Halloween: Lesson Ideas and Activities

Jack-o’-Lanterns at WSI Korea © 2007

At the end of October, people around the world celebrate halloween in one way or another.  It is a strange cultural annual celebration which people dress up in various spooky attire and go trick or treating.  I remember last year when I was teaching a group of Russian young learners (around Halloween time) and learners completed various activities related to this spooky celebration.  Nevertheless, I am writing up some tried and tested lesson ideas, school activities and ideas to decorate the school which you could incorporate inside and outside the classroom (from personal experience) that would work quite well with various age ranges (young learners or adults).

Decorating the School

One of the main events about halloween (as with other festivals during the year) is decorating the immediate environment such as the school and the classroom.  You could get the learners to help you decorate the classroom and school to set the scene.  Have a think about iconic images that are connected to halloween which could be used as props for classes: skeletons, witches, black cats, etc.  You could get learners to create these iconic images of which could then be stuck up on walls or the ceiling.  When I was working at WSI Korea, all the staff and teachers prepared the Centre for halloween (see the picture on the right) with images of skeletons, orange balloons and a black background with stars and moons.  When the adult learners entered the Centre, they were greeted with skeletons and other paraphernalia related to halloween.  The decoration of the school prompted student interest in the various activities organised and were keen to participate with these activities.
Reception at WSI Korea during halloween

Activities and Materials 

Once you have got your learners to decorate their classroom, or the rest of the school for that matter, you need additional lesson ideas to develop learner interest, authentic conversation and motivation.  Some of the activities or material can be sourced from other places such as the British Council LearnEnglish website whereby there are various activities which could be developed for adult classes.  Some example lesson materials are below (please note that the material embedded below is copyrighted by LearnEnglish).
The first lesson activity below, aimed for young learners, introduces learners to halloween and the material prompt learners to complete a true or false activity and then compare answers.  A sort of guided discovery activity.  I can see the potential in the class for the teacher to either dictate the true or false sentences as well as rewriting the material for adult learners.  Again, all reference are with LearnEnglish © 2012 and some of the resources available on their website are great.
If you are teaching Young Learners you could get some songs playing in the background related to halloween and a great song is Thriller by Michael Jackson.  You could either get learners to practice dancing to Thriller or get them to listen to it in the background whilst students are completing various lesson activities.
Another video song that you could incorporate in the classroom for Young Learners is from Genki English and it is quite catchy.  I came across Genki English when I was working at the British Council Bucharest.
One activity to review and compare cultural differences between the celebration of halloween could involve learners writing about this before comparing their writing with their peers.  You could also stick up their contribution on a wall which other learners to read and you could then create a reading relay using the student writing (the embodiment of a learner-centred classroom).  Hopefully, the reading/writing activity will prompt authentic conversation and discussion between learners with the potential to review emergent language.
Apple bobbing competition
There are also some other materials that could be imported such as the use of flashcards.  Halloween flashcards are available from LearnEnglish, Bogglesworld as well as a range of other sources.  Please check out these websites for lesson ideas and materials.  For example, LearnEnglish offer a range of lessons aimed for young learners for various festivals in the form of songs, stories, etc.  Nonetheless, the flashcards aimed at Young Learners could be used for various games: pelmanism, memorisation games, etc.  There is the potential for schools to organise a fancy dress event for halloween.  This was incredibly popular with the adult students at WSI Korea and can also be suitable for young learners.  Give students time to prepare for the event and offer a prize for the best dressed ghoul, monster, zombie, etc.  The prize doesn’t have to contain any monetary value but could also be a good marketing event for the school such as publicity on the school’s website, free classes for the winner, etc.

Fancy dress competition during halloween at WSI Korea
Finally, teachers could organise a range of events such as “apple bobbing” or creating a “Jack-o’-Lantern’ (as seen in the picture at the start of the blog post).  You do need to monitor children if you are getting them involved with any form of cutting or creative activity as there is a danger with children using a knife, so perhaps this is something that is best aimed for adult learners.  The activities suggested, such as “apple bobbing”, is incredibly motivational as long as you get students into two teams and set a time limit to get as many apples out as possible.  Also be careful with the water and make sure you get a towel ready so students can mop their faces as they are bound to get wet.

Do you have any favourite lesson activities when you cover subjects such as halloween in the classroom?  Have you tried some of these activities in class before?  Please comment any answers or other suggestions you may have for lesson activities.

There is a wonderful blog post by Carissa about the use of stories for halloween for young learners (as mentioned in the comments below).  I definitely recommend reading this to get more ideas, thank you Carissa: http://eslcarissa.blogspot.mx/2012/09/halloween-readings.html

If you would like to add your contribution please comment below and perhaps we can create a wonderful resource for all you teachers around the world.

0 thoughts on “Halloween: Lesson Ideas and Activities

  • October 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm
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    Great ideas!

    With my preschoolers in the past we did the 5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate song. Instead of 1,2, 3, 4, and 5 I changed the song to be the members of the family. After they got a handout with a mommy, daddy, baby pumpkin colored them and pasted them on a gate.

    I currently teach high school and college students in Mexico. I offer them 5 points (about one homework assignment) extra credit if they come dressed up as someone from English, literature (not from England specifically if can be American, Australian basically anything based in English). I come as a spider and claim to be Charlotte from Charlotte's Web or Shelob from Lord of the Rings. They write up quickly who they are and what the story is about and get their points.

    I also like to do a spooky reading http://eslcarissa.blogspot.mx/2012/09/halloween-readings.html has some great ones!

    Reply
  • October 9, 2012 at 6:31 pm
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    Thank you for your comment Carissa. I will add your contribution to my blog post so others will have easy access to additional resources.

    Reply
  • October 9, 2012 at 7:55 pm
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    Thanks! Haloween just gives everyone so many ideas, doesn't it? 🙂

    Reply

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