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5 Ways to Bring Halloween into Middle School ELA

October is one of my favorite months because there are so many fun ways to integrate middle school Halloween activities into the curriculum. Students are always drawn into the mystery, suspense, and spooky atmosphere that this season brings.  There are a multitude of creative ways to seamlessly bring the holiday into the ELA classroom while still improving important student skills.  I’m excited to share my five favorite ways to bring Halloween into the classroom. 

USE SPOOKY AND CREEPY SHORT STORIES

I absolutely adore teaching spooky, creepy, scary short stories. The suspense, the twists and turns in the plot lines, and the sinister characters always seem to draw students in.  This is why I use Halloween as an excuse to spend Octobers studying my favorite eerie and freaky short stories.

Below you’ll find a list of my absolute favorite ones that are great to teach around Halloween (or really at any time in the year).  You can also read about how I teach all of these stories and grab all the resources you need to teach the stories in this spooky short story unit.

Halloween Scary Short Stories Resources for Middle School English 

  • Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl: Mary Maloney, a loving and devoted housewife receives the terrible and unexpected news that her husband is leaving her.  Mary, in her incredible shock, enters a trance and commits an unspeakable act that no one sees coming.

 

  • The Lottery by Shirley Jackson: The villagers of a small town gather in the town square for the annual tradition of the town lottery.  As the story progresses, the reader soon starts to realize that this is a lottery that one might not want to win.

 

  • The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs: Sergeant-Major Morris arrives at the White family residence with a monkey’s paw that has the power to grant three wishes.   Through a series of unfortunate events, the family learns that maybe you really should be careful what you wish for!

 

  • The Landlady by Roald Dahl: A businessman travels to a local bed and breakfast that is run by a landlady.  The only two other guests who have ever stayed at the B&B have names that he recognizes, and the reader may soon learn that the landlady is not as innocent as she first appears.

 

  • A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury: Eckels pays to go back in time to hunt the most ferocious beast that ever lived, the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  The hunters are told NOT to touch anything while visiting the past as any small interruption of the natural process could have an irreversible effect on the future.  When fear enters the equation, things don’t quite go as planned!

 

  • The Open Window by Saki: Trickster, Vera, tells a spooky ghost story to the unsuspecting Mr. Nuttel.  He is the perfect victim for her plot, and she sets the story up to give him a shocking ending.

 

  • The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe: A disturbed narrator tries to convince the reader of his sanity, while revealing how he came to commit a murder.  This story focuses on the reasons for the man’s actions, the process he takes, and the guilt and paranoia he feels.

 

HAVE STUDENTS EXPLORE HALLOWEEN NON-FICTION TOPICS

Halloween is an excellent time to research and learn about how customs, traditions, and superstitions vary culturally around the world.  I do this with three different activities: 

1. Halloween Around the World

One way to have students explore non-fiction is to have them research how Halloween is celebrated in different parts of the world.  Students can examine the ways their traditions parallel those in other countries, and marvel at the fascinating ways they differ.  For example, they will learn that some Romanian’s believe animals can speak with human voices during Saint Andrew’s Night and why it’s not such a good idea to listen to them.  They will also learn about the Halloween festival in China called The Hungry Ghosts Festival which is put on to make spirits feel welcome, and satisfy their spiritual hunger.  You can grab the digital/Google version here.

Halloween Around the World Reading Comprehension

2. Halloween Superstitions 

Another fun way to explore non-fiction is through superstitions; the origins of which can run deep and be rather interesting to delve into. Ask your students to share what superstitions they (or people they know) have and learn how superstitions differ culturally. Some might think that black cats, ladders, and the number 13 are unanimously bad omens across the board.  Actually, this isn’t necessarily the case which is what makes this resource particularly alluring.  You can grab the digital / Google version here.

Halloween Superstitions Reading Comprehension Resource for Middle School English

Both the Halloween Around the World and the Superstitions resources work well with the jigsaw strategy!  Below is an overview of how this strategy works: 

The jigsaw strategy is a learning technique that encourages cooperative learning among students, builds comprehension, and helps improve communication, listening, and problem-solving skills.                    

How can you use the jigsaw strategy with these resources? 

Each “expert group” of students gets one country (Ireland, Mexico, Romania, Nigeria, and China) or one superstition (the number 13, black cats, walking under a ladder) and becomes an expert in that assigned topic by reading the text and answering the questions. Then, they regroup to their “home group” with one member from each of the expert groups.  Each member shares what they learned with their new group!  

