Visions of sugar-filled, disengaged students often lead teachers to brace themselves for Halloween. No need to worry any longer. Capitalize on the excitement of the holiday with activities that keep kids focused on learning.
Halloween Activities with a Purpose
Teaching during Halloween time doesn't have to be a battle to win students' attention to learning. Use the excitement of the holiday to teach poetry analysis, story writing, story sharing and character identification. These purposeful activities will move students toward meeting language arts standards through critical and creative thinking. Your middle school students surely will enjoy being spooked and thrilled while acquiring new knowledge and skills.
Keyword Story Starters
Distribute copies of the "Tell Tale Heart" short story to students. Read the story to the students as they follow along. Once this is completed, instruct students to read the story silently and underline any words, group of words or sentences that give this story a haunting, scary tone that fits this time of year.
Using the Keywords
Inform students they will be using some of the words identified plus other keywords repeated in the "Tell Tale Heart" to complete this next activity.To begin, write the following keywords on the board (add students' suggestions to the list): eye, old man, madman, lantern, beating, beating heart, louder, heart, midnight, terror.
Do the following to carryout this lesson:
- For each keyword identifiied, write one word on an index card.
- Place students in pairs.
- Give each pair an index card.
- Instruct students to create a short skit that includes a beginning, a middle and an ending based on the word on the index card.
Helpful hint: You may choose to limit the length of the skit to 5 to 7 minutes so that all pairs have time to present in the class time allotted. If presenting in the next lesson, suggest that students practice the skit during lunch, recess or after school. This will allow students time for making any additions or omissions before the actual presentation.
Instruct students to create a drawing of a mask to represent the madman, or the narrator of "The Tell Tale Heart." What does he look like based on the descriptions provided in the story? Instruct students to use the details in the story to visualize and create the character.
Helpful hint: Allow students to be creative; encourage fictictious illustrations as well as realistic interpretations of this character.
Schedule computer lab time for students to use the Internet to locate familar story characters or movie personalities that resmemble the old man and the narrator of the "The Tell Tale Heart". Instruct students to print out pictures for sharing as a whole group.
Criteria for selecting pictures: Instruct students to match specific visual charactistics of the pictures with specific textual descriptions from the story for their presentations. Suggest they record these matches on an index card for notes to use when presenting to the class.
Haunted Halloween Tales
Arrange the students' desks (or tables) to create a circle seating arrangement. Provide each student with lined paper that has one sentence written on it; this sentence will serve as a story starter. Students use it to begin an original Halloween story. Inform students they will write circle stories together and a piece of each student's story will be written by each student in the room.
How to Do A Circle Story
1. Prepare papers with sentences before the lesson.
- The wind howled under the full moon.
- Scared yet?
- No, No! Not me!
- It was a creepy, eerie October night in Elmswood.
- The fallen leaves covered the path leading to the abandoned house.
- I will never forget the look of horror on the old man's face.
- There I was, lost and alone on that Halloween night.
- The sound of the howling wind kept me awake that evening.
- It was midnight.
- I sat curled up by the front door just counting the seconds until my parents would finally arrive.
2. Distribute papers and inform students they will have 5 minutes to writie the beginning of their story. When they hear the timer, (or when you say PASS) they will pass their papers to the student on the left of them.
3. Once the five minutes is up, say PASS and make sure all students pass to the person on the left.
4. Remind students to read the story in front of them and then add on to it.
5. Reset timer for 3 minutes for each PASS. Repeat until the students all have their orignal stories.
6. Allow students to read and make changes or finish the ending of the story.
7. Allow students to share stories with the group.
This activity never fails to thoroughly engage and motiovate students to write and share. They love it everytime!
Expanding Story Options
Teachers are not limited to Edgar Allen Poe's story for a Halloween lesson. There are many other pieces of literature to fit this time of year. Some other options include excerpts from "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley; "McMummy" by Betsy Byars; "The Thing At the Foot of The Bed and Other Scary Tales" by Maria Leach and many others.