Looking for engaging Halloween lessons and activities that maintain the integrity of a middle or high school classroom? Secondary students enjoy celebrating the holidays just as much as anyone else, and channeling their excitement can help to keep them focused.
Here are some of my favorites for the season.
Write a Scary Story
Spend some time talking about narrative leads. Teach students about different ways authors begin stories by analyzing examples from high-interest books. Then, give students some scary story starters. Let them evaluate the prompts for effectiveness. You can also ask them to use the prompt as a springboard for narrative writing. The prompts I use have single-trait rubrics so that students can focus on a goal that is meaningful to them as they develop their piece. Story starters can also be used as collaborative writing pieces.
Read Suspenseful Fiction
There are so many amazing short stories that have elements of suspense and intrigue. “The Landlady,” “The Most Dangerous Game,” “The Monkey’s Paw,” and pretty much anything by Edgar Allan Poe are perfect examples. Simply reading scary stories around Halloween is a way to bring in the creepiness of the holiday without straying too much from your curriculum. Use some high-interest graphic organizers, like these or these, to keep learning focused on the standards.
Read Spooky Nonfiction
Halloween is an opportune time to pull in nonfiction articles just to show students the facts. Informational texts can be fun! You could have students read about Halloween music, the history of Halloween, haunted houses, or the animals that scare us the most. Students can broaden their knowledge about the holiday while also responding to reading with these fun, scaffolded activities.
Listen to a Creepy Podcast
This podcast lesson is so simple to facilitate, but it’s also engaging for students. Podcasts help students to develop their listening comprehension and build background knowledge about a topic. The one I like to use with high school students is about body farms, so it can really be used at any time of year. However, the suspenseful mood and chilling nature of the topic make it the perfect fit for Halloween. I recommend this one for high school students because of the mature topic.
Create a Character Sketch
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. If your students will be writing a creative piece, or if they will be reading a scary story, ask them to create a character sketch. They can include details like designing a Halloween costume for their character, selecting the type of Halloween candy their character would prefer, and explaining what type of Halloween-related phobias their character might have.
Analyze Eerie Picture Books
Picture books are perfect for quick mini lessons and skill reinforcement for language, reading strategies, writing skills, and vocabulary. If you’re diving into literature circle or essay writing units, you can use picture books as springboards for skill reinforcement and studying author’s craft. Here’s a quick children’s book analysis resource to help you start planning. Choose picture books that will engage your students! A few ideas include The Hallo-Wiener, Creepy Carrots, Stumpkin, and Sweep.
Make a Boo-tiful Booksnap
Ask students to create a booksnap for a scary book. Use excerpts from popular books. For example, students often like The Dead Boy, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I Know What You Did Last Summer, or World War Z. They can focus their booksnaps on how the author’s suspense techniques impact their reading experience. Read this booksnap lesson plan post for more specific ideas on how to incorporate them.
Play Truth or Dare
If there is any holiday that is most appropriate for Truth or Dare, it’s Halloween. Yes, Truth or Dare can be educational! Check out these student-centered games for vocabulary, grammar, and figurative language.
Review the Deadly Sins
Make a grammar and writing lesson fun by teaching students about the deadly sins of sentence fluency. Adding this simple twist can make the lesson more memorable for students. Play some eerie music on low as you teach the minilesson. Then, ask students to identify the deadly sins of sentence fluency in practice exercises. As they do, reward correct answers with Halloween candy (or other healthy treats, if you prefer).
Explore Ghoulish Word Parts
Looking to explore word parts (prefixes, root words, and suffixes) with your students around Halloween time? This activity combines spooky words with common word parts and coloring! Students will consider three words that use each word part and then draw a conclusion as to what that particular word part means. Of course, some students may wish to verify their predicted definition, and others may not need to do so. This activity is the perfect way to celebrate spook with secondary students. (Subscribers can download it for free through my resource library.)
Those are a handful of ideas for how we can make Halloween meaningful without straying from the standards. Big kids deserve to celebrate, too.
Ready for more holiday teaching ideas? Read these posts:
Thanksgiving Writing Activities for Secondary ELA
Holiday Classroom Management Tips and Activities