When Less IS More—Understanding Minimalist Fiction


Grades 9-12

This lesson pairs Ernest Hemingway’s Cat in the Rain with Raymond Carver’s Little Things to guide students to an understanding of the characteristics of minimalist fiction and to introduce the work of contemporary minimalist writers. When asked to think about the reasons behind the popularity of minimalism, students begin to appreciate how literature develops and learn to see it as a reflection of the culture. This lesson also offers students the opportunity to experiment with the minimalist style in their own writing, an activity that encourages clear, concise prose.


Writing a Short Story


Grades 11-12

Purpose: It is important that students are exposed to many different aspects of writing. The short story is a very manageable segment of writing; therefore the quick progression that is possible with short story should keep the students interested. As well, this unit gives the students a chance to cultivate writing skills in a creative way. This unit also enhances students' analytical skills by identifying the various elements contained within the short story.

How to read a short story



Mapping characters across a book series


Grades 3-5

In this lesson, the students will be introduced to a character from a literature series. The class will critically look at the character and his or her development over the course of the story. Students will read critically to learn about the character’s growth, challenges, and successes. In a guided activity, using an online interactive, students will assist in mapping out the character throughout the story. Finally, on their own, students will read another book from the same literature series and create their own graphic map, including symbols and descriptions of the character’s life.


Story Character Homepage


Grades 6-8

This lesson can be used for literature circle groups or small groups reading a whole class novel. Students will choose a character to thoroughly analyze. They will study teacher-selected homepages on the World Wide Web or view them on an overhead to create a list of common elements they find. They will choose things their characters would be likely to include on the Web and will use Web-authoring software or a word-processing program to create their characters' homepages. Web pages may be uploaded to the Internet if school policy allows, or they can be saved on CDs and projected for class viewing.


Book Report Alternative: A Character’s Letter to the Editor


Grades 6-8

Adopting the persona of a character from a novel gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their comprehension of their reading, but it also goes further by asking them to use analytical skills to go beyond the basics in the book. In this lesson, students choose a character from a novel they have read and consider the significant beliefs and feelings of that character to identify an issue or situation that would spur that character to try to persuade the audience of other characters in the novel to take a specific action or change their position on an issue.

The lesson includes an exploration of the genre of letters to the editor, a review of persuasive writing structure and letter format, and an emphasis on multi-draft writing. The lesson focuses on the character Roy Eberhardt from Carl Hiaasen’s Newbery Honor Book Hoot for its examples. Students can complete the activity for any book that they have read. The lesson can also be adapted so that students write letters for a book that has been read by the entire class.


Analyzing Character Development in Three Short Stories About Women


Grades 9-12

In this lesson plan, students will read three short stories about women, written in different historical periods. Students will read each story and discuss the development of female characters in a particular setting, the role of women, gender differences, and society’s expectations. To understand and make sense of the story, students will also get to know each author. During the last session, students will compare all women characters in the three stories and will try to bring them to life by having the characters meet and discuss similarities and differences in their lives.


Become a Character: Adjectives, Character Traits, and Perspective


Grades 9-12

In this activity, students "become" one of the major characters in a book and describe themselves and other characters, using lists of accurate, powerful adjectives. In class discussion, students support their lists with details from the novel.

The description here uses The Scarlet Letter as an example, but this activity is effective with any work of literature in which characterization is important. Check below for alternate characters and novels for other books that will work with this lesson.


Heroes Are Made of This: Studying the Character of Heroes


Grades 9-12

Designed to explore the hero and the heroic in literature, this lesson provides a sequence of activities, which range from a class discussion defining heroism to using character maps and Venn diagrams to compare multiple characters from one or more works of literature.

While the various activities are designed to build upon one another, this lesson is designed to be flexible, and most of the activities can stand on their own.


Tracking the Ways Writers Develop Heroes and Villains


Grades 9-12

Everyone knows that Star Wars character Darth Vader is a villain. He ranks in third place on the American Film Institute List of Top 100 Heroes and Villains(behind Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates). This lesson asks students to explore how they know such things about the heroes, villains, and others they encounter in texts.

After examining how moviemakers communicate the villainy of Darth Vader, students examine a passage from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that describes the villain Voldemort, noting how Rowling communicates details about the character. Students then read novels in small groups, with each group member tracking a character in a reading log. When they finish their novels, students design posters and present details on their novels to the class.


The history of the American novel


Grades 9-12

In this lesson students will discover social themes and writing styles authors have used in American novels. They will consider the history of the American novel in terms of the literary movements that have occurred within the context of American history.


Personal responses to a novel



I'm always looking for new and unique ways for my students to express their feelings about a novel they have read. I like them to include pertinent information regarding the novel's literary elements, as well as their opinions and reactions. In addition, I like them to be as creative as possible, tapping into areas beyond Language Arts. I recently used the following ideas for a literature unit based on fictional genre.


The Ponder Heart



The following teaching ideas and strategies will help you expand your students' knowledge and understanding of The Ponder Heart, Eudora Welty, and the cultural context of the story. Additional features will help students compare and contrast the book with the film adaptation.