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Creative Halloween Activities for October in ELA

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Have you reached for a turtleneck sweater yet? Bought one of those big pumpkins or bright purple mums at the stand along the road? Sipped your first spiced latte? It’s that time of year again! As the leaves turn and we move into the flow of the school year, it’s a nice time to sprinkle in a little holiday fun for Halloween. Today, I’ve got a creative buffet of options for you, and I hope you’ll find a few you can’t wait to surprise your students with next month. Let’s talk about murder mysteries, escape rooms, spooky podcasts, creepy poetry, and more.

You can listen in to this episode below, click here to tune in on any podcast player, or read on for the full post.

#1 Halloween Writing Prompts

Incorporating a Halloween riff into your writing once or twice a week in October is an easy way to celebrate the season without changing your usual routines. You can use the Halloween prompt to work on whatever you’re focused on in the moment, whether that’s incorporating complex sentence structures, your weekly vocabulary words, sensory detail, dialogue (and the grammar conventions that go with it), or something else.

I made ten fun starters for you, five featuring photo prompts, five a bit more lighthearted for the younger set. Make your copy here.

#2 Murder Mystery Party

A murder mystery party is an incredibly engaging activity that can help students work on inference, interviewing, speaking skills, critical thinking, and even the “Red Herring” logical fallacy. Back in episode 31, Amanda from Engaging and Effective shares several year’s worth of experience crafting a wildly successful high school themed classroom murder mystery lesson.

She suggests writing your own script (to avoid the more creepy and mature ones you might find free online) and setting it in a high school, toning down the “murder” mystery to an event like someone getting pushed down the stairs. You’ll need character cards for your students, a map of the area everyone is referring to in the fictional story, and clear instructions for students that you give BEFORE handing out the character cards. You can check-out Amanda’s step-by-step walkthrough in her post, How to Host a Classroom Murder Mystery.

#3 Students Design Escape Rooms

Looking to explore the escape room trend without spending 127 hours? Having students create their own in groups is a great option. Simply choose some content that you’d like the escape rooms to introduce and let each group sign up for a theme.

I’d suggest having your kids start with digital escape rooms so there isn’t a ton of set-up for each group, and because that way you can provide them with a template to get the ball rolling (I’ve got a free one all sorted for you that you can sign up for in a second). 

The template (whether you use mine or design your own) can be a simple Google slide deck, with a room on the first slide with objects inside linked out to clue slides. As long as you put a “GO BACK” button on each clue slide, students can then play the final rooms in present mode and get a live, interactive view. The simplest option for students to create locks is simply to design a handout with the lock questions and print it out. It saves the trouble of teaching the complicated steps to design a Google form with answer verification. 

If you’re excited about this project, check out the full post here and grab the free templates down below.

    #4 Scary Story Podcasts

    If you’re looking to dive into some creative writing, and you’d like to integrate it with a 21st century platform and throw in some Holiday fun, scary story podcasts would make a great October project. Think of it like the tech-friendly version of sitting around the campfire with your students holding flashlights up to your faces and telling spooky stories.

    Keep the tech simple by having students record in Vocaroo, then design podcast covers in Canva or on Slides. (I’ll walk you through it all right here).

    #5 Spooky Blackout Poetry

    Blackout poetry is one of my favorite creative activities at any time of the year, but it especially lends itself to Halloween. You can use pages from Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe or (insert your favorite spooky writer here). Invite students to create blackout poems with a Halloween twist, and integrate themed illustrations – digital or with art supplies, depending on whether you do your blackout poetry with Sharpies or online.

    Read the full step-by-step instructions and pick up my free student guide to creating a blackout poem here.

    #6 Try a Halloween Twist on the Writing Makerspace

    When students make before they write, it can help them let go of worry and get past blocks to engage their own creativity. Why not do your first writing makerspace experiment with a Halloween theme? Have students create a character, doodle the mood, or draw a map before starting in on a spooky vignette. I’ve created some printable prompt cards you can put out with maker materials at different stations around the room. I think you’re going to love how flexible and fun this activity is for your students (grab your copy here from my Google Drive). They can create just one detailed element and then let it inspire their writing, or move around to a few stations and use everything they make to guide their stories.

    You can read the full post on this here.

    #7 Try Halloween Poetry Tiles

    If you’ve ever stood next to someone’s fridge arranging and rearranging their magnetic poetry into something that makes you walk away grinning, then you know the fun of digital poetry tiles.

    This activity gives students a chance to ditch writer’s block and simply pull together a poem without stress. Since the whole poem is already there, all they have to do is slide the tiles around, delete the ones they don’t like, and then smile over their own brilliance.

    You can read all about how to create activities like this in the post, “How to Make Digital Poetry Activities,” or pick up my set on TPT here.

    #8 Use Holiday Attendance Questions

    Attendance questions are such a great way to kick off class and get to know your students better. It’s pretty easy to put a Halloween spin on them for October.

    For example…

    Candy corn or popcorn balls?

    Would you rather wear a costume every day in October or have everyone else wear one every day in October?

    Snickers or Reese’s?

    What’s the best scary movie of all time?

    Apple cider or pumpkin spice lattes?

    #9 Roll out a Limetown Episode

    OK, real talk. Limetown is way too scary for me. And possibly for some classrooms. (Spoiler alert).

    I think it was episode three that sent me running for Google, trying to find out what the heck Limetown really is and if it really happened or if the show was just messing with me. Yep, turns out it was just messing with me. Limetown is a weird twist on realistic fiction – realistic fictional investigative journalism.

    The show’s producers know how to drive suspense and set up a cliffhanger, that’s for sure.

    If you’ve got true crime junkies, horror movie afficionados, or Stephen King fans, chances are they’ll love Limetown. You could use it as part of a choice board, do a one off listening lesson with it, or include it in a podcast club unit around this time of year. Just be sure you preview the show and make sure that it’s OK for your students.

    Check out the show here.

    #10 It’s Poe Time

    If you read that while smacking one fist into the other as if you were saying “It’s GO time,” bonus points for you.

    October is the perfect month for a dash of Poe, ELA’s favorite go-to spooky author. (Sorry, Bram). You could pull out a short story like “The House of Usher,” “The Raven,” or “The Telltale Heart” to discuss and maybe use for a spooky one-pager project.

    Or you could dive headfirst into this Poe escape room I designed, because really, what’s more Halloween-y than the intersection of Poe and escape room pedagogy? (Lighthouse members, it’s waiting in your Escape Room materials!).

    #11 Feature Spooky Reads in your First Chapter Friday Program

    If you’re running a First Chapter Friday program or you have a choice reading program, now’s the perfect time to mix it up by featuring spooky books. While I’m too horror-averse to have read many, Scythe, Dracula, and Frankenstein come to mind.

    You can turn to Epic Reads for a whole lot more recommendations – check out their list of 26 YA Horror Books. Honestly, I got a bit uncomfortable just browsing the list. I’ve still yet to read a single Agatha Christie or Stephen King novel, or watch even one horror movie. That’s just the kind of gal I am. But so many kids love spooky books (Remember Goosebumps from elementary school?).

    I made you an easy printable display set with a table tent to put out on your Halloween display, and cards your students (or other faculty) can fill out with their favorite spooky books and even a quick review. Make your copy here.

    So there you have it, my friend! A whole smorgasbord of creative options for the coming month. Mix and match as you please, and maybe add a bag of fun-sized Butterfingers to your desk drawer to complement these Halloween-themed lessons.

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    I'm Betsy

    I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!

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