short stories free printables blog post

Short Story Lesson Plans for Middle School

Check out our list of short stories below for free printables and a look at how we use these stories in our classrooms.  Sometimes, what is included in our literature books is just not enough.  We have created handouts, guided questions, and activities to accompany many short stories.  If you do not have these stories in your book, google the titles to see if you can find the stories online.

Print Common-Core lesson plans for the following short stories.

Check back often.  More are to come!

After Twenty Years by O. Henry

Amigo Brothers” by Piri Thomas

Duffy’s Jacket” by Bruce Coville

The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Anderson

Hearts and Hands” by O. Henry

“The Highwayman” (narrative poem) by Alfred Noyes

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (teleplay) by Rod Serling

The People Could Fly

Rikki-tikki-tavi” by Rudyard Kipling

Rogue Wave” by Theodore Taylor

Sorry, Wrong Number” by Lucille Fletcher

Three Skeleton Key” by George G. Toudouze

The Ruum” by Arthur Porges

1st nine weeks plans

7th Grade ELA 1st Nine Weeks Plans

7th Grade Lesson Plans for 1st nine weeks of school

Sometimes it helps to see just how other ELA teachers are fitting in everything that we have to teach.  At our school, we have 60 minute classes.

This is our basic plan for the first nine weeks of school.

  • Every day – Daily Dose and Core CHOMP – These are our bellringers, and we cover tons of ELA standards each day with these two resources!
  • Grammar Gremlins – one per week starting with its vs. it’s (Monday: introduce, Tuesday-Thursday: practice and review, Friday: quiz)  This is a spiraling curriculum that helps take care of pet peeves in student writing once and for all!

Week 1

Back to school activities, interest inventory, go over rules and procedures, set up interactive notebook sections, set up daily work folders, explain  Daily Dose and Core CHOMP procedures, poetry lesson – Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Weeks 2-6

Novel study – The Man Who Loved Clowns by June Rae Wood

We use this novel as a whole-class study.  Teacher reads aloud most chapters, students read in groups for readers’ theater for two chapters, and some chapters are assigned to be read independently.

Students love this novel, and they fall in LOVE with our class because of it!  We laugh together, get mad together, and cry together all while reading the awesome and memorable story.

Here’s how a typical day looks in our class during the first nine weeks:

  • Class enters the room and students begin working on Daily Dose and Core CHOMP.
  • After approximately seven minutes, teacher goes over the word of the day, calls on students to correct the edit sentence, and calls on students for answers to Core CHOMP, using teachable moments as needed.
  • Daily work is placed back in folders, and folders taken up.
  • Now it’s time for  Grammar Gremlin work.   If it is Monday, the lesson will be distributed.  Students will put it in their notebooks and highlight important parts of the lesson as the teacher explains it.  Students will complete the practice questions as teacher walks around to monitor and assess.  If it is Tuesday-Thursday, the gremlin will be reviewed and practice will be provided.  If it’s Friday, students will take the quiz.
  • Next, with approximately thirty minutes left in class, it’s time to turn to our novel. We will read a chapter or two and complete an activity in which we will cover a literary term, respond to the literature, or analyze the author’s craft.
  • Weekly Reading Homework – Each week, we assign a story out of the students’ Close Reader workbook.  Students read the story independently and complete the questions throughout the story. On Fridays, we give a quiz on the story to make sure students actually did the reading. Students have the entire week to finish the reading assignment.

Weeks 7-9


  • Read the play Sorry, Wrong Number by Lucille Fletcher. This play is in our Literature book which is Collections by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  The play can also be found online.  We begin this story by showing a power-point about the history of the telephone.  This provides students with needed background information.  We assign parts to students and let them read aloud.  They LOVE this play!   When we finish reading, students answer some open-ended response questions.  Then, we show the movie.  We ordered the movie from Amazon.  There is a good bit added to the movie, so we provide note-taking handouts for students to use while watching.  After watching the movie, we give a test comparing the play to the movie.  Check out our resources for Sorry, Wrong Number.


