Classic Short Story Plays

Read Aloud Plays is your gateway to a wide variety of plays adapted from short story classics! From Homer to O.Henry, see below or visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers to preview or purchase such plays as The Monkey’s Paw, A Retrieved Reformation, Peter Rabbit, and others, each for just three or four bucks. As with all my plays, the original purchaser is licensed to print a full class set every year for use in his or her classroom and performance rights are included. New plays are also added here regularly, so check back frequently.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a slightly modernized version of the Nathaniel Hawthorne classic, “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” The original is set it 19th-century Italy, while this version could be set at nearly any point in the 20th-century. The story is about a scientist who rears his beautiful daughter alongside an equally-beautiful but highly toxic plant. As the girl matures, she takes on the poisonous attributes of the shrub and consequently is estranged from society. To stem her loneliness (no pun intended!), the scientist lures a young man into her life, dooming him to the same fate. The play has additionally been designed to focus on the scientific inquiry process. Encourage your students to evaluate each character based on how well that character applies it. The play is loaded with numerous themes. Be sure to discuss the references to Frankenstein, Eden, and Baglioni’s concluding line.  Suitable for reader’s theater, podcast, or full stage presentation, the play has parts for just six strong readers in fifth grade and up, though numerous extras could participate as non-speaking extras. Though not “spooky,” the mad scientist theme makes it a great play for Halloween. Pair it with The Birthmark, The Monkey’s Paw, and Tell-Tale Heart for a Halloween Spectacle or Classic Short Story Extravaganza. Available on TpT, Amazon, and Etsy.

Mark Twain’s “A Ghost Story”

Ghost Story Cover 900x1140When a farmer “discovered” in his field a ten foot tall “petrified man,” it became a sensation, earning it’s “owners” tens of thousands of dollars. The famous showman P.T. Barnum successfully copied it, and Twain wrote a short story about it, but by the time the facts finally caught up with it, the perpetrators had already cashed out and fled. Twain’s story is as absurd as the hoax itself—by design, one should assume. As the story goes, after viewing Barnum’s copy of the giant, Twain takes lodgings in a creepy building across the street. While there, he is haunted by the original giant’s ghost. The ghost claims he’s trying to scare them into returning his body back to the farm. When Twain tells him it’s Barnum’s copy and not his own body across the street, the giant feels humiliated and pleads with Twain not to tell anyone. When paired with “Giants in the Land,” there are parts for thirty or more students. “Ghost Story” itself has parts for just six. All six roles are challenging, but Twain’s role requires higher-level skills. Suitable for reader’s theater or full stage production and aimed at grades 5 and up. Includes teacher notes, comprehension activity, and key.

The Necklace

The Necklace is a cautionary tale written in 1884 by French writer Guy de Maupassant. It tells about a young woman who, despite having a very comfortable life, is discontent. Her desire to appear wealthier than she actually is comes at a great cost. In the end she loses her comfort, beauty, and status. The play can be related to modern consumerism, how people today enslave themselves to debt while living beyond their means, but the story is mostly about honesty. It was originally published in Read Aloud Plays: Classic Short Stories (Scholastic 2010). What makes it unique is that it’s told from the perspective of an aloof, French-speaking cat (Maupassant) and his rodent sidekick (Flaubert). Scholastic also published other “aged-up” versions (meaning they had me re-write it without the Disney-treatment), but this version remains one my most well-liked plays, even among older students. It’s a great story to talk about irony, plot, and moral. It includes parts for eight actors, and is best-suited for grades 4 through 8 as reader’s theater, radio drama/podcast, or short stage performance. It includes a comprehension quiz, embedded prompts, teacher notes, and answer keys. Like all my plays, the original purchaser is licensed to print a full class set every year for use in his or her classroom, and performance rights are included.

