It's the season for pumpkin carving, apple picking, and learning just how far a wad of fake spiderwebs can stretch. With the extra chill in the air and the fast-waning daylight, it's the perfect time to pay homage to the ever-relevant scary story and teach your English students a thing or two about foreshadowing, character development, and how to properly write a detailed description of that thing standing right behind you....
As your class gears up for the spookiest holiday of them all, take your literature or language arts lessons in a more dastardly direction with these Halloween activities for middle and high school students.
Freaky and Fun Halloween Activities
Scared Senseless: Adding Dimension to Writing
What do October and Halloween mean to students? Have them answer that question using creative language. Maybe it’s the cold breeze brushing over their arms on their walk to school. Maybe it’s the flavor of cinnamon in a warm drink before class. Maybe it’s the sound of dry leaves in the wind, the orange shock of a pumpkin on a porch, or the smell of rain on the pavement. Focus on the senses for this creative writing activity. For bonus Halloween points, have the students make their own monster, complete with how it sounds, smells, and appears. If you use this Halloween activity for middle school students, this would also be a great time to teach them about foreshadowing.
Scary Stanzas: Learning Meter, Rhyme, and Voice
While Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” might be the go-to for dark poetry, there's no shortage of classic and contemporary poems about witches, ghosts, and all things October. For this activity, choose a seasonally suited poem and have the class analyze it.
Here are some examples of classic Halloween poetry:
- "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe
- "Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti
- "All Hallows" by Louise Glück
- "All Hallows' Eve" by Dorothea Tanning
- "Song of the Witches" from Macbeth by William Shakespeare
If the poem has a rhyme scheme or meter, students can also be broken into groups or breakout rooms and write their own stanza using the same voice as the original author.
Ready, Set, Ghost: Tips from Author Marlene Perez
Challenge students to write and illustrate a story of the paranormal
genre. This is a story that features otherworldly creatures like ghosts,
zombies, werewolves, or aliens. For a little inspiration, we asked
Marlene Perez, author of the Dead Is series, to share her top tips for
writing a paranormal tale. Here's what she had to say:
- Not of the Normal: I like to start with my main characters. What's different about them? What kind of powers do they have? Do they love or hate being different? What happens in a world of supernatural creatures? In Dead Is the New Black, the main character, Daisy Giordano, was the only one in her family without psychic powers. Or was she?
- Mood Music: I love music, and the clue-spewing jukebox was one of my favorite things in the Dead Is series. If you're inspired by music, listen to something that sets the mood of the story you're writing. Some writers like the quiet, but I like audio and visual inspiration.
- Creature Feature: In the Dead Is series, I introduced a new supernatural mystery in each book, and I always had fun writing the new characters. Decide what kind of creature you want to feature. I wrote about the town of Nightshade, where many of the inhabitants were supernatural. But maybe you want to write about a city of ghosts or a world where humans are the bad guys.
- Ready, Set, Ghost: I love writing prompts. With a prompt, there’s a good chance you’ll end up writing something surprising, something that you never could have imagined without the little push. Here’s one from my friend, author Q.L. Pearce. All you need is a piece of paper, a pencil, and your imagination. Ready? Write a paragraph using GHOST, GRAVY, and GUITAR. Ready, set, ghost!
The Gorey Details: Visual Writing Exercise
Students may want some visual inspiration to get into the creative writing mood. Edward Gorey is a writer and artist known for his gloomy illustrations—and a perfect candidate for inspiring twisted fiction. Students can select an image and write a creative short story inspired by the illustration they’ve chosen. This is a great exercise for practicing descriptive details, as well as exploring the mood and atmosphere that their image evokes.
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