High-Interest Halloween Activities for Secondary ELA

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It’s that time of year when we get to tap into the high-interest season of Halloween and use it to our advantage as writing teachers! Halloween means Edgar Allan Poe, Gothic stories, mysteries, and all things secondary students LOVE! It’s a great time to use the season to our advantage to target essential reading and writing skills while exploring topics that motivate students.

Check out this list of high-interest Halloween activities that are sure to grab the attention of your secondary students!

Zombie Apocalypse Persuasive Speech Writing

In this activity, students role play that they are trapped in their school by the zombie apocalypse. They have to decide whether to stay at the school... or whether to leave the school for an alternate location. In order to make this precarious decision, they must weigh the pros and cons of both scenarios and then craft a persuasive speech to convince the class (the rest of their group) to go or to stay.

In this high-interest activity, students will employ the devices and techniques of persuasive writing and include rhetorical devices and appeals to persuade their audience. They will present their speeches to the class using visual aids to enhance their overall messages.

Students will take interest in this topic and at having the opportunity to be creative! This make a great unit for any time of year but especially Halloween! Click here to check out the Zombie Apocalypse Persuasive Speech activity!

Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies: A Primer on Victorian Satire

Edward Gorey (1925-2000) was an American writer and illustrator of “children’s” books that satirized Victorian and Edwardian Britain. He was born in Chicago in 1925 and later attended Harvard University. His books contain dark satire, often depicting characters who experience tragic deaths that are, in a way, tragically humorous. However, Gorey did not necessarily consider his work satirical. He referred to his work as “literary nonsense” in the same vein as Lewis Carroll. Gorey began his publishing career as an illustrator of various books such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. He went on to write and illustrate over 100 books in his characteristic pen and ink, hashmark style.

In this activity, students will analyze the satire of Gorey's "children's book "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" by discussing how the author uses setting and repetition to create dark humor and satirize the Victorian Period. Students will then create their own alphabet primers in the style of Edward Gorey.

This is an interesting activity to complete around Halloween time or during a study on Gothic literature. Please be forewarned that Edward Gorey's writing is satire or even absurd-- but not necessarily for the faint of heart. Please review "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" for appropriateness to determine if his work is fit for your students and school. This lesson plan does not contain the original text or illustrations of Gorey's short story; however, it can be found online as a .pdf file-- or perhaps, in your local library or bookstore. Click here to check out the FREE lesson that goes along with the story.

Halloween Activity Bundle

This Halloween Activity Bundle contains FIVE activities to engage your students during the Halloween season.

The activities include:

Halloween Journal

Creating a Villain Character Sketch & Writing Activity

Halloween Story Prompts to Make Your Skin Crawl

"Boo" Bingo with Literary Terms

"The Haunted Palace" by Edgar Allan Poe Analysis

These activities are not only fun but also target Common Core Standards. Students will enjoy them and simultaneously review key skills for English Language Arts.

These activities can also work with 9th & 10th grade as well-- depending upon the level of your students. Click here to check out these activities to get your students excited about Halloween!

The Ultimate Crime Unit- Criminals, Serial Podcast, Lizzie Borden, & MORE!

There’s no better time of year than Halloween season to tap into crime stories as a means of targeting reading and writing skills.

In this bundle, you will find the top-selling crime units from Bespoke ELA!

These include:

The Infamous Criminals: A Research Project

Lizzie Borden: Infamous Murder Case Nonfiction Unit, Tone, Bias, Persuasion

Nonfiction: Tone and Bias in the Media Coverage of Jack the Ripper

Serial Podcast Season One Listening Guide

The topic of crime stories captivates people from all walks of life. Tapping into this fascination is a great way to capture student interest in order to target nonfiction reading and writing skills.

The Infamous Criminals: A Research Project

In this project, students will research the life of a famous criminal and compile a bibliographic research project to share with the class. Please note that I have included lists of criminals for students to choose from and have purposefully left out serial killers, terrorists, and mass shooters. You may choose to allow these at your own discretion. The criminals included in this project range from fraudsters to gangsters and from pirates to drug lords. There are plenty of options here to captivate the interest of secondary students.

After selecting a criminal, students will compile an annotated bibliography as they go through the research process while preparing to create their final projects. Students can choose from the following project options via the "Research Project Choice Board."

There are plenty of options here to allow students the opportunity to share their research in today's technologically connected world. After students complete their projects, they will share them with the entire class and then reflect back on the research process.

Lizzie Borden: Infamous Murder Case Nonfiction Unit, Tone, Bias, Persuasion

In this nonfiction unit, students will read articles about the case and then decide for themselves if they think Lizzie Borden is INNOCENT or GUILTY.

If your students like this nonfiction unit, be sure to check out the Bespoke ELA activity on deciphering tone and bias through the media coverage of the infamous Jack the Ripper!

This is a HIGH-INTEREST WAY to integrate nonfiction into your curriculum and get students interacting with nonfiction texts that they won't be able to put down!

Nonfiction: Tone and Bias in the Media Coverage of Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper. One of the most notorious serial killers of all time. And he was never caught. There are over 100 theories about his identity. If you're looking for a high-interest nonfiction topic to get your students interested in analyzing nonfiction, this is it!

This activity has two parts. The first parts takes students through an exercise of identifying tone in a news article written about Jack the Ripper. There are four articles in this part of this lesson that all come from The London Times, late 1800s. (please note that all texts are in the public domain)

Each article is followed by a series of three multiple-choice questions written using Common Core question stems. These questions will help students understand the overall message of each article and encourage them to read critically. Students are then to record examples of tone from the articles and label the tone accordingly. Identifying tone will help with part two of this activity series in which students begin to analyze sources for bias.

In part two of this activity, students will assess a series of stories about Jack the Ripper all written on the exact same day, all about the exact same grisly discovery of two more female victims. By reading multiple sources on the same event, students will be able to compare/ contrast how each source represents the "truth." After assessing sources for bias, students will evaluate which source is more reliable and present their findings to the class.

I have also included FIVE extension activities to use with your students after completing this activity in order to keep your students engaged with nonfiction.

Jack the Ripper is a topic that will keep your students intrigued from the very get-go!

Serial Season One Podcast Listening Guide

This is a listening guide to accompany Season One of Serial: The Adnan Syed Case. Students can use this guide as a baseline to listen to Season One in or out of class and record their answers and observations on the case to debate in class.

This bundle is sure to captivate your students from beginning to end!

What Halloween activities do you love to do with your students? Share in the comments below!

About the Author

Meredith is the founder and creator of TeachWriting.org and Bespoke ELA.  She has taught high school English for 10+ years in Dallas, Chicago, and New York City and holds a M.A. in Literature from Northwestern University.  She has always had a connection to the written word-- through songwriting, screenplay writing, and essay writing-- and she enjoys the process of teaching students how to express their ideas.  Meredith enjoys life with her husband, daughter, and sweet pups.