How the Elephant Got Its Trunk

Click on the cover to preview or purchaseElephant’s Trunk tells the story of a young elephant who asks too many questions. It comes from Rudyard Kipling’s short story classic, Elephant’s Child. It was included alongside such tales as “How the Camel Got its Hump” and “How the Tiger Got its Stripes” in the 1902 collection Just So Stories.  It’s classified as a “pourquoi story”—pourquoi means “why” in French—a story that explains why something is the way it is. In this one, Elephant’s Child wants to know what the crocodile eats for dinner. When no one will tell him, he goes in search for the answer on his own. The resulting encounter with the crocodile explains why the elephant’s nose is no longer a stubby thing “about the size of a boot.” Parts for 10 students. Students are encouraged to experiment with dialect (but it isn’t required). As written, the hippo is elderly, the giraffe speaks  “hip hop” or “jive,” the baboon uses a British accent, and the bird speaks “1920’s mobster,” but any dialect can be used. Note, too, the narrators use words from Swahili, suggesting an East African accent. The play has been adapted with students in grades 5 to 8 in mind, but a simplified version geared toward 3rd through 5th is also included. Each version comes with its own comprehension activity.

Pip & the Prisoner (from Great Expectations)

Click on the cover to preview or purchase!“Pip & The Prisoner” is an original script based on the first five chapters of the Dickens’ masterpiece. The script endeavors to introduce the main character, Pip, in such a way as to motivate students to want to read the full novel (presumably when assigned to them in high school), but whether Great Expectations is in one’s curriculum or not, I think you’ll find “Pip & the Prisoner” to be a lovely stand-alone bit of literature. It’s aimed at 6th through 8th graders, but could potentially be used with students in other grades (I intend to use it with my 5th graders). The story is full of irony, anxiety, and engaging dialect as Dickens successfully captures Pip’s innocence and fears while weaving in marvelously subtle humor. The play seeks to capitalize on that humor. The 20-minute play includes parts for ten students and numerous non-speaking “soldiers.” It was written with the stage in mind, but it can also be presented as reader’s theater or a pod-casted radio drama. The script comes with embedded discussion prompts, a standards-based comprehension and essay writing activity, teacher’s notes, answer key, and a printable of the novel’s first five chapters for easy comparing and contrasting.

A Piece of String

Maupassant's A Piece of string Reader's Theater Play ScriptFrench writer Guy de Maupassant is considered one of the father’s of the modern short story. In this classic tale, a peasant farmer is accused of a crime he didn’t commit only to be undone by a little piece of string he’d found in the gutter. It’s a compelling story about telling lies and how one goes about building a bad reputation. It’s earthy characters, intriguing dialect, and resonating lesson will make it a hit with students from 4th through 8th grade (and up!). Originally published in Scholastic’s Scope magazine, “A Piece of String” includes parts for ten to fifteen students, and eight pages of comprehension activities designed to satisfy the Common Core.  Preview it at TeachersPayTeachers by clicking on the cover.

Cyclops: The Monster in the Cave

Cyclops The Odyssey readers theater play script for kidsWhen Odysseus and his men find themselves trapped in Polythemus’ cave, they must devise a clever plan to escape with their lives. Well, with some of their lives anyway. Based on the 9th Book of  Homer’s ancient Greek classic, The Odyssey, this classroom play is true to the original story yet steeped with humor. Originally published in the September 2012 issue of Scholastic’s Scope magazine, “Cyclops v Odysseus” is suitable for reader’s theater or stage performance. Use it with grades 4 and up to introduce the original text, build fluency, and improve comprehension. Or, pair it with a Percy Jackson novel as part of a literature circle! From 12 to 20 parts depending on your casting needs. Warning: the Cyclops story includes blood and guts! Be sure to pre-read the free preview before purchasing! (Or click on the “podcasts” tab at left to see it performed by 5th graders.)

The Monkey’s Paw

W.W. Jacobs The Monkey's Paw readers theater play scriptWhat would you do with three wishes? Readers of The Monkey’s Paw learn that those who meddle with fate do so at their own peril! This adaption of W.W. Jacobs”s gothic masterpiece is perfect for fourth through eighth graders. Originally published in the April 2012 issue of Scholastic’s Scope magazine, use it as fluency-building reader’s theater or as as a full classroom production or podcast. Meet the CCSs by using by using it to introduce the original text, or simply perform it for Halloween! This play comes with comprehension activities, keys, and teacher notes. It also has discussion prompts embedded in the script. Parts for up to eleven students. Just click on the cover to preview or purchase at TeachersPayTeachers.

