Short Stories for Studying Plot and Conflict

Last Updated on January 24, 2024 by TrayKay

Sentient candies who revolt against their Maker. The real reason the Titanic sank — (did somebody say zombies)? What do these have in common? Why, the makings of a great story, of course. 

If you’re studying literary elements and techniques with your kids, reading short stories can provide a clear view of the whole “narrative arc” in a more accessible, less lengthy format. Understanding narrative structure, which includes elements like plot, setting, characters, and conflict, can help improve reading comprehension and writing skills.

To get some ideas on what to teach about narrative writing, head over to this free, online unit on Narrative Writing. It describes the characteristics and elements of narrative writing, and offers prompts that can be used for narrative writing assignments. There is also a unit on Short Stories which reviews short story elements and presents several short stories for study.

If you want to teach on narrative structure using specific short stories, here are some free resources you can use:

Click here  to access the document on the right. It provides links to the classic short stories Rikki-tikki-tavi, The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street, The Most Dangerous Game, and A Sound of Thunder. Read the stories, fill out plot diagrams, and answer comprehension and analysis questions for each. The document also contains links to tutorials on plot, conflict, flashbacks, and foreshadowing.

plot and conflict in short stories

Story Sets: Each of the following story sets has links to the text and audio versions of the story, summaries and analyses, interactive tutorials on elements in the stories, and questions and activities:

Short StoryLessonActivities
The Most Dangerous Game



Summary & Analysis
Interactive Tutorial: Tension and Suspense (3 parts)
Study Questions (with answer key)

Plot Diagram Fill-In

Characterization Chart Fill-In
The Gift of the Magi



Summary & Analysis
Interactive Tutorial: Story Elements Part 1

Interactive Tutorial: Story Elements Part 2
Plot Diagram Fill-In

Reading Guide & Key

Here is another short story unit for studying additional literary elements. The unit includes comprehension questions and links to text and audio versions of the stories. Click here to access.

Short Story Assignment Ideas: Provides an overview of the elements of a short story, literary devices, and suggestions of what to include in a literary response journal. Includes other writing assignment ideas.

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