3. Nightmares  

Most people dream when they sleep, at least on occasion, which means that they have also likely experienced nightmares.  Share them, explore strategies to prevent them, and take away their power as you learn more about these pesky little nuisances with this resource.  It is sure to get students thinking about nightmares a little differently. You can also add a creative piece by giving students the opportunity to develop a fictional nightmare narrative and flip the ending so that it concludes more positively.  Click here to grab this digital and print activity.

FACILITATE A HALLOWEEN-INSPIRED ESCAPE ROOM

An escape room is one of my favorite middle school Halloween activities.  They are a super fun way to access learning, improve ELA skills, and capture even your most reluctant students’ attention. This strategy allows you to assess a variety of skills using collaboration and teamwork. Try incorporating a spooky twist with the element of fear to keep students engaged.  What student wouldn’t love using their ELA skills to solve challenges so they can free their zombified teacher!  They will also have a ball solving puzzles and riddles to save themselves when their classroom floor happens to be spewing lava! 

In my zombie escape room, students must use their problem solving and ELA skills to get the ingredients they need to turn their zombie teacher back into a human. You can get a closer look by clicking the links below:

Print Zombie Teacher Escape Room 

Digital Zombie Teacher Escape Room

Halloween Escape Room For Middle School EnglishYou can also have students imagine that the classroom is filling up with lava, and they must solve puzzles and challenges to escape to the roof!

Halloween Escape Room for Middle School - The Floor is Lava

USE HALLOWEEN TO INSPIRED CREATIVE WRITING 

There are so many ways to improve student narrative writing with a Halloween twist! 

1. Use Halloween visual prompts to inspire a spooky narrative.

I like to use visual prompts with spooky pictures to inspire a scary narrative. 

Halloween Picture Writing Prompt Cards

I also like to use the Halloween story maker activity where students choose a character, setting, and conflict type and use these pillars to inspire an original story.  It is especially great for those creative writers who are entirely capable but struggle to pull ideas out of thin air.  This way, they have a little something to start from.

Halloween Narrative Story Writing Activity for Middle School English

2. Have students write using the mystery genre.

Writing a mystery will help students learn how to integrate suspense, foreshadowing, and clues into their writing.  Students will also learn how to develop characters, create effective setting descriptions, and develop conflict in the plot.  They will even learn valuable writing hacks like how to add red herrings!  These are bits of information designed to mislead readers by making them suspect the wrong characters — to make their mysteries more challenging to solve! 

Writing a Halloween Mystery Story

3. Create an imagined scenario like an imminent zombie apocalypse. 

The idea here is for students to write a manual detailing how one might survive such an event.  I would have students provide five sections.  You might consider, for example, “In The Event of a Bite” and “Abilities and Behavioral Patterns of Zombies.” These can prompt students to expand upon a brief paragraph based on the title.  It’s an engaging way to get your students’ creative juices flowing, especially when you choose topics they can’t seem to resist like zombies!  

 

USE THE CRUMPLED PUMPKIN STRATEGY FOR COLLABORATIVE WRITING 

Collaborative writing is a guaranteed way to get even your most reluctant writers putting pencil to paper!  One of my favorite middle school Halloween activities is the crumpled pumpkin. 

How it works: 

In the crumpled pumpkin activity, students are each given a different Halloween inspired visual story starter on an orange piece of paper.  Writer one starts the story by introducing the setting and at least one character and starting the plot line.  I set a timer for students to write for 10 minutes, but you can choose your own timing.

Here’s where it gets fun.  Tell your students to put their name beside their work, crumple up their paper into a “pumpkin” and throw it to the front of the room.  If you have the right class, you can also choose to have a pumpkin fight where students throw them everywhere.  If you are opposed to total chaos and confusion, you’ll want to skip this step. 

Halloween Collaborative Writing Activity Crumpled Pumpkin

I have had some teachers modify this to keep the class from getting too wild by having students aim at a target at the front of the room.  This might be a good idea if you have a particularly rowdy class! 

On your signal, students grab one of the “pumpkins”, open it up, and smooth it out.  If they happen to pick up their own work, they should crumple it up and grab another one.

Have students look at their new picture, and read the story so far.  The second writer will be responsible for continuing the plot, developing the characters further, and developing a conflict.   When the timer is up, have them sign their name beside their work.  Repeat this process again once more! Upon completion of the activity, the story goes back to the original writer for revisions and editing.

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