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!
It is Halloween time once again, and your students may already be getting into the monstrous swing of this amazing holiday. The creativity and cultural aspects associated with holiday-themed ESL lessons are exceptional for the growth and confidence of your students.
Halloween does not have to be solely set on scary costumes, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” or the “Monster Mash.” You can take Halloween and put it into a howling halloween lesson your students will love.
Why Are Halloween ESL Lessons so Great?
Halloween lessons evoke the spirit of the holiday. Whether you teach in an English-speaking country or not, Halloween is a perfect period to have fun while providing learning opportunities for your students.
Halloween lessons are a marvelous way to bridge a few cultural gaps. Most likely, your students have had some type of exposure to Halloween—whether through movies, cartoons or the internet. This is your opportunity to fill any gaps and share a bit of your culture with your students. Tell them what a true Halloween experience is like by taking a stroll down your days of Halloweens passed.
Holiday-themed lessons play a vital role in switching up the hum-drum of a normal day’s routine. Holidays offer excellent opportunities for your students to learn new cultural themes and new vocabulary, all while having fun. Your students’ creativity levels will be electrified like Frankenstein and raised from the dead like Dracula by implementing these great ESL Halloween lessons.
Let’s take a look at what lesson you need to have in your trick-or-treat bag this month.
Spirited Warm-up Activities for a Halloween English Lesson
Before you get started on any of the lessons below, it’s essential to drive the true Halloween spirit into your students. 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 holiday spirit, you will need to bring in a lamp and a red or orange bandana from home. Have your students get into a circle, turn on the lamp and then turn off the lights.
The red or orange bandana over your light will emit an eerie mood. Get into the center of the circle and ask your students a few questions about Halloween and find out what they know.
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 was it about?
- 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.
Really connect the Halloween spirit with your students and let their creativity and questions pour out during the warm-up activity.
5 Halloween English Lessons to Spook Your Students Silly
1. Fright-night Stories
A lesson in which you tell your students a few scary stories as they listen in the dark will work their listening, discussion, prediction, writing and reading skills. A great story has all the right elements: spooky characters, unknown shadows or noises, and a mysterious ending. You will also want to make sure your stories are short; if they’re too long, students will lose interest.
There are a lot of terrifying and amusing scary stories out there, and here are a few that work really well. For this activity example, we will use “Tap, Tap, Tap.” This scary story is excellent for the classroom because children, a school and a teacher are all involved in the plot. You can even take this story to a more frightening level if you tell it as if you were a teacher at the school from the story, recounting what happened.
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 learning lessons.
- Have your class sit in a circle, and tell the story from the center.
- Stop halfway through the story and open up the circle to discussion. Ask your students what they think will happen next. Have students pass the flashlight around one by one while explaining their predictions.
- Then finish telling the story—and make sure to add sound effects. In the “Tap, Tap, Tap” story, there are many instances where you can use sound effects to make the story more horrifying!
- When finished, turn on the lights and instruct your students to craft their own ending to the “Tap, Tap, Tap” story. This could be based on their predictions, or any other creative ideas they might have.
- Afterwards, students can share their stories with the class. Set the Halloween scene again in your classroom 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 are more scary?
2. 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. You could call it an allergic reaction. 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 of 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!
3. 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
- It is dead and buried
- A dead loss
- Drop dead
- Dead center
- Dead on my feet
- Devil in disguise
- 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. Now there’s just one more part to prepare: the meanings of all of the idioms.
You could put all of the meanings on a single worksheet and make copies, or create a PowerPoint that has 3-4 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.
- Next, you will 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. The team with the most points wins.
4. Monster Charades
Monster charades is somewhat similar to #2 “What Monster am I?” 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 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. The team with the most points wins.
5. 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, vocabulary and also has total physical response (TPR) elements.
- First, it’s vital for everyone to know what a haunted house is and its purpose. What may be obvious for you could be unknown to your students. So watch a video of a haunted house 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 excellent frightening thoughts on the board as they come.
- Next, divide the work into groups by assigning each group to a specific section of the haunted house. For example, Dracula group might be in the corner next to the mummy group, and the Frankenstein group will be near the classroom door. 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. You may want to enlist the help of a few parents if needed, depending on the class size.
- Parents are also great for haunted house spectators once the project is complete. You can also invite other classes or teachers go through the dimly lit classroom full of students transformed into howling werewolves or blood-sucking vampires.
October is a spooky time of year, and you can use this haunting Halloween holiday to promote language skills and enthusiastic learning in your ESL classroom. Putting together a few howling activities will get your students moving and allow them a well-deserved fun break from the normal day-in and day-out textbooks and sitting at desks.
These Halloween lessons are also great for promoting communication between students. They will 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 back from the grave and let their creativity haunt you this Halloween!
Stephen Seifert is a writer, editor, professor of English and adventurer. With over 7 years of teaching experience to students worldwide, he enjoys the many aspects of culture and traditions different from his own. Stephen continues his search for writing inspiration, boldly enjoying life to the fullest.