Teaching Halloween Activities to Older Students

Thinking ahead for Halloween? Not sure if you can (or want to) squeeze the holiday into your class?

Many secondary "big kids" would LIKE to celebrate (especially since October 31st is a Monday this year!), but I know that you need an activity that will still be academically meaningful, too. Here are a few ideas for ELA activities, depending on what standard, objective, amount of time, and/or difficulty level you want to take on!

All of the ideas below are recommended for grades 7-12; feel free to make them harder or easier to fit appropriately into your grade level.

1. Writing: Responding to Prompts Across Several Genres {Menu Board}

Maybe you need to allow for differentiation, choice, a short period of time, or squeezing in multiple standards instead of just one.

Enter my October/ Halloween Prompts Menu Board, which has 40 prompts in 8 categories {witches, monsters, ghosts, vampires, fall, zombies, Halloween, and Free Choice). These topics cover five standards: research, informative writing, narrative writing, persuasive writing, and vocab. Click here to see a more detailed description, preview/images, and customer reviews.

2. Nonfiction: "Scary" Problem/Solution Scenarios
Sometimes real life is equally or more scary than anything we can read in literature... especially in a year like this one, when the news seems full of doom and gloom. If you want to take advantage of this season (without letting things get TOO depressing), now would be a FANTASTIC time to teach problem/solution structure!

Why not let students pick what they think is the "scariest" issue facing them today, and then propose some plausible solutions for the chosen problem(s)? This way, students are not only getting valuable research and/or writing practice, but they also get to dabble with balancing the "heavy" parts of life with some optimism.

Need help teaching problem/solution, or other essay structures? Check out my essay structures flipbook and sample texts in my Essay Types Unit!

3. Reading: Read-aloud with a Difficult Tale

Even if you think your students are "too old" for read-aloud, you can VERY likely pull off an exception here, especially if you pick a short story or poem that is sufficiently difficult and/or scary for their level.

One year, I played this recording of Poe's "The Raven", narrated by James Earl Jones. It was a huge hit (and the recording added to the creepiness factor!)

Then I upgraded the lesson to becoming a stations activity with follow-up quiz to really help students break down the poem and understand it!

4. Public Speaking: Scary Genres (or Tasks!)
For many students, public speaking is supposedly scarier than death itself... so the mere announcement that your class is going to take on a SPEECH could be terrifying. Personally, I don't think public speaking NEEDS to be scary, so my favorite project (below) is one that almost always succeeds in taking the fear out of presentations.

In order to balance spookiness without TRUE fear, why not try my popular "15 Minutes of Fame" project? (It's a best-seller for a reason!) 

With this set of directions, prompts, graphic organizers, and rubric in hand, you could EITHER...
  • Use the project as-is, or... 
  • Make it Halloween-friendly by narrowing students to more creepy genres... maybe let them give a eulogy (comic or serious), tell campfire-style ghost stories, performing faux commercials for a halloween candy or costume, or give a fake news report on something scary that happened (like creepy clowns... sheesh...)

5. Creative Writing: Imitate a Famous Short Story!
What if AFTER you read (*insert scary author or story here*), your students got to write their OWN short stories imitating the classic tale?

What if students got to imitate the writer's tone, techniques, plot, characters, or setting... except with their own original twists?

At least 1-2 times a year, my eighth graders write fiction imitating famous authors' styles (usually in my Giver and Christmas Carol units), and in some years, I've done scary stories, too!

If you want support here, try out EITHER the...
Do you have more suggestions? 
Tell us in the comments!


  1. I LOVE your blog post! You have included so many great tips and insight to create high quality activities for students. I love the idea of imitating a famous short story. I do something similar to this when I have my students write a prequel or sequel to the short story that we have just finished reading. They always turns out to be the best writing I get from my students each year.

  2. Thanks for sharing the James Earl Jones recording of "The Raven." I can't wait to use this in my class next week on Halloween.