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.
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).
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.
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. —