This is a fun Halloween lesson plan that includes a lot of different kinds of activities, including vocabulary of monsters, traditions of Halloween, reading and telling scary stories, and talking about horror movies. The activities can all be used separately of course.
- To teach about the holiday of Halloween
- To practice reading comprehension
- To practice writing or telling stories
- To have fun
If you teach in an EFL setting, chances are students will know a little about Halloween, but it might be bits and pieces. Even people living in the West don’t necessarily know all the history or traditions surrounding the holiday.
This is a fun lesson to bring in decorations for, or at least draw some a jack o’lantern on the board. The more of an atmosphere you can create, the more fun and interesting it will be for your students.
First I ask students what they know about Halloween. Usually I get things about pumpkins, candy, trick or treating, monsters and ghosts. I put vocab words up on the board – especially those that will come up later in the lesson so they have a first exposure verbally and visually.
Now I tell them that they will learn a bit more about the holiday and the history behind it. I hand out the British Council’s The History of Halloween worksheet and ask them to think about whether the statements below are true or false. With weaker classes, I might warn them that the false statements contain some truth but have a small error in them (otherwise they might be easily fooled into thinking all the sentences are true).
Note: For beginners, I use this true-false exercise for beginners on Halloween Traditions which uses simpler language and just covers traditions they will probably know like getting candy and dressing in costumes.
Once they’ve done that, I go over it with the class and give a mini-lecture for each question (I often do this in L1 for weaker students), something like:
1. Yes, Halloween is on Oct 31st every year. All Saint’s Day is a day for every saint and they protect us after the scary Halloween night!
2. Yes, that was the original name of Halloween.
3. No, they didn’t stay at home and watch TV. The evil spirits and ghosts and demons walked on the earth. That’s why Halloween is such a scary holiday! Because any one on the street could be a ghost!
4. No, not the end of Winter. What season is ending now? Summer. So Halloween is the end of the warm and light part of the year and the beginning of the cold, dark part of the year.
5. No, tricky one. They used to believe you had to welcome ghosts and spirits and be nice to them. Otherwise they would kill you. So when someone came to your house, you had to decorate it and make it look nice and feed them. Because maybe they are an evil spirit!
6. Yes, and any spirit that found a body on Halloween could keep that body forever and live again! So that’s why ghosts and witches are so dangerous on Halloween (No idea if that’s true but it sounds cool)
7. Yes, that’s why we wear costumes. If we dress like ghosts and demons, then the evil spirits won’t attack us.
8. We carve pumpkins, yes but do we put them inside? No, outside.
9. Yes, when the pumpkin is carved, we call it a Jack o’Lantern. Why? Jack is a common name in England, like Ivan in Russia and lantern because we put a light or lantern inside!
10. Yes, trick or treat is what we say when we knock on the door (I usually knock on the desk and call out, “Trick or Treat!”) If the neighbor doesn’t give us candy, we can play a trick on them. Just like before we believed that ghosts or witches would kill you if you didn’t treat them well.
Note that it’s good to teach the word “trick” because in this context they may not know what it means. Sometimes I do a demonstration or give examples (TPing a tree, shaving cream in the mailbox).
This is a good place to pause for questions and comments. Students may mention other holiday traditions they know from movies or ask some questions about the history or why we celebrate a scary holiday. Once they are clear on the history and traditions I move on to vocabulary.
For strong students, I sometimes ask them to brainstorm vocab words on the board. In the past I’ve done a
set-up like this on the board:
and asked them to brainstorm words for each category. But often students don’t know a lot of scary words or go crazy listing ten thousand monsters so I like to have more control over them. Let’s also face it that a lot of Halloween vocabulary is of limited use the rest of the year. However this categorization can be a great warm-up for writing a scary story!
For lower level students, I break them into pairs or small groups and I hand out the Halloween flash cards from MES English and put the words up on the board in a different order. I ask them to look over the cards and try to match the words to the picture. Once they’ve done that, I call out a word and they have to show me the picture.
I sometimes hand them out an extra blank card and have them draw a Halloweeny thing (a monster or a scary animal or place). Then they test each other.
You can do a couple of things to recycle the vocab. You can have them play Go Fish. You can have them test each other by showing the other people in the group the picture and asking them to name it. Another way to brainstorm or something to do after brainstorming is to get kids to act out monsters or scary actions and have the rest of the class guess. Vocab can also be elicited using relative clauses, like “A zombie is a monster that….” (Thanks to Boggle’s World for that idea).
In any case, I like to follow-up by asking them some questions to get a little free discussion:
Which monster is the scariest?
Which monster is the least scary?
Do you think ghosts are real?
Have you ever seen a ghost?
Do you think vampires are real?
What about witches?
Are witches different from fortune-tellers?
What’s your favorite vampire/werewolf/psychopath/ghost/haunted house movie?
Now I break them into 4 groups. I hand out one scary story from the Scary Stories worksheet to each group. Their job is to read the story and either act it out for the class or draw a comic strip retelling the story.
For stronger students you can have them rewrite the story in a different way. Sometimes they know variations of these stories (The Hook story also sometimes involves the boyfriend going out to investigate the noise and not coming back. When the girl finally drives off, she discovers the psychopath put a noose around the boyfriend’s neck and he was standing on the car. When she drives off, she effectively hangs him). Or they can create their own variations (maybe The Helping Hands then attack the driver, or they find out that five (living) policemen always stand near that place and push cars off the track).
Students show their pictures as they retell the story or act it out. This can be a lot of fun. Monitor for language use and common mistakes.
Finally, I tell students we are going to tell a scary chain story. Each student will add one sentence to the story. You can use these Story Prompts or make up your own. For chain stories, you have to decide whether to insert yourself or not. I sometimes invoke executive privilege to butt in if one student isn’t really into it and tries to end the story early. On the other hand, if few students enjoy it I might try to bring it to a quick end.
For homework I have them write a scary story or write about the daily life of a monster. i.e. “Dracula gets up at 10pm every night and eats raw bloody meat for breakfast. Then he flies to a village and drinks blood. After that, he turns into a bat and flies over the mountains…”
- Halloween Power Point [ZIP] an old lesson plan I put together with some of the same scary stories and some vocab exercises plus a few discussion questions.
- This is Halloween, an activity watching the opening song to The Nightmare Before Christmas. Includes a gap-fill exercise and some discussion questions.
- Trick or Treat songs, a couple of songs about trick or treating. One pretty basic and kid-friendly. The other a little more edgy and difficult.