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Middle school can be one of the most rewarding times for teaching – especially when it comes to literature.

Your students won’t need quite as much hand-holding as younger grades. Not to mention, you’ll begin to see them enjoy the material they read – which is worth it. So when it comes to picking short stories for middle school that is enjoyable, engaging, and fun to learn, we’re getting the best middle school short stories to get you started.

Whether you’re looking for short stories for 6th graders, short stories for 7th graders, or even short stories for 8th graders, we’ve got you covered with this comprehensive list of stories your students will love. From cultural-themed pieces to historical writing, there’s something for everyone in this collection.

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Why are short stories important?

Any middle school teacher will tell you the challenge of getting their students excited about reading, especially in long-form writing or complete books. Books can be intimidating to students transitioning from short and easy books to long and more complex novels. Short stories are the perfect medium between the two. With so many short stories available online, Teaching Ela With Joy suggests it’s the perfect way to find meaningful stories when resources are low.

So what is it that makes short stories an important addition to the curriculum? These are just some of the reasons you may like to invest time into this kind of literature in the classroom:

  • Short stories are more accessible and easier to read for middle school students, helping them to understand all the literature and narrative tropes of text without it being spaced out over a whole book
  • These kinds of stories are readily available online, making it easy for students to read solo on their laptop or iPad, as well as seek out additional stories on their own
  • For classes where paper is still a preference over digital media, printing out short stories is far less time and cost-intensive for your class – and doesn’t require the purchase of expensive anthologies
  • Many educators, like Kasey Short of Edutopia, believe that reading aloud to middle schoolers still holds value, which is something that short stories can provide to fit into the time constraints of your lesson plan

With short stories holding so many advantages for students, it’s no surprise that teachers are constantly searching for new and exciting tales to share with their classes. After all, getting your students excited about reading is one of the joys of being a teacher. With short stories to suit every genre, from romance to sci-fi, historical fiction to fantasy, there’s something to suit every student in your class.

We’ve collected ten best short stories you might like to try out in the classroom. Read on to discover what they are.

The best middle school short stories

There’s no one way to teach literature in the classroom. But the best way to engage more students in your teaching is to provide material across various subjects and genres. One of the best things about short stories is that they are short. Students aren’t stuck studying material they dislike for weeks on end, and there’s an opportunity for variety and versatility. These are ten of the short stories we think are best suited to the middle school classroom:

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

An emotional and award-winning piece of writing, Flowers for Algernon is based around a laboratory mouse and a human test subject, both of which have undergone surgery to increase their intelligence. This story is recommended for older middle schoolers, thanks to the complex and ethical themes the story contains. But Flowers for Algernon is certainly a piece that promotes debate and discussion in the classroom and encourages students to connect emotionally with the stories they read.

The Scholarship Jacket by Marta Salinas

The plot of this short story looks at an eighth-grade Hispanic student in a school in Texas who is denied a scholarship jacket despite earning the grades required. For teachers looking to incorporate themes of prejudice, unfairness, and similar concepts into the school curriculum, this story is an excellent talking point. By turning the lens to a school setting, students will find it far easier to relate to and understand the struggles of the main character, who is of a similar age to them.

The Fly by Katherine Mansfield

A more advanced story that requires real concentration from your students, The Fly, is one of those tales that require real effort and thought to understand. With plenty of symbolism included and a plot that centers around the aftermath of World War I, this short story may be difficult for students to understand at first but is an excellent point of discussion surrounding the use of certain techniques and methodology in writing.

The Fun They Had by Isaac Asimov

A short science-fiction story by a famous American writer, this tale was designed specifically for a child audience and was even published in a kids’ newspaper in the 1950s. The plot deals with technology overtaking people’s lives, with the main character, Margie, imagining what it must have been like to learn with other children and a real teacher instead of the robotic teacher she is taught by, alone in her home. With technology now closer to Asimov’s vision than ever, this an excellent story to discuss when it comes to dystopian themes and the concept of technology lessening humanity.

All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury

This short story looks at the idea of bullying and moral and ethical behavior in a space-age setting. Margot, the protagonist of the piece, is the only student in her class from Earth. Living on Venus, the sun is only seen every seven years – and her classmates are jealous of her for this reason, leading to their bullying behavior. This story deals with rights and wrongs in an alien setting and prompts students to examine the reason behind certain behaviors. Many teachers will be well-versed in the work of Ray Bradbury, and this short story is another one to add to the collection.

Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

A story centered entirely around a dialogue between a mother and her daughter, Girl deals with many themes surrounding the treatment and behaviors of women. It also looks at the difference between generations regarding what is expected and what is considered culturally acceptable. In a modern classroom, this short story can create some truly insightful debates – and allow students to look at the effects of one generation on the next and the changing perceptions we have of women in society.

What middle school short stories do you use in your classroom? Would you recommend sticking with the classics or bringing modern themes and concepts? Short stories can provide the basis for many valuable discussions, whether your preference is sticking to old-school literature or using literature as a way to explore values, morals, and ethics with your class.

Encouraging students to use emotional and critical thinking, as well as connecting with the writer or narrator or a piece, can do a lot to help them understand and develop a love for reading themselves. For more advanced classes, consider providing a selection of short stories, each of which has a strong theme or concept. Your class can then use their insight and knowledge to determine why these themes are important.