8 Halloween English Lessons for Fun, Spooky Learning
Who doesn’t enjoy a well-orchestrated scary story?
Goosebumps and dim, creepy classrooms emitting ghoulish glows are what Halloween ESL lessons are all about!
But Halloween doesn’t have to be solely set on scary costumes and songs like “Thriller” or the “Monster Mash.”
Take the holiday and turn it into a howling Halloween lesson your students will love by implementing the class ideas below!
- Spirited Warm-up Activities for a Halloween English Lesson
- 1. Fright Night Stories
- 2. Writing Scary Stories
- 3. What Monster Am I?
- 4. Ghoulish Idioms
- 5. Monster Charades
- 6. Classroom Haunted House
- 7. Explore the History of Halloween
- 8. Do Some Halloween Crafting
Spirited Warm-up Activities for a Halloween English Lesson
Warm-up activities are a crucial part of any ESL lesson, but Halloween warm-ups are way more exciting and fun.
To get everyone in the Halloween spirit, bring in a lamp and a red or orange bandana. Have your students get into a circle, turn on the lamp and then turn off the lights.
Put the bandana over your lamp to emit an eerie mood. Get into the center of the circle and start asking your students questions about Halloween.
Here are a few great example questions:
- Have you ever been trick-or-treating? Have you dressed up for Halloween?
- Do you celebrate Halloween in any way at home? If yes, what do you do?
- Have you seen any cartoons, movies or TV shows about Halloween?
- What frightening monsters are seen on Halloween? (If your students don’t know, describe a few.)
For adult ESL students, ask about scary movies and their favorite characters from the films you discuss. You can also ask if they have Halloween parties at work or in their hometowns.
1. Fright Night Stories
A lesson in which you tell your students a few scary stories in the dark will help build their listening, discussion, prediction, writing and reading skills.
If you need some inspiration, the Huffington Post has a list of terrifying ghost stories you can use. Here are a few more that work really well.
To make things even spookier, you can screen some Halloween clips from the FluentU library. FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
Since videos are supported by interactive subtitles, your students won’t have any issues with keeping up, no matter what level they are.
You can request a free trial to explore how FluentU can add an immersive and native component to your class.
Many different countries have their own variations of these stories, so this is the perfect opportunity to explore them. Ask your students to describe different ghost stories they know. You could even have them write these out and present them to the class.
- For this activity example, we will use “Tap, Tap, Tap.” Have your class sit in a circle, and tell the story from the center.
- Stop halfway through the story and ask your students what they think will happen next. Have them pass the flashlight around while explaining their predictions.
- Make sure to add sound effects! There are many instances where you can use sound effects to make the “Tap, Tap, Tap” story more horrifying.
- When finished, turn on the lights and instruct your students to craft their own ending. This could be based on their predictions, or any other creative ideas they might have.
- Afterward, students can share their stories with the class. Set the Halloween scene again by turning off the lights, turning on the spooky lamp, and passing around the flashlight.
- The end of the lesson is a fun time to really discuss each other’s scary endings: Who liked what? Which characters were more scary?
2. Writing Scary Stories
Writing stories is a good way to practice verb tenses and become comfortable with using descriptive adjectives.
In this activity, you can give students a structured writing exercise that’s both fun and challenging at the same time.
- First, ask your students to brainstorm Halloween vocabulary in groups.
- Give out 15 small slips of paper to each group and have them write one word on each slip. Every group should have five slips with nouns, five with verbs and five with adjectives.
- Once all groups have written their words, collect their papers and switch them between groups, so each has a new set of words.
- Together, each group must use these words, as well as some of the Halloween vocab they’ve written, to write a short story.
- At the end of the lesson, have people present their story to the class.
3. What Monster Am I?
This lesson is perfect for implementing collaboration, listening and reading skills, as students will compete in teams to earn points. You’ll need to create 10 descriptions of various monsters ahead of time.
For example, a description of Dracula might look like this:
I don’t sleep much at night and enjoy a cool dark place to sleep. I have sharp teeth and dislike Italian food because one ingredient disagrees with me. I have a hard time seeing myself and I was born in Eastern Europe. What monster am I?
Each team will read these descriptions aloud so their teammates can guess which monster they’re describing. The students reading the descriptions will not be allowed to use any monstrous movements to help their teammates guess.
- Divide your class into two teams.
- Have Team A choose a representative to read the first monster description you give them. Only readers can see the content, so listening skills play a major part in this activity.
- The team members from Team A will collaborate and get one guess.
- If Team A guesses the correct monster, they get a point. If they guess wrong, Team B gets a shot at guessing.
- The team with the most points wins!
4. Ghoulish Idioms
Even though the English idioms involved in this ESL activity are geared towards Halloween, they have practical use year-round as well. This lesson promotes collaboration, communication, grammar, reading and understanding idioms.