  • In the first nine weeks, we make sure that students can identify and explain subjects and verbs. In the writing section of notebook, students will glue or tape in handouts with lists of strong verbs.  We have students practice changing sentences with helping verbs to sentences with action verbs, teaching students to “show” and not “tell” in their writing. We complete mini lessons on word choice and practice identifying good word choice in the literature we are reading.
  • Begin to prepare for the “Dead Word Funeral” by having students complete obituary and eulogy for a verb or adjective that needs to be “laid to rest”. Each student has his/her own word. Sample words to bury: went, big, stuff, said
  • Hold the Dead Word Funeral in which these words are laid to rest. This is an excellent way to reinforce lessons on word choice, and it’s a perfect activity for late October.  After the funeral, we create a dead word bulletin board and put all of the words on the board.   We tell students they may no longer use the words in their writing.

All of this takes us through the first nine weeks.  In the second nine weeks, we begin writing strong verb paragraphs.  To see our plans for the entire year, download this FREE glimpse into our seventh grade year.  You’ll find lots of great printables that you can use today in your own classroom.

glimpse into 7th grade ela core plans blog cover

Teach 7th Grade ELA ~ A Glimpse Into Our Yearly Plans, Activities, and Best Practices

Download this resource to see everything we do in our 7th grade ELA classrooms!  There is so much to teach in 7th grade ELA.  Reading, writing, grammar, research… It’s hard to fit it all in! While we are always learning and changing or adding to our curriculum, we have put together this resource, which contains a wealth of information and samples!  It will give you a glimpse into our seventh grade classrooms and what we do throughout the year.

Included in this FREE packet you will find our best advice for classroom management, our classroom layout, what we use for bellringers, and even what we teach each nine weeks. We break everything down so you can see how we fit in grammar, reading, literature circles, writing instruction, and more!

There are a ton of useful and FREE handouts included for you to use immediately in your own classroom. We hope you find this packet helpful!

box picture

Want to eliminate “out of seatness”? Best Classroom Management Tip for Middle School

The key to eliminating “out of seatness”? “Stations”! These “stations” limit the need of students to get up and down over and over for supplies. First, take a look at this picture – it’s a “bird’s eye” so you can see a portion of all three long rows. Yep! I really use rows….in 2015! But, there is a method to my madness! I find that if I place my kiddos in groups, they are too “social” when I need their undivided attention. In my rows, I have kids placed next to a partner they can turn to when I need them to discuss something!

classroom pic

If you look at the middle row, in the center is a supply station. It’s simply a desk turned vertically.  What’s at a station?

  • colored pencils/markers
  • a paper tray
  • a book basket, hand sanitizer
  • a trash can

My book baskets right now are holding an AMAZING novel! The Man Who Loved Clowns by June Rae Wood! If you have never read it, you HAVE to put it on your “to read list” today! You and your students will be SOOOOO happy you did! It is full of delightful characters that make an impact that your students will always remember. Here’s a free sample of the novel unit I use while reading it.

I also use supply boxes. The boxes are the plastic pencil boxes you can find at Wal-Mart and Target for a dollar or so. I glue them with hot glue in between two desks. Two kids share what’s inside.

Here is a close up of a supply station and a supply box.

box picturedesk station

The supply box contains

  • pocket sized tissues
  • a hand-held pencil sharpener
  • highlighters
  • scissors
  • pencils (why fight that battle, huh??)
  • tape
  • pens

Many of these supplies are used nearly daily for our interactive notebooks. When these things are within a student’s reach, valuable time is saved each day. And, we all know every minute is a treasure!

See those cute little paper binoculars in the paper tray?? That’s a handout ready for the kids to use Monday! It will go it their Grammar Gremlin section of their interactive notebook and reinforce the pesky to vs. too. Here is a copy of this handout for you if you’d like to use it too! And, if you like that, here is a sample of the entire Grammar Gremlins book.

top five reasons to use interactive notebooks blog cover

Top Five Reasons To Use Interactive Notebooks in Your Middle School ELA Class

top five reasons to use interactive notebooks blog coverInteractive Notebooks in the ELA Classroom are wonderful!  Check out these top reasons to start using them in your classroom today.

