After Twenty Years Lesson Plans

This year, I tried something different with my After Twenty Years lesson plans.  I began with the following essential question:  What makes someone a good friend?  After asking this question, the discussion in the class took off, as you can imagine with all of the drama surrounding middle school friendships.

Next, I asked the students to read only the first paragraph of the story and then stop.  I wanted to see if they were reading close enough to get a picture in their heads of what was happening.  To make sure, I gave them a close read guidance worksheet, one that asks the questions that the students should be be asking in their own heads.  It includes questions like, what does “depeopled the streets” mean and what does it mean that the officer walked “impressively”? Adding this close read activity into my After Twenty Years lesson plans has made a huge difference.  It seems that they actually realize what they are missing if they simply read the paragraph without stopping to figure things out.

Once we have a discussion to make sure students understand what is happening in the first paragraph, I let the students read the rest of the story independently, encouraging them to do a close read by underlining and annotating by writing in the margins, etc.  When students finish, I ask them to simply write down what happens in the end in one or two sentences and then turn it in.  This allows me to see which ones “got it”.

The next step in my After Twenty Years lesson plans is to allow students to read the story readers’ theater style in groups.  I actually typed up the story with different parts: narrator, Jimmy, Bob, etc.  In groups, students assign parts and read the skit. They love this! It does not take a lot of time, as the story is pretty short.  Once they are done, they discuss what happened.

Finally, I allow students to rewrite the skit, modernizing it.  For example, Jimmy could send his old friend a text.  Once skits are complete, I allow them to perform them for each other.  We discuss O.Henry’s style of having a surprise ending, and then I follow up by letting students read “Hearts and Hands” by. O. Henry.


Click here to download our close reading guidance sheet for the first paragraph of the story.

Click here if you would like to download our entire teaching unit for “After Twenty Years”.  With this unit, you will have a prereading activity, a vocabulary preview sheet, an activity to teach theme, the readers’ theater script, and two performance task activities.  In addition, you will also receive the story “Hearts and Hands” along with activities and handouts to teach that story too!

Happy Teaching!



Middle School Short Stories Lesson Plans

Check out our list of middle school short stories lesson plans printables, and look at how we use these middle school short stories lesson plans and printables in our classrooms.

We teach 7th grade ELA. Sometimes, what is included in our literature books is just not enough, and that’s what we found with the following stories. We have created standards-based handouts, guided questions, and activities to accompany many middle school short stories. If you do not have these stories in your book, google the titles to see if you can find the stories online.  These are some of our very favorites! Click each title below to download a free sample from the following middle school short stories lesson plans.

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

If you have Pinterest, be sure to pin this page because each time we create a new short story unit, we will add free middle school short stories lesson plans and printables to this page! Check back often.  More are to come!

After Twenty Years by O. Henry”

“All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury

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

Duffy’s Jacket Lesson Plans

My favorite story to read in October around Halloween time is “Duffy’s Jacket” by Bruce Coville.  Click the link below for a FREE handout to help you teach this awesome story!

It can be read in one class period, it is highly suspenseful, and I can bang my hands on my podium at just the right point in the story and get a nice scream out of my students!  They absolutely LOVE this story, and they hang on to every word.  This is why I read it out loud to them.  I do not stop to discuss the plot or characters or any other literary device because they would certainly protest and roll their eyes, or worse, read ahead!

Once we are done with the story, however, I have plenty of time to include some good Common Core activities.  This story lends itself perfectly for a discussion on how the setting affects the plot.  It also is a great text to analyze suspense and how foreshadowing helps create it!  Check out a sample packet that I have put together for this story by clicking the link below.


Download a FREE sample packet to teach “Duffy’s Jacket” by clicking here!

After Twenty Years Lesson Plans

“After Twenty Years” by O. Henry is a great story for students to read out loud!   Read on to see how I teach this story, and print a free handout in the link below!

In my classroom, I require my students to complete a close read of the first paragraph.  This first paragraph can be intimidating to some middle school students because  it is not easy for many of them to understand, so the close read works perfectly.  Next, we preview some of the vocabulary words. I give my  students a handout with some of the most difficult words from the story and ask them to match the words with their definitions.  You can print this handout in the link below.

