For easy access and use, click on the button to download a PDF which contains the Pre-Reading Questions, the story, and the Postscript all in one document.


Idea Worth Teaching: Courage

Word Count: 1,835 words

Genre: historical fiction

Summary: The country has been torn apart by Civil War. The fighting between the North and the South takes a terrible toll on its people. The short story Nightmare is the story of Sergeant Claudius Sears and his struggle to make it through the night on the eve of battle.


For each component, you can approach the work in whatever way is most convenient and/or agreeable to you.  For example, for the Pre-Reading Questions, you can download and print the PDF of the Pre-Reading questions, and then write your answers on the printed page.  Or you can write your answers in your writing journal.

For each story, there are several ways that you can interact with the text.  You can read the short story on your screen, or you can download and print the short story and then read the hard copy.

My recommendation is to print a copy of the story so that you can underline important passages as you read.

You will find the Pre-Reading Questions below.  These questions are designed to help you start thinking about the idea worth teaching and the story.  You can answer the questions in your writing notebook, or download and print a PDF of the questions.

Click on the button below to download a copy of the answers to the Pre-Reading Questions.  Compare your answers to mine.

Pre-Reading Questions

Idea Worth Teaching: Courage

Directions: Read the following quotes:

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror.  I can take the next thing that comes along.’…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

 Eleanor Roosevelt, from You Learn by Living


“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.” 

Mark Twain


Directions: Consider the thinking/writing prompt(s) below.  For each one, write a reasoned response.  Use complete sentences.

1. Describe a time when you displayed courage – when you faced something difficult and persevered.


2. Which would you rather be: ignorant and afraid or experienced and afraid.  Why?


Now you are ready to read Nightmare.  Click on the button below to download a PDF of the story.  You can print the story or read it on your screen.

Post-Reading Questions

The Post-Reading Questions are intended to assist students in preparing for standardized tests.  These questions have been written so as to mirror questions that you might find on the SAT and/or ACT tests.

Click on the button to download a PDF of the questions (and answers).


The Postscript is intended to be the real work of this lesson.  This is where you will consider the story and a writing/thinking prompt.  Your goal is to write a reasoned response to the prompt.  No formal answers are given for the postscript.  You can answer the questions in your writing notebook, or download and print a PDF of the Postscript.



Read the following quote:

“Like one that on a lonesome road

Doth walk in fear and dread,

And having once turned round walks on,

And turns no more his head;

Because he knows a frightful fiend

Doth close behind him tread.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner


Directions: Consider the thinking/writing prompt(s) below.  Choose one (1), and write a reasoned response on the following page.  Use complete sentences.

1. What is the frightful fiend that treads close behind Sergeant Sears?  How has this had an impact on his life?  Has it made him a better soldier?  Explain your reasoning.


2. How was it possible for soldiers to go into battle knowing full well the horrors they would face?

3. Which would be worse?  To lead men into battle or be led into battle?  Explain your reasoning.


4. Courage can take many forms.  Who are some of the most courageous people from our past and present?  What have they done to earn this distinction?