Short Story Fair: Responding to Short Stories in Multiple Media and Genres

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Seven 50-minute sessions
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In this activity, students read short stories from a collection in small groups then prepare responses in multiple media and genres that are shared in a culminating Short Story Fair. Students' presentations in the fair focus on communicating basic information about the story and encouraging others in the class to consider reading the piece. Students choose from a list of possible projects to demonstrate their knowledge of the story's literary elements, such as bringing in representative physical artifacts, writing poetry, creating collages, illustrating comic strips, and more. On the days of the fair, the class explores the displays for the short stories, responding to related questions as they move from presentation to presentation. By the end of the activity, students have been exposed to dozens of short stories and their literary elements.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

In her article "Using Short Story Collections to Enrich the English Classroom," Diane Mitchell writes: "When we teach something, we learn more than the students. We have to think deeply about the material, extract important ideas and concepts, and figure out how to involve students. We look for points of connection, figure how it's related to other things in class, and how we can have students respond through writing and talking.

Instead of remaining the chief learner in the classroom, why not let the student be part of this kind of critical thinking and learning? Short story collections, especially since there are more collections than the teacher can read and know well, offer an excellent opportunity to introduce this kind of thinking and creating." (73)

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology




  • Bring in as many copies of short story collections as you can find from the library, the book room, and your own shelves. Alternatively, you could arrange a trip to the library where students locate and choose their own collections.
  • Decide on the number of sessions necessary for your students to complete the project. This lesson's outline allows two class sessions to work on fair projects and two sessions for the fair itself. Adjust the plans as necessary to allow students to complete their reading and analysis of the stories, work on their fair projects, and view all the displays at the Short Story Fair. Since one of the goals is to expose students to all of the short stories that have been read, be sure to allow enough time for the fair itself.
  • Review the basic list of activities and the alternate arrangement, and choose the best version for your class. Depending upon time, resources, and students' abilities you might ask students to complete only one of the listed activities, several of the activities, or all of them.
    The basic version of the list includes all the activities for students to choose among. The list is unorganized, mixing writing activities with those activities using other media.

    The alternate version of the list divides the projects into two columns: those that involve writing and those that involve another media. Use this divided version if you want to structure students' response by asking them to complete at least one writing activity and one activity involving another media. Simply ask student to choose at least one item from each column.
  • Make copies of Short Story Fair Projects (or the alternate version) and Rubric.
  • Make an overhead or chart of the Response Questions that students will use during the fair. Alternately, you can make copies of the questions for students to use as they move from display to display. Each student responds to every other student's display in this activity, so it may be simpler to have students copy the questions and work in their notebooks.
  • Gather resources for students to use as they complete their fair presentations. Look over the list of projects to help determine the best resources for your class. Your list might include art supplies, different kinds of paper (e.g., glossy, bright colors, stationery), audio tapes and tape players, string, old magazines and newspapers, and colorful pens and markers.
  • Test the Literary Elements Map, Letter Generator, and ReadWriteThink Printing Press on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • read and analyze short stories, paying attention to the literary elements in the story.
  • design responses to the short stories, focusing on sharing details about the story with others.
  • explore the presentations of other groups, responding to the displays in writing.

Session One: Exploring a Short Story as a Class

  1. Prior to the session students read a short story for class discussion. Alternately, you can read the story aloud to the class.
  2. Ask students to spend the first few minutes of the class writing about the story in their writers' notebooks. To connect this introductory session to the activities that students will complete as they work later in the session, ask students to think about the following question as they respond:
    If you had to choose one object, a physical artifact, to interest people in this story, what would it be and why would you choose it? The object can be symbolic, represent something important to the characters, represent a setting or mood, or represent a response to the story.
  3. Once students have had time to record their initial thoughts, invite volunteers to share their ideas with the rest of the class.
  4. As students respond, encourage them to engage in discussion about the objects. Emphasize the importance of supporting the choice of an object by relating it to the reasons in the story that it was chosen.
  5. Introduce or provide support for use of literary terms such as setting, theme, character and so forth during this class discussion.
  6. Once students have shared their ideas, review the literary elements basic to most fiction by showing and discussing The Elements of Fiction, an overview that works much like a PowerPoint presentation. Use the slides as talking points for your class discussion of the elements.
  7. Answer any questions students have about the literary elements and connect the elements to the objects that students identified earlier in the session.
  8. For homework, if desired, ask students to read over their writing from the beginning of the session and write a second entry that uses literary terms to explain and explore the objects they chose more deeply. If some students have chosen a different object after this class discussion, allow students to make a different selection and include details about the reasons that they changed their minds in their homework.

