5 Hands-On Halloween Activities for ELA


Halloween is just around the corner, and by now, many of your students have likely already gotten into their parents' hidden candy stash. It's been my experience that students tend to have extra energy around this time of year. So much so that it can be difficult to keep students engaged in course content. You can put this extra energy to good use, however, by giving students hands-on ELA activities that get them up and moving around the classroom and working together. