Short stories are an important facet of literature, especially in education. While novels and full-length classics can take weeks, or even months, for high school students to complete, a short story can be read in the span of a few 50-minute class periods. Lengthy books can be far less potent as educational tools, especially since so much else occurs during students’ lives during the duration of the reading. A student may read a 400-page novel only to retain little knowledge of theme, alliteration, personification, and other literary concepts at the end due to a myriad of distractions occurring throughout. For this reason, teachers may want to invest in focusing on short stories.
Classic short stories can be excellent for students, especially works of Edgar Allen Poe. According to poestories.com, Poe is best known for his short stories “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” These stories can be used to good effect in an English class because film adaptations have been made of them, allowing students to compare their own mental imagery from reading to filmmakers’ interpretations. This allows for good explorative classroom discussions.
Popular modern horror/thriller novelists like Stephen King and Dean Koontz are also well-known for their short stories. King’s numerous short stories can be found at stephenking.com, including information on which books they were published in. Contrasting classic suspense and horror by Poe with modern suspense and horror by authors like King and Koontz could provide good food for thought for high school students. Though much of King’s work may not be the most age-appropriate for young teens, his short stories “The Little Sisters of Eluria,” “Beachworld,” “The Jaunt,” and “Strawberry Spring” are high-quality works with diverse literary themes that can be safely read by high schoolers. Many of King’s other popular short stories have been made into film adaptations. Though not appropriate for school, students may enjoy reading short stories like “The Children of the Corn” outside of class and then watching the movie version(s).
Short synopses of popular short stories can be found at onlineclasses.org, with “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman being an educational literary staple. Also of tremendous acclaim is Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot,” which has been incorporated into multiple film adaptations. Also with numerous film adaptations is Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” with youth-appropriate animated films being convenient for school viewing. The more popular 2000 live-action movie with actors Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken would be something students could watch on their own time.
Science fiction is another genre with many excellent short stories. Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” is a top example that has been inadvertently explored in many movies. Showing how a seemingly-insignificant event can have exponentially greater effects over time, “A Sound of Thunder” could be read before showing age-appropriate movies like “Back to the Future II” and the “Planet of the Apes” films, leading to good class discussion.
Of final note is the creepy Poe-esque short story “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs, which suggests that you want to be careful what you wish for.