The Birthmark

Hawthorne's The Birth-mark readers theater play scriptBuild fluency and meet Common Core Standards with this adaption of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic tale, The Birthmark. Georgiana’s beauty is nearly perfect. When the noted scientist, Professor Aylmer, takes her as his bride, he becomes obsessed with her one flaw–a small, hand-shaped birthmark on her face.  But Aylmer’s obsession soon turns to madness. Will Georgiana survive Aylmer’s quest to conquer nature? Originally published in the Jan. 2013 issue of Scholastic’s Scope magazine, this compelling six-page classroom play is perfect for reader’s theater or stage performance. It includes parts for seven actors (and a few non-speaking extras) and is appropriate for grades 4 – 8. Preview or purchase at TeachersPayTeachers, or see it performed by fifth graders on the “Podcasts” page.

A Retrieved Reformation

O_Henry_Readers_Theater_Play_Script_Retrieved_ReformationWhen safe-cracking mobster Jimmy Valentine falls in love, he determines to start a new life with a secret identity. But ace detective Ben Price is equally determined to bring Jimmy to justice. To avoid capture, Jimmy will have to let his true love’s niece perish. Originally published in the November 21, 2011 issue of Scholastic’s Scope magazine, A Retrieved Reformation is a kid-friendly play adaption of O.Henry’s classic short story. Did you know “drama” is mentioned 47 times in the Common Core Standards? Improve student comprehension and fluency and satisfy a variety of CCSs by using the play before reading the original text. This version even includes comprehension questions embedded in the script formatting! This six-page, twenty-minute classroom play is well-suited to reader’s theater or full stage production and includes parts for eight to fourteen students, depending upon casting needs. Use it with students in grades 4 through 8. Preview or purchase at my TpT Store. Happy directing!

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit readers theater play scriptI regularly have my 5th graders perform this knee-slapper for our primary students. You know the story: obstinate Peter sneaks into the farmer’s garden to swipe veggies and nearly pays for it with his life. Simple enough, but in twenty years of having kids produce plays, I’ve never seen a funnier play or a more engaged audience! This carefully-crafted read-aloud play uses Beatrix Potter’s classic story to focus on peer pressure and character traits. It comes with the script, the original text, and three worksheets: vocabulary and grammar development, fact and opinion maze, and a compare and contrast exercise. The play is for from 7 to 11 students, depending on your needs, or split your class into small groups and have each group enact it in their own way. Use it in grades 3 to 6 to improve fluency, engage learners, build comprehension skills, and meet numerous CCSs. Click here to preview or purchase Peter Rabbit.

The Nose

The-Nose-Cover-900x1150-1Students will love performing Nikolai Gogol’s absurd Russian short story about a man who wakes up one morning only to discover that his nose has disappeared. When he tracks it down, he finds that the Nose has become a government official and refuses to return to its place. Imagine some young person dressed in a nose costume running around stage! It’s an unforgettable example of farce. The events in the story cannot be explained—though students may have a lot of fun trying. Be sure to talk about theme, setting, and conflict. Originally from my now out-of-print Scholastic title, Read Aloud Plays: Classic Short Stories, it includes parts for ten to fourteen actors and is appropriate for students in grades 4 through 9. Click here for immediate download from Tpt. Also available at my Amazon and Etsy stores.

The Open Window

H.H. Munro, who went by the pen-name of Saki, liked to write stories that resembled practical jokes. In “The Open Window” a man named Framton Nuttel comes to the countryside to recover from “a bad case of the nerves.” Too bad he meets young Vera Sappleton, a teenaged trickster who sends Framton over the edge. It’s a great story for middle grade readers because of its brevity, the way Munro sets up the victim, and because the lead character is a youngster. It includes parts for eight actors (plus one non-speaking part). It’s appropriate for students in grades 4 through 8, and it comes with Saki’s original text, three comprehension activities, and teacher notes.

Rikki Tikki Tavi

This is Kipling’s story of a heroic young mongoose that saves an English family from a pair of vengeful cobras. Originally from The Jungle Books, it gives young people an introduction to British-occupied India and young actors the opportunity to experiment with characterization. It’s a good story to consider ‘perspective.’ Consider incorporating flutes (recorders) into the beginning and end of the “snake charmers” narration. It includes parts for eleven actors (plus a few extras in the “Chorus”) and is appropriate for students in grades 4 through 8. Includes the reader’s theater script, the original text formatted for easier reading, a comprehension activity, plus the teachers notes and key. Click on the title to preview or purchase from TpT.

