October is right around the corner, so it’s time to start thinking about incorporating the fun elements of this month into our English classrooms! Middle schoolers love spooky stories and while many of them have outgrown trick-or-treating, most still want to partake in Halloween festivities. Here’s some ideas to bring the fun of October to life in your classroom!
Halloween Jokes and Riddles
When I first did this with my 6th graders, I was sure they would think it was lame. Each day in October, I had a small space on my whiteboard where I wrote a silly Halloween riddle or joke. I kept it covered all class until the end of the period. Right before the bell, I’d reveal the joke and kids would guess answers. The corny puns made them laugh and groan and roll their eyes, but they loved it so much. They looked forward to it everyday. There is no shortage of Halloween puns for this little bit of fun. Here are a few to get you started:
- Why are skeletons so calm? Because nothing gets under their skin.
- What do you get when you cross a vampire and a snowman? Frostbite
- The person who built it sold it. The person who bought it never used it. The person who used it never saw it. What is it? A Coffin
- How do you spell candy in 2 letters? C and Y (Candy)
- What does a panda ghost eat? Bam-BOO!
- What kind of music do mummies listen to on Halloween? Wrap
- What do skeletons order at a restaurant? Spare ribs
- What kind of food would you find on a haunted beach? A sand-witch
- Why are ghosts so bad at telling lies? Because you can see right through them
- How do you fix a damaged jack-o-lantern? You use a pumpkin patch!
Free Spooky Halloween Writing Paper
Set up a writing station for students who finish their work early and keep it stocked with some neat Halloween writing paper. During the month of October, I run a scary story contest. On (or around) Halloween, I let some students read their stories to the class and we vote on a winner. What’s particularly great about this is that it gets students writing for fun. Download some free PDF Halloween sheets that feature a couple different fun designs for your students.
Start a Spooky Literature Unit
October is, of course, the ideal time to start an Edgar Allan Poe unit. For middle school, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Raven are the two obvious go-to readings. I’ve started using excerpts from some other Poe stories that I don’t necessarily have time to cover or aren’t really at a middle school level. I made Edgar Allan Poe Task Cards that feature questions about The Black Cat, The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Tell-Tale Heart. I post the cards up around my room and allow students to get up and fill in their answer sheets. It’s a nice way to simultaneously review figurative language and introduce some Poe.
After reading The Raven, I love showing my students the Simpsons parody, and they get a kick out of comparing it to the original. I make an assignment out of it and it actually becomes a pretty good lesson about why being well-read makes life more enjoyable!
Also, anytime I teach poetry, I try to give my students the opportunity to listen to a reading of the poem. This one below is decent but there are plenty of options including a reading by Darth Vader!
If you teach upper middle school ELA, you probably have a bunch of students that have already read the most popular Poe stories. While I personally don’t mind reteaching a really good text, it is always nice to be able to introduce something fresh to your students. I’ve started teaching The Wife’s Story by Ursula K. Le Guin with my middle schoolers and it’s been a huge hit. The short story centers around a werewolf so it’s perfect for Halloween! You can find a copy of it here. For this story, I lead in with a lesson covering elements of suspense. Students love discussing how their favorite TV shows or movies create suspense and keep them coming back for more. Then, we read The Wife’s Story and identify how the author is using suspense techniques in her writing.
Other great middle school short stories for October or Halloween:
- The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
- The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
- The Landlady by Roald Dahl
- Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl
- The Veldt by Ray Bradbury
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
- An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
- The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
Looking for a festive but effective way to begin each class this October? Take a look at this full month of print and digital bell ringers that will help students review sentence types, poetry exercises, common errors, spooky vocabulary, and main idea. Or, try out three weeks worth of bell ringers Free!