  1. Students stay busy with interactive notebooking. Students can forget going to sleep or even daydreaming.  With interactive notebooks, students are actively engaged during each lesson!
  2. Students enjoy it. Most students take pride in things that they are able to create, and they have fun making their notebooks a prized possession.  We all know that a little fun makes learning easier.
  3. Notebooking provides “built-in” brain breaks. Brain breaks are the new craze.  For example, these days, teachers find themselves stopping in the middle of class and doing ten jumping jacks to give everyone’s brain a rest.  Well, with interactive notebooks, the cutting and gluing provides built in mini breaks.  And don’t worry; the cutting and gluing does not take up too much class time.
  4. It will help you as the teacher stay organized! I teach four classes, and I have four notebooks.  Everything that my students do in class, I do along with them.  So, if I forget where we are in our lesson or what we did the day before, I simply look at my notebook.  If my first period and third period are in different spots, my notebooks easily let me know.  It’s wonderful!
  5. Everything that you do for the year is in one place, and it makes review easy. We use five subject notebooks and divide our notebooks into 5 sections.  Take a look at how we organize them below.
  • Grammar Gremlins – We cover one pesky writing problem a week (like it’s vs. its) and call them gremlins.  The notebooking is working perfectly for these lessons and foldables, and I LOVE that the kids have all of the lessons to look back at when needed.  It’s like their own little handbook.  After every five “gremlins”, we give a review test.  This spiraling approach is so important when teaching problems to overcome in writing.  Take a look at the picture below to see some of the foldables we create in the Grammar Gremlin section of our notebooks.

GG interactive notebook collage

  • Literature – In this section, we glue handouts on literary techniques and any handouts that we complete within our novel units or short story lessons.
  • Writing – This is where students have glued their four square prewriting guide, types of grabbers, and other lists and lessons that they can refer to when writing.
  • Roots/Affixes – After we finish our 26 week curriculum with Grammar Gremlins, we begin our weekly study of roots and affixes.  We use this section of the notebook to make foldables and cutouts for our six weeks of study.
  • Miscellaneous – This section is left blank for any other activity we may do that does not fit under the other four categories.

The following is what I have found works and helps when using interactive notebooking in my ELA class.

  • Set up stations with glue and scissors.  I bought pencil boxes and glued them to every other desk.  Inside, I put two pairs of scissors, colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, and highlighters.  I have a shelf in the middle of each row of desks with baskets of glue.  Use the bottled glue, not the sticks or tape.
  • Tell the students to put dots of glue, not strings of it.  I once read another teacher’s blog that said “Do not toaster strudel your glue.”  I now say that too.  All they need to do is put a dot of glue in each corner.  This takes practice, and I repeat it every time we work.
  • Keep a notebook yourself for each of your classes.  I have four classes, so I bought four different colored notebooks and labeled them first period, second period, third, and fourth.  This helps in so many ways.  First, as we cut, glue, and fold, I do my own.  The modeling really helps some students.
  •  Glue in, complete, and write everything that the students do.  This is an awesome way to know how far you got with each class.  If I am not sure how far I got in second period, I can just look at my notebook to see.  Also, it’s easy to let a student who was absent copy something from your notebook.  As my students are cutting and gluing, so am I.  Once I’m done, I announce, “I’m finished cutting and gluing, so you should be close to finishing too.”  This seems to help the slow pokes hurry it up.

Fall and Halloween Lesson Plans and Activities for Middle School ELA

So, this fall here are some of the lessons that I’m brewing up in my 7th grade classroom.