Sessions Two and Three: Exploring Short Stories in a Collection

  1. Share a range of short story collections with students, providing some background information on the books if desired.
  2. Explain that in the next sessions, students will explore the short stories in one of the collections, reading several and choosing one story for each student to explore individually.
  3. Show students how to access The Elements of Fiction, in case they want to review any of the details while they work. Students might also use Literature: What Makes a Good Short Story? or Elements of Fiction as resources for their projects.
  4. If desired, demonstrate the Literary Elements Map, which students can use to explore the details on the stories that they choose in more detail. You might ask students to include their completed works in their writers' notebooks.
  5. Individually or in pairs have students select one of the collections.
  6. Ask students to begin by skimming the collection, looking for one short story that they find interesting and that they think their classmates will appreciate.
  7. Allow students the rest of the class to explore the books and choose their stories.
  8. Circulate among students as they work, providing support and feedback.
  9. For homework, ask students to explain which story they have chosen and their first impressions of the story in their writers' notebooks. Encourage students to get down their first thoughts on why they chose the stories that they did and why they think others in the class will find the stories interesting.

Sessions Four and Five: Preparing for the Short Story Fair

  1. Explain to students that students will share the stories that they have chosen in a Short Story Fair, with presentations that focus on interesting their classmates in reading the story.
  2. To help students think about their presentations, explain where the displays will be set up and how the sharing will work. For instance, on the day of the fair, displays might be set up in the classroom or in the library and student scan go from one station to another reading, viewing, and even listening to the displays.
  3. Pass out the list of projects students can choose among and discuss the options. If desired, you may ask students to complete all the activities for their story or ask them to choose one or more from the list. You might also group the activities, asking students to choose at least one the involves writing and one that involves art or music.
  4. If desired, you might allow students to add more options to the list, based on their own interests. For instance, if your class has recently been making Web pages, you might add an option to create a Web-based advertisement to the list. Students' particular interests might come into play here as well. Adapt the project list to tap students' interests in videos, computers, and so forth.
  5. Pass out the Short Story Fair Rubric and discuss the goals and assessment of the displays.
  6. Provide a variety of supplies for students to use as they work on their presentations.
  7. Allow students to work freely on their displays during the class sessions, sharing their work with partners or classmates as they need feedback or suggestions.
  8. Circulate among students as they work, providing support and feedback. If students are using student interactives (e.g., the Letter Generator, the ReadWriteThink Printing Press) to create parts of their display, be prepared to help them with any tools they are unfamiliar with.
  9. Additionally, you might look for opportunities for quick minilessons based on the tasks students are working on. For instance, if a group of students is working on letters, you might provide a quick discussion of the parts of a letter. In addition to activity-based minilessons, look for opportunities to support or explore literary elements in more detail as needed. For instance, if students need more information on plot, you might modify the Teaching Plot Structure through Short Stories lesson plan to give them additional practice with the element.

Sessions Six and Seven: Exploring the Short Story Fair

  1. Give students several minutes at the beginning of the session to set up their displays and complete finishing touches.
  2. Explain the procedure for visiting the displays: students move from area to area in groups of two or three so no display is ever overcrowded.
  3. While visiting each display, students respond to a short series of questions for each exhibit. Post the list of questions on the board or using an LCD projector. Alternately, you can provide copies as a handout.
  4. Go over the Response Questions and add any comments or directions about students' responses.
  5. During the fair sessions, circulate through the displays yourself, using the Short Story Fair Rubric to assess student work.
  6. After students have had a chance to visit all of the displays, gather the class together and invite students to share their reactions to the project with the class.
  7. For homework, ask students to go through their responses and choose some superlatives. Shape a list appropriate for your class. Options include the following:
    • Three short stories I most want to read
    • The most surprising short story
    • The most mysterious short story (adapt to most romantic, funniest, and so on)
    • The short story that had the biggest impact on you
  8. In their homework responses, ask students not only to share the titles of the short stories that match the superlatives but also to explain why they chose the short stories that they did.
  9. Collect the homework responses, and if desired, the notes students took as they visited each display at the beginning of the next class session. If possible, arrange for students to exchange short story collections, so that they can read short stories that they are interested in. If desired, tally the three most popular short stories and read them as a class during later sessions.


  • This activity makes a great introduction to a multigenre unit. After the Short Story Fair, ask students to revisit the list of fair projects and identify the different genres included. Use your discussion as a bridge to a definition of multigenre literature. As a natural extension, you might follow the lesson with Weaving the Multigenre Web, asking students to create multigenre Websites in response to a novel.
  • For more basic introduction to multigenre texts, you might complete Reading and Analyzing Multigenre Texts, which invites students to analyze the structure of a multigenre picture book. The lesson can be adapted for a more advanced group of students by choosing a multigenre novel for your analysis.

Student Assessment / Reflections

During the fair sessions, circulate through the displays yourself, using the Short Story Fair Rubric to assess student work. Informal feedback from students who as they move from display to display is also a great reinforcement for students’ work. If desired, review students homework and encourage them to read the books that they chose for their superlatives.