CommonLit Secondary Classrooms Empower Students with 7 Short Stories about Perseverance

Enhance your ELA curriculum with short stories about overcoming adversity from CommonLit’s digital library!

Lead inspiring classroom discussions with high-quality stories about resilience that will boost students’ reading comprehension and engagement. With CommonLit’s digital literacy program, you can build a thematic unit about overcoming adversity, and challenge students with grade-level reading assessments.

In these short stories for middle school and high school students, characters respond to conflict in different ways. Many of them find the strength to face their adversities through hopefulness and determination, which will resonate with your students as they overcome their own personal challenges.

Laura’s Key” by Anne-Marie Reidy (6th Grade)

After making mistakes on the field during her first soccer game, Laura’s coach benches her for the entire season. Committed to getting back on the field, Laura spends the summer practicing with her family and friends to become a stronger player.

As students read, have them take notes on how Laura’s attitude changes throughout the story. Students can use their notes to provide evidence in their short answers for Assessment Question 5, “Write a paragraph showing how Laura’s attitude towards failure changes over the course of the story and what events cause those changes. Refer to two pieces of evidence to support your answer.”  

Drying Out” by Cynthia Rylant (6th Grade)

War veteran, Jack Mitchell, spends most of his time drinking alone after his wife ends their marriage and leaves him to attend college. One night, Jack is arrested and admitted to the Veterans Hospital to help him get sober. As Jack struggles with his new sobriety, he finds healthy ways to cope with his temptations to drink.

Start a classroom discussion with Discussion Question 3, “In the context of the story, how do people overcome adversity? What makes some people give up, and some people keep fighting?”

Crowd” by Dax Everitt (8th Grade)

On their way to work, Alex experiences a few challenges as they make their way through a crowded train station in their motor powered wheelchair. Alex encounters rude commuters who comment on their disability, but Alex doesn’t let that bother them.

Help students build their reading comprehension by starting a classroom discussion with Discussion Question 3, "In the story, Alex makes several choices to avoid confrontation but also to stand up for themself. Describe a time when you had to stand up for yourself. What actions did you take and what was the result?”

CommonLit Reading Lesson "Crowd" by Dax Everitt

By Degrees and Dilatory Time” by SL Huang (10th Grade)

In this science fiction story about perseverance, Marcus learns that he has cancer and must have his eyes replaced. After his operation, Marcus struggles to adjust to his prosthetic eyes and worries that they will affect his life. As his vision readjusts, he begins to feel more comfortable with his new eyes.

Have students demonstrate their reading comprehension by starting a classroom discussion with Discussion Question 2, “In SL Huang's short story, the main character has to adapt to a major life change. Think about a time when you have had to adapt to a major change in your life. How did you deal with the transition? What helped and what didn't help?”

Luck” by Mark Twain (10th Grade)

The narrator listens to a story about Lieutenant General Lord Arthur Scoresby, who is being honored at a banquet for his service to Britain. The person telling the narrator the story claims Scoresby survived many dangerous conflicts throughout his military service solely due to luck.

Engage students in a classroom discussion with Discussion Question 4, “In the context of this story, do people control their own fate, or is it entirely up to destiny? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.”

The Faith Cure Man” by Paul Laurence Dunbar (10th Grade)

In this short story about adversity, Martha refuses to believe doctors in a hospital who tell her that her sick daughter will soon die. Determined to save her daughter, Martha seeks a faith doctor who gives her false hopes that her daughter will fully recover and live.

After students finish reading the text, lead a classroom discussion with Discussion Question 5, “In the context of this story, how do people face adversity in life? In what cases, if any, do you believe faith can have a powerful effect on overcoming obstacles? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.”

CommonLit Reading Lesson "The Faith Cure Man" by Laurence Dunbar

Excerpt from Frankenstein; or The Prometheus Modern” by Mary Shelley (11th Grade)

An explorer writes to his sister about his dangerous encounter with a supernatural creature during his voyage to England. Despite the difficulties he faces, the explorer remains determined to return home to his sister.

Ask students Discussion Question 1, “In the excerpt, the explorer is confident in his ability to reach his destination. Why are confidence and determination important qualities for an explorer? What are other important traits that you think an explorer should possess?”

Next Steps

Looking for more fiction short stories for middle school and high school students? Check out our CommonLit library and supplement your reading curriculum with high-quality texts!

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