5 engaging ways to analyze short stories


Short stories are an essential part of teaching students literature. It is good for students to understand that there is more to literature than merely novels and poetry. Short stories can also be great ways to explain similar concepts to that of novels, in a shorter amount of time, with perhaps even more examples involved. Here are five different ways to analyze short stories within your classroom:

1. Pay close attention to the details

5 ways to analyze short stories in the secondary ELA classroomDetails are always abundant in novels, but with a short story, every aspect has a reason for being in the story. Since word count is low, students should pick up on the different information and why each detail is important. Point out the various important details and have your students expand on the importance of each.

Maybe you could share the stories of George Saunders or Flannery O’Connor to teach how the difference is in the details for short stories. Suitable examples include “Puppy” by Saunders and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by O’Connor.

My SMARTePlans digital short story analysis activities do just this. Each item focuses on a particular literary element. My favorite digital short story literary analysis activities are my Thank You Ma’am digital analysis and my The Most Dangerous Game digital analysis.

2. Take notes in the margins

The margins are great places to take notes if the story is printed on printer paper, not within a book. Students can take notes and point out places they may have questions or need clarification. They can begin analyzing right there on the story, while they read, and then they can quickly put all their thoughts together in an official analysis.

3. Mark the major plot points

You can take advantage of the short story as a method to teach plot. Because the stories are smaller than novels, you can have your students easily map out the exact plot, and all the points that lead to the ending. Your students could even highlight the different sections where either the rising action ends and the climax begins or where the resolution takes place.

4. Read the story multiple times.

To help your students grasp the entirety of the story, have them read it multiple times. Since it, again, is short, they will be able to have the time to read a story a few times to understand all the details included within it. Teach your students to focus on a different aspect of the story each time they read it so they can fully understand all that goes on in the story and feel prepared to analyze it. Some examples of things to focus on include plot, characters, figurative language, and essential details.

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5. Color code different elements of the story

Students can use colors to help them remember the different vital parts of the stories they read. The more examples of elements in the story, the easier it will be for them to begin recognizing them elsewhere. This will also allow your students to be organized and ready for the moment they have to analyze the whole story, as they will have already practiced analyzing all the elements.

Resources for Analyzing Fiction:

Annotating Fiction

Sticky Note Literary Analysis

Differentiated Writing Tasks for any Text



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