Once we are familiar with some of the vocabulary, we read the story readers’ theater style.  This allows students to build fluency in a successful way and really keeps them awake and involved in the story.  After we are done reading, we are ready to cover some Common-Core standards!  This story lends itself for the author’s craft and theme to be analyzed; so together, we take a look at the imagery, foreshadowing, and irony from the story.  Last, but not least,I end the week by allowing students to work collaboratively to create a tableau.  Students have a lot of fun with this activity!

We have created ready-made handouts for all of these activities, including a walk-through guide of completing a close read and a readers’ theater script!

Download the table of contents, and print our vocabulary preview handout for “After Twenty Years” free!

Amigo Brothers Lesson Plans

My lesson plans for  “Amigo Brothers” by Piri Thomas include the right amount of Common Core standards and fun!  Click the link below for our FREE handouts!

Before we read the story, I teach my students a little boxing terminology and even have them mimic a few boxing moves (not on each other LOL, but in the air).  Together we complete a vocabulary preview handout, and then  I usually read the story out loud as students follow along, stopping along the way to discuss the characters, conflict, and author’s craft.

After reading, I teach my students how to answer a constructive response question by using examples and non-examples.  Then, I give students fifteen questions.  These questions require them to return to the text, draw conclusions, and analyze various elements of the story, including suspense, conflict, setting, and characters.  Many Common Core standards are addressed within these questions.  To add the element of fun, I put the students in groups to answer the questions, and play a fun card game with them once they have their answers.  They can earn points based on the cards, and of course the group with the highest number of points wins a prize!  Click the link below to see the table of contents for the packet I have put together, and download a free handout!


Download our sample packet for “Amigo Brothers” and print a FREE prereading handout!

Hearts and Hands Lesson Plans

This past year I introduced my students to O. Henry’s “Hearts and Hands” for the first time.

To make things fun, I decided to allow students to read the story readers’ theater style.  I typed up the story as a script, put the students in groups, and had them read it aloud.  I provided them with a reading guide to complete in groups as well.

The fun part came next.   I assigned each group a section of the story, or in this case the script, and told them to modernize it.  They had to keep the same basic plot but write it as if it were happening this day in time.    Then, the groups took turns acting out their portion of the story.  It was quite amusing to see what the students came up with.  Cell phones, social media, and modern day music all became a part of this classic plot.  This activity really ensured that the students understood the text, and it certainly required them to return to the text and decipher what they read.

Click here to view our teaching packet for “Hearts and Hands” and to print a free handout to use before reading!

“The Ruum” Common Core Activities and Test

“The Ruum” by Arhur Porges is most likely the hardest story in our seventh grade Literature book  for students to read.  This means the story is perfect for a “close read”.

The problem is that many students just don’t know how to read closely.  After I had my students read several paragraphs and groan the ever familiar, “I don’t get it”, I decided to give them a little help.  I split the story into sections and created an active reading guide.  This guide takes portions of the text and asks questions to help them along the way.   After following the guide for half of the story, students read the second half and took notes on their own.  I have found this the best way to teach students to complete a close read!

Click here for a FREE portion of the active reading guide that I use to teach this great story!

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street Common Core Activities

“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” is one of the best teleplays to read with middle school students!  We use The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street Common Core activities while reading this play, but we have a little fun as well!

Before students even know anything about the story, odd things begin to happen in our classrooms.  For instance, in my room, my class phone rings several times, but noone is ever there.  My timer goes off by itself, and so does my cell phone alarm.  Just as the kids are starting to wonder what in the world is going on, I announce, “I’m sure it’s nothing.  We don’t have time to waste.  We are going to read a play today.”  They forget all about the strange happenings as they eagerly shout out which part they want to read.  It’s only once things start eerily going wrong on Maple Street that they remember the peculiar things happening in our own room!

Take a look at our sample packet to view our detailed table of contents and print a prereading activity FREE!

Before reading, students complete some prereading activities including an anticipation guide and a vocabulary preview handout.  We then assign parts and have fun reading with expression.  After reading, we are ready to dig into some The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street Common Core based activities.  We take a look at how the setting affects the plot and examine the theme of the story.  In addition, students answer a set of questions in which they must return to the text, analyze different elements, and support their answers from the text. When we are finished, we watch the teleplay, which can be found in the Twilight series on Netflix!