First, you will need to develop a few ghoulish idioms for your students to use during the activity. Here are a few great examples:
- Blind as a bat
- Dig your own grave
- Pale as a ghost
- Skeleton in the closet
Once you have 15 to 20 idioms, print out the list and cut them into strips such that there’s one idiom per small slip of paper.
You could put all of the meanings on a single worksheet and make copies, or create a PowerPoint that has three or four different meanings per slide. During the lesson, students will have to match the idioms to their meanings, so you can set up the activity however you want it to run.
- Divide your students into small groups or pairs, depending on class size.
- Give each group a slip of paper containing one of your Halloween-themed idioms.
- Your student teams or pairs will read the idiom and the several choices of meanings (on a worksheet, PowerPoint presentation or another mode). Only one answer is correct.
- Each team or pair that chooses the correct meaning of their idiom gets a point. The lesson continues until there are no more idioms left.
5. Monster Charades
Monster charades is somewhat similar to the “What Monster Am I?” activity. The only difference is that your students will use actions as their monster descriptions instead of words.
The ESL skills integrated into this activity include collaboration, description and quick English thought.
- Divide your students into two teams.
- On every turn, each team chooses a teammate who will act out a specific monster.
- Team A goes first, with their team representative standing up in front of both teams.
- Give the student a card with a monster/Halloween character, and the actions needed to create a descriptive pantomime. For example, Frankenstein’s monster has a very unique walk, as do zombies, and these are the actions the students can perform.
- As the student from Team A begins acting, Team A watches and discusses together what monster/character it is. They have only two guesses as a team before Team B gets to take a stab at it.
- Keep alternating turns between Teams A and B, continuing until class time runs out.
6. Classroom Haunted House
This Halloween ESL lesson will transform your classroom into a haunted house. Everyone likes a good Halloween scare, so what better way than to have one or two in a haunted house?
Having your students create ideas and transform their classroom into a haunted house is a great way to connect culturally, while having fun and learning essential ESL skills. This lesson promotes planning, discussion and vocabulary, as well as having total physical response (TPR) elements.
- First, it’s vital for everyone to understand the concept of a haunted house. Watch a video about one and discuss the details. (Here’s a really neat video that goes behind-the-scenes of a haunted house.)
- Have a brainstorming session. Ask your students what their haunted house should have and where each area will be within the classroom. Write down their frightening thoughts on the board.
- Divide the work into groups by assigning each group to a specific section of the haunted house. This will promote TPR learning as students begin to move about into their specific areas.
- Once students are in their designated areas of the classroom, hand out the boxes of materials they can use to create their section of the haunted house.
- Parents are also great for haunted house spectators once the project is complete. You can also invite other classes or teachers go through your haunted house!
7. Explore the History of Halloween
Provide a worksheet with a passage about the history of Halloween and how it’s celebrated.
History.com has a history of Halloween page you can use. Allow some time for your students to read through it, having them highlight any words or sentences they don’t understand, then provide some questions to make sure they’ve understood it.
You can use Breaking News English’s 100 Halloween Questions to wrap up the class and give students a chance to practice speaking. Some of my favorite questions to get the students talking are:
- What is the best Halloween food?
- Where in the world do people have picnics by the graves of relatives?
- Do you believe in ghosts?
- Hand out a printout of the History.com page on the history of Halloween.
- Give students some time to read through the printout, noting or highlighting any words and expressions they don’t understand.
- Go over the worksheet in class, giving definitions and examples of the unfamiliar vocabulary.
- Have a class discussion about the history of Halloween. This is a good chance to bring in your students’ cultures. Ask them to share some superstitions and cultural similarities (or differences) between their cultures and Halloween.
- Finish off by pairing students off and giving them a list of questions about Halloween to structure conversations around.
8. Do Some Halloween Crafting
Halloween lessons don’t always have to be about speaking English. They can also be a chance to simply have some fun!
There are lots of different crafts you can try. Have your students carve jack-o-lanterns, make origami trick or treat bags, design their own costumes or even cook some Halloween-themed treats.
Parents.com has lots of Halloween craft ideas, and each one has an instructional video you can use for your class.
Not only will arts and crafts be a fun break from textbook activities, they can practice English by listening to your instructions.
- Choose a Halloween craft to do with the class. It should be age-appropriate, simple enough for any level of student and based on materials that you can easily acquire for an entire class.
- Hand out the materials to the students, along with a sheet of instructions.
- Go over the instructions as a whole class, making sure everyone understands what to do—and what not to do!
- Encourage students to talk among themselves in English as they complete the craft.
- After everyone is done, ask for some volunteers to show their craft to the class and talk about what parts they enjoyed or had trouble with, or simply ask them to describe their finished craft.
Holidays offer excellent opportunities for your students to learn new cultural themes and new vocabulary, all while having fun.
These Halloween lessons are also great for promoting communication between students. They’ll see a different cultural aspect through holiday-themed lessons that will get them ready for more practical skills down the ESL road.
Raise your students’ enthusiasm back from the grave and let their creativity haunt you this Halloween!