Short Story Unit Plan


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Short Story Unit Plan

In this unit, we will read and analyze several short stories. The purpose of the unit is to review and study universal literary terms, while training to become “close readers” who are “active” in annotation. We will begin the unit by reading and analyzing texts together as a class, then progress to the point where you are able to work on your own in the same active manner.

Stories we will read may include, but are not limited to:

  1. "The Most Dangerous Game" - Connell

  2. Funeral excerpt from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Angelou

  3. "My Purple House" – Cisneros

  4. The War Prayer” – Mark Twain

  5. The Children’s Story” – James Clavell

  6. "By the Waters of Babylon" – Benet

The number of stories we will cover in each class depends on how readily individuals are able to grasp the material. As this unit prepares you for the rest of the school year, I am more concerned with quality than quantity. In other words, I would rather cover less material thoroughly, insuring that every student has a firm hold on the unit’s concepts, than fly through a lot of material in a haphazard manner – leaving some students “lost” for the rest of the course.

As we move through this unit, don’t be afraid to ask questions! I want you to achieve your very best work with me as a freshman: what you learn this year will become the foundation of your future years of education. If you are uncertain about any of the material we are covering, make sure you ask questions now so that you feel secure before we move further into the semester. If you are lost now, you’ll only become more so as the year progresses.


Mr. Lyons

Parts of the Short Story

Short story refers to a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, usually in narrative format. This format or medium tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novels or books. Short stories tend to be less complex than novels. Usually a short story focuses on only one incident, has a single plot, a single setting, a small number of characters, and covers a short period of time.

I) There is a standard plot structure.

II) The story can be read in one sitting.

III) It has only one theme. (usually)

IV) It has only a few characters.

V) A short story has specific characteristics . . .

1) Plot Structure- The entire sequence of events that occur in the story

a) Initial action (introduction and background)

b) Rising action (suspense)

c) Climax (most exciting part)

d) Denouement (unraveling) (resolution)

e) Diagram of the plot:

2) Characters

a) Protagonist - main character who tries to resolve the conflict.

b) Antagonist - force in opposition of the protagonist. Can be a person or thing

3) Conflict

a) Conflict arises between the protagonist and antagonist forces. It forms the basis of the plot.

b) Conflict is resolved when either the protagonist or antagonist wins or gives up.

4) Atmosphere

a) Atmosphere provides a feeling conveyed by the setting and scene.

b) Examples: frightening, tense, suspenseful, comical

5) Setting

a) Is the time, place and circumstances during which the story takes place.

6) Tone

a) Tone provides the author's feelings about the subject of the story.

b) Tone is shown by writing style.

7) Point of View

a) This refers to the person who tells the story.

i) First person is when the main character tells the story. It is easily identified by the use of "I" and the fact tat the narrator is involved in the story. BIASED.

ii) Second person is a minor character telling the story. It also uses "I", but the character is telling a story about someone else. BIASED.

iii) Third person, also called Omniscient, is when the narrator is not involved in the story. He/she knows all. There is no use of "I", and there is rarely bias.

8) Foreshadowing

a) Author uses foreshadowing to hint about the outcome of the story.

9) Flashback

a) The author starts in the present, but goes back to the past. At the end of the story, it comes back to the present.

Important parts:
The overall message of the story: theme

The point in the story when the characters try to solve the main problem: climax

The way in which the story ends: resolution (denouement)

* Although it is not part of a story, the word Pseudonym is important. It means a pretended name the author takes on when s/he writes. eg. Mark Twain is the pseudonym for Samuel Clemens.


Figurative Language

The opposite of literal language is figurative language. Figurative language is language that means more than what it says on the surface.

  • It usually gives us a feeling about its subject.

  • Poets use figurative language almost as frequently as literal language. When you read poetry, you must be conscious of the difference.

Whenever you describe something by comparing it with something else, you are using figurative language. Any language that goes beyond the literal meaning of words in order to furnish new effects or fresh insights into an idea or a subject. The most common figures of speech are simile, metaphor, and alliteration.


Language that appeals to the senses. Descriptions of people or objects stated in terms of our senses.

A figure of speech which involves a direct comparison between two unlike things, usually with the words like or as. Example: Her smile is like singing the sweetest song on a warm summer day.

A figure of speech which involves an implied comparison between two relatively unlike things using a form of be. The comparison is not announced by like or as. Example: The road was a ribbon wrapped through the dessert.


Repeated consonant sounds occurring at the beginning of words or within words. Alliteration is used to create melody, establish mood, call attention to important words, and point out similarities and contrasts. Example: She was wide-eyed and wondering while we wait for Wanda to waken.

A figure of speech which gives the qualities of a person to an animal, an object, or an idea. It is a comparison which the author uses to show something in an entirely new light, to communicate a certain feeling or attitude towards it and to control the way a reader perceives it. Example: A brave handsome brute fell with a creaking rending cry. <--The author is giving a tree human qualities.

The use of words that mimic sounds. They appeal to our sense of hearing and they help bring a description to life. A string of syllables the author has made up to represent the way a sound really sounds. Example: Caarackle! The firecracker made a loud ka-boom!

An exaggerated statement used to heighten effect. It is not used to mislead the reader, but to emphasize a point. Example: She’s said so on several millions of occasions.

A thing (could be an object, person, situation or action) which stands for something else more abstract. For example, our flag is the symbol of our country.

A figure of speech in which someone absent or dead OR something nonhuman is addressed as if it were alive and present. Ie- Oh star!

Allegory or Parable
Symbolic stories, with the characters and action representing unstated concepts and morals. Aesop’s Fables are allegories: animals represent human personalities.


