‘Tis the season for pumpkin lattes, cozy sweaters, and the fun of the spooky season of Halloween. We secondary teachers tend to think that Halloween is just for the little kids, but middle and high school students love to dive into writing spooky stories too. So today, I’m sharing some ideas for Halloween writing for secondary English.
But isn’t that a waste of time when we have so much content to cover?
Not at all. In fact, using fun, engaging activities is also a way to teach your students about important elements of fiction. Think about it: a good spooky story needs setting, atmosphere, tension, character development, etc., so writing and reading spooky stories will help your students understand how these literary elements work. Then, they will be better close readers and writers as a result.
Create a unit that scaffolds skills
When I do my Halloween writing unit, I’m continuing to scaffold the skills that my students will need throughout the whole semester. From the beginning of the year I’ve been focusing on descriptive writing, emphasizing the language choices that writers make. They’ve also learned about the importance of strong openings and how point of view and perspective affect a story.
By they time October rolls around the focus shifts to other literary elements, like setting and atmosphere, some of the key elements of a scary story. We start with an emphasis on how writers use word choice, imagery and figurative language to create both of these elements. That way, I’m reaching back to the lessons I’ve done earlier in the semester, and students can see how all of these author choices work together.
👉🏻 You can grab a mentor text that I use with students here
Once my students have learned how to create atmosphere, we move on another important element of many stories, but one that is so important in scary tales; a unit that focuses on suspense and tension.
With this unit, I offer several mini-lessons about the ways that authors create suspense and tension; then, we read a couple of short stories so students can identify these elements as they do a close read. We wrap things up with a short writing assignment where they practice using the strategies I’ve taught them to create a tense scene of their own.
FIND SOME SCARY INSPIRATION:
All of these lessons lead to the final assignment: a spooky story that ties together a lot of the things we have been working on since the semester began.
If you have more time to devote to a full narrative writing activity, Halloween is the perfect time for that. Students just love creating a scary tale; in fact, every time I’ve done this assignment, my students were highly engaged and excited to share their work with each other – and me! (these have been updated with some ink-friendly options!)
The process also gives them multiple opportunities to practice descriptive and narrative writing, as the stations take students through the process of inspiration, pre-writing, drafting and revision. The end result is a polished story with lots of focused, well-developed ideas and carefully chosen and effective language. Your students will love the process and you’ll enjoy reading the stories too (if you aren’t too terrified!).
The stations are available for in class and at home learning, so regardless of your situation, you can get your students engaged and learning.
I also have some short activities to share with you: the mentor text for teaching atmosphere, a graphic organizer for creating a scary story, and a Halloween grammar exercise. Click below to access them!
I’m so excited to dive into these Halloween writing activities withy my high school students during the marvellous month of October. My students have been focused on the elements of fiction and have been working hard at identifying them in their independent novels. Now, they get to showcase what they’ve learned via their own writing.
Have an amazing autumn!
Here are all of the activities I referred to above:
👀 Teaching Suspense and Tension
👻 Scary Story Writing Stations
📚Mini-Lessons for Literary Elements
And, if you would like some activities that work on speaking and listening skills (with a little writing thrown in too), check out my lastest Halloween resource:
Thanks for reading!
Jackie, Room 213
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