Halloween Activities & Lessons for Secondary ELA

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Halloween is a season during the school year when we can really engage our students.  Secondary students love gothic, horror, and mystery, and Halloween gives us a reason to integrate these literary genres into our curriculums.  Halloween provides us an opportunity to target necessary skills with high-interest material.

Here are high-interest activities for the Halloween season to motivate secondary English Language Arts students while targeting reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills!

1.  Edward Gorey & "The Gashlycrumb Tinies":  A Halloween Gothic Primer-- Bespoke ELA

Click on the image above to download this FREEBIE!

Click on the image above to download this FREEBIE!

Edward Gorey (1925-2000) was an American writer and illustrator of “children’s” books that satirized Victorian and Edwardian Britain. He was born in Chicago in 1925 and later attended Harvard University. His books contain dark satire, often depicting characters who experience tragic deaths that are, in a way, tragically humorous. However, Gorey did not necessarily consider his work satirical. He referred to his work as “literary nonsense” in the same vein as Lewis Carroll. Gorey began his publishing career as an illustrator of various books such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. He went on to write and illustrate over 100 books in his characteristic pen and ink, hashmark style.

In this activity, students will analyze the satire of Gorey's "children's book" "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" by discussing how the author uses setting and repetition to create dark humor and satirize the Victorian Period. Students will then create their own alphabet primers in the style of Edward Gorey.  This is an interesting activity to complete around Halloween time or during a study on Gothic literature.


2.  What is a folktale?-- Amanda Write Now

This is a free video to teach students the types of folktales. After watching teachers can have students pick a type of folktale they want to write. Some students can write scary stories while others who aren't into that sort of thing can write fairytales. Then wrap up the learning with a publishing party on Halloween! 


3.  October Bell Ringers and Grammar Errors: Task Cards-- Language Arts Classroom

Use one or two task cards per day! Cover common writing and grammar errors with these task cards. Help students recognize common errors such as fragments, subject- verb agreement problems, and more.


4.  Halloween Creative Writing: Sensory Details Madlibs-- Spark Creativity

Engage your students with this fun throwback to their madlibs-loving childhoods. Students will ask for sensory descriptions from their partners, then plug them into a Halloween tale to create a funny holiday story chock full of sensory detail. 


5.  A Chilling Listening Comprehension Podcast Lesson for High School-- Reading and Writing Haven

Students need to develop reading comprehension skills through a variety of formats. Teachers can differentiate by allowing students to hone their listening comprehension skills through audio tapes, podcasts, and more. In this engaging lesson for high school students, teenagers will learn about how the study of forensic evidence and missing persons cases are improving due to research being conducted at secluded body farms. 

This activity consists of a hook and wrap up suggestions to frame the lesson as well as a reading guide featuring questions that span many depths of knowledge. Students will be encouraged to think critically and to form opinions backed up by textual evidence. This lesson is perfect for Halloween, horror or mystery units, nonfiction studies, literature centers, remediation and differentiation options, and sub plans. Students can listen to the online podcast individually with one-to-one technology, or teachers can lead the class in a meaningful whole-group lesson. It's a great way to reach reluctant readers.


6.  The Critical Reader's Spooky Stations-- Doc Cop Teaching

Big kids like Halloween too, and this activity is a great way to bring the spookiness of Halloween to English class. This lesson will engage your critical thinkers and challenge them to write (creatively and formally), research, role-play, listen, and share. This activity involves five learning stations: Task 1 is a reader response analysis that requires students to think about mood while analyzing a visual text and making personal connections. Task 2 guides students through a close reading of “I heard a Fly buzz-when I died” by Emily Dickinson. Task 3 gets students to deconstruct Frankenstein’s monster to challenge their thinking about the monster’s motives. Task 4 is an analysis of the father of the mystery story, Edgar Allan Poe. Task 5 is a research study of the universal motif, the headless horseman.


What other activities and lessons do you love to do with your classes for Halloween?  Leave us a comment below.  We'd love to hear from you!

You might also like:

Daily Writing Prompts to Inspire New Ideas

Writing is Recursive, NOT Linear:  Free Task Cards Included!

Commentary for Literary Analysis:  Four Square Strategy for Success


About the Author

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Meredith is the founder and creator of TeachWriting.org and Bespoke ELA.  She has taught high school English for 10+ years in Dallas, Chicago, and New York City and holds a M.A. in Literature from Northwestern University.  She has always had a connection to the written word-- through songwriting, screenplay writing, and essay writing-- and she enjoys the process of teaching students how to express their ideas.  Meredith enjoys life with her husband, daughter, and sweet pups.


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