A statement or situation containing apparently contradictory or incompatible elements, but on closer inspection may be true. Ie-Ghost House: I dwell in a house that vanished.


Verbal irony is a figure of speech when an expression used is the opposite of the thought in the speaker's mind, thus conveying a meaning that contradicts the literal definition. Dramatic irony is a literary or theatrical device of having a character utter words which the reader or audience understands to have a different meaning, but of which the character himself is unaware. Irony of situation is when a situation occurs which is quite the reverse of what one might have expected.


Language that may be peculiar to a group of people. The meaning of the group of words is different than its literal meaning. I.e.-She sang at the top of her lungs.

Elements of Short Stories

  1. Plot – sequence of events or incidents that make up a story.

    1. Exposition – designed to arouse reader’s interest; background is provided.

    2. Conflict – struggle between opposing forces (protagonist vs. antagonist)

      1. Person vs. Personexternal struggle between two or more individuals.

      2. Person vs. themselvesinternal struggle concerning emotion and decision.

      3. Person vs. natureexternal struggle between person and an element of nature or the environment.

    1. Rising action – complication or development of the conflict.

    2. Climax – turning point of the story; point of most intense interest.

    3. Falling action – (denouement) events that lead to resolution.

    4. Resolution – outcome of the conflict.

Parts of a Typical Plot

  1. Character – is generally the central or focal element in a story.

    1. Four types of characterization – techniques the writer uses to develop a character.

      1. Physical description.

      2. Speech and actions of the character.

      3. Direct comment from the narrator.

      4. Speech and other actions of other characters.
    2. Four types of characters

      1. Round – complex or presented in detail.

      2. Dynamic – developing and learning in the course of the story.

      3. Flat – characterized by one or two traits.

      4. Static – unchanged from the story’s beginning to end.

  2. Themes of literature / Analyzing characters

    1. Motivation – cause of / reason for actions.

    2. Behavior – actions of the character.

    3. Consequences – results of actions.

    4. Responsibility – moral, legal, or mental accountability.

    5. Expectations – what the reader expects.

  1. Mood

    1. Setting – the time and place in which the story is taking place, including factors such as weather and social customs.

    2. Atmosphere – the mood to feeling which pervades the story.

  1. Point of view

    1. Omniscient – the author tells the story using the third person. Author knows all of what is done, said, felt, and thought by the characters.

    1. Limited omniscient – author tell the story from the third person, but limits observations of thoughts and feelings to one character; the author presents the story from this character’s eyes.

    1. First person – one character tells the story in the first person. The reader sees and knows only as much as the narrator.

    1. Objective – the author is like a movie camera that moves around freely recording objects. However, the author offers no comments on the characters or their actions. Readers are not told the thoughts or feelings of the characters.

  1. Figurative language

    1. Simile – comparison using like
      or as.

    2. Metaphor – comparison using is
      or a form of is.

      1. Implied metaphor

      2. Extended metaphor

    3. Personification – attributing humanlike qualities to inanimate things.


As an “active” and “close reader," you already know that when you read textbook assignments, you should have questions in your mind. As you read, you should be looking for the answers to these questions, as well as the use of literary terms. You should also have a pencil in hand so that you can "annotate" your text. As the word “active” suggests, you are physically taking notes in your textbook to make you a “close reader.”

Unlike "highlighting" the text, which is passive, the process of annotating text helps you to stay focused and involved with your text. You'll find that the process of taking notes as you read will help you to concentrate better. It will also help you to monitor and improve your comprehension. If you come across something that you don't understand or that you need to ask your instructor about, you'll be able to quickly make note of it, and then go on with your reading.

The following is a list of some techniques that you can use to annotate text:

  • Use different types of annotation so there is mental key that makes sense to you. For example, you may underline important terms or plot points, while you circle new names and put a square around clues to setting. This “key” will then let you know, for example, to search for circles when seeking a character name you’ve forgotten.

  • Write key words and definitions in the margin.

  • Put synonyms for new vocabulary words you don’t understand in the margins.

  • Signal where important information can be found with key words or symbols in the margin.

  • Write short summaries at the top or bottom of pages, and/or for end of sub-units.

  • After finishing a chapter, make up your own title for it and write it on the first page of that chapter. For example, “Betty’s Birthday Party.” This will easily help you find

  • Write your questions/predictions in the margin next to the section where the answer/outcome is found.

In class, read the following and annotate:

Ethos (Credibility), or ethical appeal, means convincing by the character of the author. We tend to believe people whom we respect. One of the central problems of argumentation is to project an impression to the reader that you are someone worth listening to, in other words making yourself as author into an authority on the subject of the paper, as well as someone who is likable and worthy of respect.

Pathos (Emotional) means persuading by appealing to the reader's emotions. We can look at texts ranging from classic essays to contemporary advertisements to see how pathos, emotional appeals, are used to persuade. Language choice affects the audience's emotional response, and emotional appeal can effectively be used to enhance an argument.

Logos (Logical) means persuading by the use of reasoning. This will be the most important technique we will study, and Aristotle's favorite. We'll look at deductive and inductive reasoning, and discuss what makes an effective, persuasive reason to back up your claims. Giving reasons is the heart of argumentation, and cannot be emphasized enough. We'll study the types of support you can use to substantiate your thesis, and look at some of the common logical fallacies, in order to avoid them in your writing.

Now, briefly summarize the above: __________________________________________________________________________
In a nutshell, you should have found that:

Ethos (paragraph 1) is the source's credibility, the speaker's/author's authority; Logos (paragraph 2) is the logic used to support a claim (induction and deduction); can also be the facts and statistics used to help support the argument; Pathos (paragraph 3) is the emotional or motivational appeals; vivid language, emotional language and numerous sensory details.

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