Teaching on Halloween: Tips to Avoid Distraction

halloweenThere are some days during the school year when teaching high school feels a little like herding cats.  For me, those days include Valentine’s Day, Friday before spring break, homecoming week, and Halloween.  Halloween is especially tricky since it tends to come right after all of the homecoming and spirit week shenanigans, plus it involves copious amounts of sugar, late night outings, and attire that is not always conducive to learning.   Some years, I trek on through the transcendentalists (the unit that happens to land in late October most years) without acknowledging the distractions at all.  From a  curricular design perspective, this keeps my plan tight, but from a practical standpoint, it almost always ends up in an incredibly labored (and generally ignored) lecture with very little successful learning.  On the other extreme, I do not want to sacrifice all meaningful learning by giving that day to mindless busy work or that classroom management nightmare called free time.  Below I am sharing some ideas for Halloween activities for the English classroom that embrace the holiday, while holding on to academic standards.  I’d love to hear your suggestions, experiences, and comments below.

1. Read and analyze a spooky poem or short story. With short works, students can get into the holiday spirit and thoroughly analyze a work without zoning out like they might with longer texts. Some of my faves include:

  • “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe (Great for American lit classes)
  • “The Apparition” by John Donne (Great for British lit classes)
  • “Ghost House” by Robert Frost (Great for all levels)

2. Give a short Halloween research assignment.  Students can research different aspects of Halloween and write about them, create posters, or present them to the group.  The History Channel site is a great place to start. You can divide students into groups to each research a different aspect of Halloween, like pumpkins, costumes, trick or treating, witches, etc or the ways that different cultures celebrate a similar holiday.

3. Give students a creative writing assignment to write a short ghost story.  You can have students read them to the class and select a winner.  If you trust your class, turn out the lights and bring a flashlight to shine for the spooky reading.

I’d love to hear your ideas and tips for teaching on Halloween!  At least Halloween is on a Friday this year, so we won’t have to worry about students dragging in the next day in a candy coma! Happy teaching!

101 Writing Prompts for Fall!

Check out my newest product!

Massive collection of writing prompts to celebrate fall! 101 Writing Prompts for Fall includes writing prompts for Research papers, Argumentative/Persuasive Essays, Expository Essays, Descriptive/Narrative Essays, Response to Quote/Response to Literature (Poems) prompts, and Creative Writing prompts. 101 in all; can be used well in Grades 7-10.

Sample prompts:
Research the origin of the celebration of Thanksgiving. When was the first Thanksgiving and why was it celebrated? When did it become a national holiday? Why do we traditionally eat a large meal on Thanksgiving Day?

During the holidays, many people are left without family at a time when family becomes most important. In a persuasive essay, write about what teens can do to be there and help others in need at this lonely time of year. Why is this selflessness important? How can helping others make someone feel?

The last Saturday in October has been observed as National Forgiveness Day. Who should you forgive, and why?

Explain and respond to the following quote by Albert Camus: Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.

Suggested poems for analysis are also included.  Just $5.00!

Thanks for stopping by!



Free Halloween Limerick Activity!

I thought I would share this activity that I always had my students do on Halloween day.  A Halloween Limerick Activity!  This activity, perfect for grades 5 and up, has students writing their own epigraph in limerick form, then putting it on their own tombstone.  It is a great way for the kids to have fun while learning a new poetic style!

Halloween Tombstone Activity Directions (in Word format so you can edit sample poem)

Halloween Tombstone Sample

Halloween Tombstone Blank Graphic

Have fun and let us know how it goes!