Short stories are a staple in most middle school classrooms. They are great for teaching skills and standards in a short piece which later students can apply while reading novels. These short stories are a mixture of old and new chosen for their high engagement value, but even better, the short stories can be used to teach identity which is a staple unit in middle schools.
Middle school language arts teachers should spend time teaching about identity because it is an important topic that can help students better understand themselves and others. Identity includes a person’s characteristics, beliefs, values, and experiences that shape who they are. By exploring their own identities and the identities of others, students can develop empathy and learn to appreciate and respect diversity.
Teaching about identity can also help students develop their critical thinking skills by examining how various factors, such as culture, race, gender, and socioeconomic status, shape a person’s identity and experiences.
These four short stories are going to allow you to engage your middle schoolers while tackling important ELA skills.
Names and Nombres
Names and Nombres by Julia Alvarez is an amazing story about the author growing up and losing her identity to fit into her new American life. Skills such as characterization and how author’s develop and contrast points of view of different characters.
Thank You Ma’am
Thank You Ma’am by Langston Hughes can be used also for teaching indirect characterization. This classic short story written by one of the great Harlem Renaissance writers is a story about a young boy who learns about the helping hands of others . This short story for middle school teaches readers about looking deeper than what is on the outside.
The Mixer by P.G. Wodehouse is a perfect story to show how our identity can be affected by how people around us try to define us. Note that there are pdf versions online with outdated language in two sections that would not be appropriate so pre- read before sharing with students.
Yoli Calderon by Angela Cervantes is a newer short story that has a unique writing style and a narrator voice that many students can relate to. This is a story dealing with representation and can be used for teaching rhetoric. This story can be found in the anthology Living Beyond Borders
These short stories for middle school will engage your students while teaching important skills and at the same time allowing your classroom to be learning ground for digging into identity. There are resources in my TPT store that can extend the topic of identity further such as Shifting the Narrative and an Identity Project Using Ted Talks. Feel free to check them out.