1.  We will read the play “Sorry, Wrong Number”.  This super suspenseful play is in our Literature book, but it can also be found online. Last year was my first time teaching this story, and let me just say that it was hands down the highlight of my year.  I think my students felt the same!   Before reading, I will show my students a PowerPoint that explains the history of the telephone.  Some of my kids have never heard a busy signal, and some do not even realize there was a time when there was no caller ID.  I feel 100 years old when I tell them about growing up with a rotary phone where you put your finger in a hole and turned the little plate to dial a number!  The PowerPoint gives needed information about operators too, and it is complete with lots of pictures.  After reading, we will practice answering open-ended response questions and then watch the movie.  I ordered it last year on Amazon, and it was well worth the money.  I created a movie watching guide and students took notes of the differences and clues as they watched.  This year, I plan to do that again.   The movie is very different from the play, so it is a wonderful activity.  Once the movie ends, I will give them a test that compares the movie and the story.  Check out our resource for Sorry, Wrong Number and you will have everything needed for meaningful lessons that will engage and challenge your students.

2.  We will also read the teleplay “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street“.   This year, we will complete interactive activities after reading this story.  These activities will help us analyze the setting and plot and practice supporting answers to questions with textual evidence.  This is one of the Twilight Zone episodes, so after reading the play, we will watch it.  It’s on Netflix!

3.  We will have our Dead Word Funeral in Mid October.  This is the perfect way to teach students about word choice.  Each student chooses an overused word to “lay to rest”.  They write obituaries and eulogies for the word, and then illustrate the word on a notecard.  I call the local mortuary, borrow a small casket, and we go outside during the class period and hold our funeral.  It’s a very sad affair, as I give my students points for acting the part by crying and carrying on.  Students take turns reading their eulogies and placing their word cards in the casket.  We sing a couple of songs, and then sadly return to class.  After the funeral, we eat cake squares.  Later, we display the cards on a bulletin board, and I inform students they can no longer use these words in their writing. 

4.  Close to Halloween, we will write “body part” lunes using gummy candy.  I find the big bags of gummy eyeballs, feet, hands, and ears.  Lunes are short and fun to write.  We will also write candy corn haiku, of course while eating the delicious little triangles!  Check out this resource if you want to have printable handouts and examples for these types of poems.

5.  On Halloween day, I always read the short story “Duffy’s Jacket“.  It’s just the right length for one class period, and full of spooky suspense.  My students are always on the edge of their seats listening to this story.  Of course, at just the right spot in the story, I always slam my hands down and scare ’em a little! :)

Happy Fall!

gremlins squishy

Grammar Gremlins: Grammar Mini-Lessons for Middle School

They jump out at us in countless middle school essays. They lure our red pens to make endless circles and bold question marks. Occasionally, they even taunt us to create angry holes in a student’s notebook paper! At the worst, they can sometimes cause us to lose sleep and wonder, “Will my students ever transfer my instruction to their writing?” What are “they”? We have chosen to call them gremlins – grammar gremlins. This species consists of errors that are repetitive and widespread among the student population.

Read on to print free handouts and to once and for all find out how take care of those pesky writing mistakes like it’s vs. its, to vs. too, principal vs. principle and more!

Each Monday, we introduce the “Gremlin of the Week” by passing out one of the mini-lessons included in this book. These lessons are student friendly and include tricks to help students learn! After we teach the lesson and make sure all students understand, it is time for them to respond. Students complete a foldable, flapbook, or cut-out (also included in this packet) as an interactive activity. A practice page is then given either as classwork or homework for a quick assessment of that week’s gremlin. Then, on Friday, we give the quiz.

Practice pages and quizzes are included! In addition, there are review tests, complete with study guides, after every five lessons. The following twenty-four “gremlins” are tackled with this book.

