Teaching on Halloween: How to Survive the Secondary ELA Classroom

Teaching on Halloween: How to Survive the Secondary ELA Classroom

Despite rigorous curriculum demands from schools, districts, and the state, secondary ELA teachers can still have fun on Halloween and even teach some content as well.

Nothing says “Halloween” to me more than dimmed lights, eerie background music, and a spooky story. This is the perfect opportunity for English and literature teachers to really instill a love of reading into students because there are so many spooky stories to choose from. Also, Halloween is well after my short story unit, so I’ve already taught all of the major literary devices for the year, so we can just read the story. Personally, my favorite story to read on Halloween with my students is “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs.


From the very moment that my students step into my classroom, I want them to feel the mood of the story…even before we read. Even though I’ve packed my day with a rigorous curriculum, I want my students to have some fun with the story.

I play ominous background music all day, I keep the lights partially dimmed, and because I can be a big cheeseball, I bring in a flashlight to use when I introduce the story. You know, like how we used to do when we would gather around the campfire and tell frightening stories. Here is a link to a YouTube video that plays a few hours of background music. This track isn’t too distracting, and it will really add some Halloween ambiance to your classroom.

Teaching on Halloween: How to Survive the Secondary ELA Classroom

Since I’ve already covered short story elements, I briefly introduce the story and ask them to look for elements of foreshadowing and suspense. Then I read the story aloud, deliberately and slowly, for added effect. Since I use this day as an opportunity to show students just how enjoyable literature can be, I usually read the story all the way through. I find that the fewer breaks the better because it really allows students to have an opportunity to sink into the story and experience all of it’s horror and suspense.


After we read the story, we have a quick classroom discussion to check for their comprehension, and then we complete a close read activity for the short story. This activity is perfect for schools with strict curriculum guidelines or for schools that require that teachers teach and post the standards daily. This close read still allows students to have fun and celebrate Halloween while working on an academically rigorous assignment that is aligned to the common core standards.

For the close read activity, I have the students work in pairs to closely read selected passages of the story for elements of foreshadowing and suspense. The students then need to select the best quotes in the passages that represent these literary elements and explain how the author incorporated these elements and the effect that each of these elements had on the audience. If time permits, once the students are done closely reading and annotating passages from the story, I have them work on the paragraph writing assignment.

This close reading assignment is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. In addition to the story passages and close reading notes, this assignment also includes various writing assignments and scaffolded paragraph notes to help differentiate for struggling and less proficient students.

Some of my other favorite spooky short stories are “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Most Dangerous Game.”

This blog is part of a Season Secondary Blog Hop all about teaching tips, strategies, and resources for Halloween. Be sure to check out all of the other amazing resources.

Halloween teaching ideas for secondary ELA teachers.


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  • We have similar Halloween styles! I love having the lights off, spooky music on, and flickering battery candles going all day. Your Monkey's Paw materials look great. Have a fun Halloween!

  • I love your ideas for creating a spooky mood in your classroom! Close reading activities are such a great way to get students to tackle complex texts like "Monkey's Paw" and "The Cask of Amontillado". Those are two of my favorite stories to teach!

  • The Monkey's Paw is a good one… Zombies usually come up in our discussion of it, ha! Happy Halloween, and thanks!


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