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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
There are so many ways to improve student narrative writing with a Halloween twist!
I like to use visual prompts with spooky pictures to inspire a scary narrative.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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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