Sample Unit Plan


This unit was created in 2021 with the goal of highlighting a wide variety of short stories from around the globe. All lessons center around a motif of fear, the the unit culminates with students writing their own original scary story. The unit is intended to take place at the beginning of the semester, so many of the activities ask students to describe or think deeply about themselves.

Since creating this unit, I have taught it several times with great success. Each semester I tweak and modify assignments to keep things fresh and relevant, and to increase student engagement and rigor. I have sincerely enjoyed teaching these stories to kids, and this unit has always served as a wonderful introduction to World Literature.

Texts and Media

Calendar of Lessons

Writing Prompts

Option 1: Write a short story in which a character confronts something they fear. You can write a memoir of a time you confronted your fear, or you can write a completely fictional story. Your story should be 500-750 words and include vivid sensory details and dialogue.
Option 2: Write a short horror story, intended to scare the reader. Your story can contain any scary elements you like, including supernatural elements, as long as you remain school-appropriate. You can base your story off a real experience or something completely made up. Your story should be 500-750 words and include vivid sensory details and dialogue.
Bulletin Board Poster

Sample Lesson

  • Opening Session: Tone and foreshadowing
  • Work Session: Read “The Feather Pillow” by Horacio Quiroga / dust mites discussion
  • Closing Session: Write a narrative!
  • ELAGSE9-10RL2 Determine a theme or central idea of text and closely analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • ELAGSE9-10RL5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
Learning Target – What am I going to learn today?

I can understand and identify the tone of a work and consider how the tone shapes the theme.

Opening Session:

Do you remember learning about tone in 9th grade? Let’s review!

Let’s also introduce a new concept, foreshadowing. Check out this video that explains what foreshadowing is!

Work Session – How am I going to learn it?

Today’s story is a real horror story! It is called “The Feather Pillow” by Horacio Quiroga, a Uruguayan author who was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. We are going to read along while the audio plays. 

Next up, we’re going to learn a little bit more about little creatures that really do inhabit your pillows…Dust mites!

  • Let’s discuss: compare and contrast the tone for each of those works. How do you know? Which words help you identify the tone?
Closing Session – How will I show that I learned it?

In “The Feather Pillow,” the maid discovers the monster who has been draining Alicia’s blood. Imagine what she told her family when she got home from work. Write an original, 2-paragraph narrative about the maid and her conversation with her family when she tells them what she discovered at Alicia and Jordan’s house. Remember the tone discussions we have had today. In your narrative, you should try to match the tone of the original short story. Remember LIDDS – Language, Imagery, Diction, Details, Syntax.