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Even middle school students that claim to hate reading will get wrapped up in a spine-chilling short story. This is why October is such a great month for English class: we get to fully embrace Halloween as we weave it into our teaching. Time to turn down the lights, put on some spooky background music and dive into a unit of suspense and horror! Here’s a list of excellent short stories that will leave your middle school students wanting to read more! Read to the end for some ideas on how to engage your readers after a good scary story.
1. The Veldt by Ray Bradbury
A family lives in a futuristic home with a virtual reality nursery. The children’s interaction with it is nothing short of creepy.
2. The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacobs
This classic middle school short story is full of suspense. A mysterious monkey paw grants its owner three wishes but with each wish comes dire consequences.
3. The Landlady by Roald Dahl
A young man on a business trip decides to stay at quaint bed and breakfast. The old lady running the place seems sweet, but she is hiding a dark secret in plain sight.
4. The Wife’s Story by Ursula K. Le Guin
This suspenseful story puts a twist on the classic tale of the werewolf. It’s perfect for teaching elements of suspense, and it’s fun to watch your students figure out what is really happening!
5. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
This one is a novella rather than a short story, but it’s delightfully scary and a perfect read for middle schoolers. A girl finds an alternate home that seems great, but with it comes alternate parents that want to keep her forever. The book is available for purchase here and there’s a first chapter read by the author on YouTube below.
6. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
Another classic must-read short story for middle school, this one lets your students peak inside the mind of a person who has committed a heinous deed. As a middle school English teacher, you can’t go through October without reading this story.
Ideas for Teaching Scary Short Stories in Middle School ELA
These stories lend themselves well to getting even the most reluctant readers involved. To capitalize on this fascination with the horror genre, here are some ideas to get your students writing and discussing.
Alternate Endings– Students often jump at the chance to engage in unrestricted creative writing and now is the time to let those imaginations run free. Here’s some free Halloween themed writing paper for a little extra fun!
Discussions– These stories are perfect for setting up discussions because students generally like them so much that they will gladly chatter away. Ask students what they would do in the same situation aa a character. Do they agree with the actions of a particular character? Have them debate over which parts are realistic vs. unrealistic.
Movie Poster Project– For something a little more artistic, have students create a movie poster for one of the scary short stories. Include a requirement to write a cliff hanger style message that would make people want to know more about the story!
Looking for More Halloween Lesson Ideas?
Take a look at these activities that are sure to bring that spooky element your classroom is looking for this October!
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