Are you looking for fresh ideas to use in the classroom this Halloween? I’m sharing seven super Halloween activities for middle school ELA!
As a middle school teacher, finding ways to sprinkle some holiday festivities into the content area can be challenging. You can’t afford to spend time doing fluff activities that don’t positively impact student learning. Still, you know that students are excited about the holidays, and you want to capitalize on that. I get it! I also know it can be overwhelming, so I’m sharing several ways I’ve sprinkled Halloween activities for middle school students into my ELA classroom over the years – without sacrificing content!
#1 Make Grammar Frightfully Fun with a Scavenger Hunt
I am a fan of kicking off each period with a daily grammar routine. During Halloween, I’ll give our sentences a Halloween twist and play Halloween music while students work. However, this Halloween Parts of Speech Scavenger Hunt is a great way to review the parts of speech & get some energy out on the big day!
Here’s how I use it:
Generate a series of questions (15-20) that can be answered with a single word or phrase. Create your question cards by randomly placing the questions on the bottom half and the answers on the top half (these should be scrambled!). Hang the questions up all around the room and give each student a recording sheet. They can begin with any question because one question will lead to another, and by the end, they will have made a “loop” and answered all of the questions! It’s very similar to how you play the game “I have, Who Has….”
It takes 15-20 minutes to complete a question trail scavenger hunt. I have my early finishers help students who are struggling. I’ve found that hanging the questions up in numerical order makes it easier to find specific questions when students need help.
You can read my full post on creating and facilitating scavenger hunt loops here.
#2 Creep Students Out With The Creeping Hour Podcast
The Creeping Hour is a fun spooky podcast that has five episodes between 10:00-15:00 each. These episodes are great for giving students additional practice with analyzing characters, identifying conflict, and much more. The podcast isn’t overly creepy, so it’s a pretty safe Halloween activity for middle school if you have sensitive students or parents. While I don’t use this podcast with my regular Language Arts class, I’ve found that it’s excellent for intervention (my regular students are reading The Landlady, of course).
Here’s how I use it:
I pair each podcast with a listening sheet. The front of the listening sheet contains tasks they complete while listening, such as illustrating a scene or completing a word search with terms from the podcast. The backside includes tasks they complete after listening, such as comprehension questions and a creative writing task.
The Creeping Hour podcast offers a great Halloween activity for middle school students that’s fun and purposeful without requiring much work from you.
#3 Tell Spine-Chilling Tales Based On Click Clack the Rattlebag
If you’re short on time but want a Halloween activity that students can complete in one or two class periods, Click Clack the Rattlebag by Neil Gaiman is astounding. It is an ideal short story to read in a single period, either as a group, with a partner, or independently. Your students will find simply reading the story to be a chilling experience.
However, if you’re looking to up the ante, Neil Gaiman performed a live read-aloud in the New York Public Library that can be found on YouTube and is the real winner winner! Listen to it here. I like to turn off the lights, close the blinds, and place a flickering candle from the dollar store on each table.
We listen to Neil Gaiman read Click Clack the Rattlebag aloud. Afterward, we take 10-15 minutes to finish the story or write an alternate ending in the dark. With the remaining class time, students take turns holding a flashlight under their faces as they read their writing aloud. They absolutely love this! Many of them want to keep working on this writing piece for several days.
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#4 Meet Roald Dahl’s Landlady
Reading Roald Dahl’s The Landlady is one of my favorite Halloween activities for middle school of all time. The true horror of this short story is so subtle and comes in a surprise ending that gets students every year. We typically spend a week on this short story and I’ve never regretted a single moment of it!
You can read my full post about teaching The Landlady here, but here are some of the fun things you can do:
- Create a wanted poster for The Landlady
- Watch a short film and compare and contrast the story with the film
- Write a press release for The Landlady
- Think through several what-if scenarios
- Host a Landlady escape room
This is one you definitely don’t want to sleep on!
#5 Experience Macabre with The Monkey’s Paw
If your students have already read The Landlady, or if you want to extend the spooky season a little bit further, check out The Monkey’s Paw!
The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs is a classic macabre three-wishes type tale. It is a longer short story and usually takes my students 1-2 class periods just to get through the text. But, once finished, there are so many fun things to do with this story that you can either offer students a choice board or pick and choose based on how much time you have.
Some fun things we’ve done in the past include:
- Coming up with our own three wishes – and contemplating the consequences
- Researching superstitions
- Watching the short film and comparing/contrasting the two
And just like The Landlady, I like to conclude the short story with an escape room. The four breakouts for students to complete are characters & conflict, plot structure, setting and mood, and foreshadowing.
#6 Meet The Monsters of Maple Street
Last but not least, another frightening short story for Halloween in ELA is The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street by Rod Serling. It’s not so much a scary story (it’s actually a teleplay) as it is a powerful story for teaching students about the danger of false accusations, herd mentality, and paranoia.
When teaching this short story, you can make real-world connections to the text and research other examples of mob mentality behavior like the Salem witch trials, Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust, black Friday shopping, etc. You can also pair it with The Twilight Zone’s Season 1 Episode 22 and compare and contrast the two. Last but not least, you can have students determine who the REAL monster of Maple Street is! Check out these activities here.
#7 Hear from The Headless Horseman on The Hollow
One of my latest Halloween obsessions for the classroom is a modern day version of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Gen-Z released an eight-episode series called The Hollow in which the headless horseman revisits Sleepy Hollow on the 250th anniversary. But is he back for revenge or justice? This podcast brings an old tale into the 21st century in a relevant yet slightly fun & scary way.
Here’s how I use it:
I collaborated with a very artistic individual and created illustrations for students to color with each episode. It was such a fun collaboration and I love the final product. However, not all students love coloring and sometimes we need to shake things up. So I created a few more fun listening tasks (similar to The Creeping Hour), like making predictions, word scrambles, and literary element BINGO. It is SO much fun, and you can check it out here. As a final note, don’t skip out on having students compare the podcast to the original legend if you have time.
I hope these Halloween activities for middle school classrooms help you find plenty of ways to be intentional with students during the Holiday while also packing the fun. If you want more short stories for Halloween, check out my previous blog post here.
What are your favorite Halloween activities for middle school ELA? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!