The Tell-Tale Heart

The-Tell-Tale-Heart-by-Edgar-Allan-Poe reader's theater play scriptClever formatting and careful structuring make Edgar Allan Poe’s 1843 masterpiece of terror and suspense perfect for the classroom. This is the story of a man who’s lost his mind. When he imagines he hears the thumping of the old man’s heart under the floorboards, his terrible crime is uncovered. It requires a strong lead, but includes parts for eight additional performers. Originally published in the Oct. 2008 issue of Storyworks (and later reprinted in Scholastic News and Scope), this play is geared towards grades 5 through 8. It’s also available in Read Aloud Plays: Classic Short Stories (see below). While working on this play, consider reading aloud Poe’s most famous work, The Raven. Also be sure to pair it with my modernized version of the same story, Penelope Ann Poe’s Amazing Cell Phone, which replaces the Old Man’s heart with an annoying and mysteriously-changing ringtone.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Headless Horseman conjures up images of ghosts and zombies–always engaging topics for young students. But Sleepy Hollow is more than just a ghost story. Set during the post-Revolutionary War period, it’s the story of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, one of the most interesting characters in American literature. Students will enjoy theorizing about the truth behind the Horseman. Did Irving intend for readers to believe the legend? Or are their other explanations for Ichabod’s disappearance? This play hearkens back to the days of Old English and the Jolly Roger, so encourage your kids to try out their best pirate accent! This play appeared originally in the Nov/Dec. issue of Storyworks and was later reprinted in the December 2010 issue of Scope. It includes parts for ten to fourteen students depending on your casting needs.

The Gift of the Magi

magi cover 3This is a traditional re-telling of the endearing story of a husband and wife who pawn their most precious things in order to buy gifts for one another, only to discover the gifts are no longer needed. The original story was written by William Sydney Porter, who wrote under the pen-name “O. Henry.” He was famous for plot twists and surprise endings. Students will likely be familiar with the plot because it’s been so readily adapted everywhere from Sesame Street to the Simpson’s to Walt Disney. Parts for nine students in grades 3 through 8. It originally appeared in the Nov.Dec. 2001 issue of Storyworks, was reprinted in the Dec. 2010 issue of Scope, and was included in the collection: Read Aloud Plays: Classic Short Stories. These days you can unwrap it at my Tpt Storefront along with a free Google Forms quiz.

Escape from the Blacking House

Escape from the Blacking House depicts the childhood of Charles Dickens. Based on thorough research, it reveals how the perilous trials of his youth—the poor house, child labor, and abandonment—inspired many of the novels for which he became famous. In fact, the play borrows from Dickens’ actual works such as The Pickwick Papers, Sketches by Boz, and Oliver Twist to create such scenes as “the pawnshop” and “the blacking house.” The play includes parts for 9 to 13 actors and numerous non-speaking extras . It is suitable for reader’s theater, podcast, radio drama, or full stage production. Because of the heavy reliance on dialect and language, hallmarks of a Dickens’ text, this is a challenging play. A strong fourth grade group might be able to handle it, but it’s aimed at 5th through 8th.  Pair it with any of the other Dickens plays on my site.

Penelope Ann Poe’s Amazing Cell Phone

Modernized-version-of-Poe's-Tell-Tale-Heart readers theater play script“My students loved this reader’s theatre! What a great way to get them exploring fluency and expression.” — Sneek

“My seventh graders really enjoyed this script and had fun with the presentation. They could see the connection to the original Edgar Allan Poe story and had an excellent group discussion. Thanks!” — Amy M.

My most popular item! This play has frequently appeared on TeachersPayTeachers‘ best-seller list. It’s a fun, modernized version of Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart play. Produce both plays for an interesting compare and contrast activity. You can also include the original text and a mock trial activity for even more depth by snagging the traditional play version of The Tell-Tale Heart (see above).

3 thoughts on “Classic Short Story Plays

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