  • Lessons included:
  • It’s vs. Its
  • Your vs. You’re
  • To vs. Too
  • Accept vs. Except
  • A lot (It’s two words!)
  • Review Study Guide and Review Test One
  • Their, There, They’re
  • I or Me?
  • Who’s vs. Whose
  • Affect or Effect
  • Punctuating Dialogue
  • Review Study Guide and Review Test 2
  • Dessert vs. Desert
  • Principal vs. Principle
  • Himself and Themselves
  • Singular vs. Plural Pronouns
  • Loose vs. Lose
  • Review Study Guide and Review Test 3
  • Apostrophes
  • Commas with Independent Clauses
  • Semicolons
  • The Colon
  • Capitalization of Geographical Words and School Subjects
  • Capitalization of Calendar Items, Brands, and Family Names
  • Run-on Sentences
  • Fragments
  • Who vs. Whom
  • Review Study Guide and Review Test 4
  • Rubrics; Answer Keys

While every grammar and usage mishap is not included in this book, we have chosen those that have been monumental and overexposed in our own teaching experience. We also provide mnemonics and tricks to help students remember the rules!

What’s the deal with the gremlin?

Our little gremlin appears in each lesson. Facts about his gremlin world are included in all of the mini-lessons. This helps keep things interesting and will give your students something to giggle about! We have a gremlin word wall in our classrooms, where all of our “gremlins” go after we learn them each week. Also, after a grammar gremlin is taught, students must be careful to edit their writing to make sure it is used correctly. For example, if we have already covered the semicolon as a gremlin, students are to make sure they use it correctly in their writing. If they do not, “GREMLIN ALERT!” is written right on their paper. This is great for writing instruction because the teacher can ignore the mistakes that have not been covered yet and only focus on the ones that have been taught. Students build their “editing toolbox” as the lessons progress each week.

Make it fun!

Monsters are very popular these days. We buy monster stickers and reward students with them when they make a 100 on a gremlin quiz. We make a Gremlin Wall and hang cute little cut out monsters with each lesson that we learn.

Just the other day at the Dollar Tree, I found the cutest little squishy monsters.  I bought a few and plan to toss them around on Mondays when we learn our gremlin for the week.  Whoever catches it will either answer a question about the gremlin or use it correctly in a sentence.

Also, once a gremlin has been taught and placed on our Gremlin Wall, we are serious about it in writing assignments.  For example, if we have already covered the semicolon as a gremlin, students are to make sure they use it correctly in their writing.  If they do not, I am quick to write “GREMLIN ALERT!” right on their paper.  This is great for writing instruction because I can ignore the mistakes that I have not covered yet and only focus on the ones that we have covered.  Students build their “editing toolbox” as we progress each week.

*Note: Everything you need to have a weekly grammar gremlin and create an interactive notebook is included in this packet. Twenty-four mini lessons, foldables, flapbooks, or cutouts, practice pages, quizzes, review tests and answer keys are included. Even if you are not sure about using interactive notebooks, this resource will work for you. Activities can be done in a binder, and pictures and descriptions are provided to make everything easy to teach!

You are going to LOVE Grammar Gremlins! By far, this is one of the best and greatest resources that we use in our own classrooms!  Click the link below for a free sample from Grammar Gremlins.

FREE mini-lessons, practice sheets, and quizzes from Grammar Gremlins~Avoiding the Little Monsters in Writing

Free Sample Lesson Plans for Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Your students will love Bud, Not Buddy!

In our classrooms, we use this novel as a whole-class study. We have created several Common Core aligned lesson plans to accompany this book, and we would like to share some free handouts with you!

Click the link below to download handouts to help you teach flashback, imagery, figurative language, and irony!


Print these handouts and a portion of a test by clicking here for our sample packet for Bud, Not Buddy by by Christopher Paul Curtis.

If you enjoy this free sample, consider purchasing our entire teaching unit for Bud, Not Buddy.

Free Sample Lesson Plans for Flush by Carl Hiaasen!

The novel Flush combines comedy and humor with mystery and suspense to create the perfect read!  Your students will enjoy every page of this novel.  Print free lesson plans and handouts for Flush below.

Author:  Carl Hiiasen, award winning author of Hoot

Lexile Range: L830

Print these handouts and a portion of a test by clicking here for our sample packet for Flush by Carl Hiaasen.

If you enjoy this free sample, consider purchasing our entire teaching unit for Flush.