Here are six engaging fantasy short stories to get your students excited about reading and making connections to their own life experiences!
In these alternate realities and magical lands, students will learn about common themes such as bravery, courage, greed, and identity. These stories’ exciting adventures and life lessons they teach will keep your students highly engaged while building reading comprehension for elementary students..
“Mirabella the Magnificent” by Cheryl Mendenhall (3rd Grade)
In this fantasy short story, a young princess, Mirabella, has to think on her feet to outsmart a dragon and protect her castle. Mirabella tricks the dragon into some sticky situations and the dragon quickly learns that bravery comes in all sizes.
As students read, have them take notes on Mirabella’s actions. This is a great read when talking to students about the theme of Honor and Courage. After reading, ask students to think about Discussion Question 1, “Can you think of a time that you had to think on your feet? Describe what happened and what you learned from the experience.”
“Raji’s Race” by Mélina Mangal (3rd Grade)
In this story,Raji, a young girl, loved how the stars sparkled and had dreams of one day racing among them. Raji struggles to understand why she can’t reach the stars despite her continued efforts. Raji’s parents tell her about her ancestors and how they used the stars to get them to where they were trying to go. After learning about the history of her multicultural family, Raji channels her ancestors and shoots to the stars.
This story is a great text to help your students understand the idea of identity. This will be a great text to include in your ELA curriculum! Have students engage in Discussion Question 1, “What makes you who you are? What are some stories that your family members have shared with you? How do these stories help you feel connected to your family and history?”
“The Leprechaun Trap” by Bill Colrus (4th Grade)
In “The Leprechaun Trap,” Michael O’Connor believes he is the most clever person in Ireland. In an attempt to get rich quickly, Michael catches a leprechaun named Daniel and the two work together to steal the gold of Daniel’s wealthier brother, Liam. Although Michael follows all of Daniel’s tips and tricks for outwitting Liam, he soon learns that greed can distract even the cleverest folks.
The Leprechaun Trap is a great read if you’re planning a unit to discuss how behaviors can be influenced by power and money. Ask students to talk about Discussion Question 3, “Do you think that Michael will learn from the experience and change his behavior, or will he stay the same? Have you ever been through an experience that made you change your behavior or taught you a lesson?” Encourage students to reference the text and their own experiences to build reading comprehension.
“A Poetry Contest at Spellzany Castle” by Maggie Murphy (4th Grade)
In this fantasy story, Mary attends a poem contest at Spellzany Castle, which is well known for attracting the effects of crazy spells. After her poem is not chosen as the winner, an upset fairy wants to take revenge on the contest. She leaves the castle in haste, but before she goes she casts a spell on all of the attendees that forces them to rhyme all the time. Mary quickly comes up with a plan to bring back the fairy, reverse the spell, and save the contest.
As your students read this text, have them take notes on how the fairy reacts to not getting what she wants. Have them talk about Discussion Question 2, “In the story, the fairy is upset that she did not win the contest and tries to get revenge by casting spells. Have you ever been upset because you did not get what you wanted? What did you do?” This is a great text to use when talking to students about why people do bad things.
“The Orb” by Rebecca Birch (5th Grade)
Set in an alternate reality, 12-year-old Margie must enter the Orb, a machine used by her society to determine citizens' futures. The biggest rule about entering the Orb is that citizens cannot bring any items with them. However, before Margie’s father passed away he gave her a watch that he said would always bring her strength when she needed it most. Despite being told that she couldn’t bring anything with her into the Orb, Margie bravely brings along her father’s watch for comfort. When she gets inside, every possible path of her life is shown to her. Holding her father’s watch close, Margie becomes determined to choose her own future.
Pair “The Orb” with Rebecca Birch’s science fiction text, “Her Hands that Held The Stars.” Have students compare what each main character learned about being brave in their stories. How do the character’s relationships with their families help them learn to be brave?
“Matthias and the Dragons” by Maggie Murphy (5th Grade)
Set in medieval times, a young boy named Matthias finds himself stuck in a cave with two unsuspecting dragons. With his only way out covered by a dragon tail, Mattias must find a way to distract the dragons so he can escape. Matthias works as a sound technician for a puppeteering show and uses his talents to outsmart the dragons and return to his family.
As students read this text, have them take note of how Matthias finds his way out of the situation. Students can complete Discussion Question 1, “There are many different ways to be brave. Do you think Matthias was brave in the dragons' cave? Why or why not? What would you have done to try and escape?” Encourage students to reflect on their own experiences to better understand feelings of bravery.
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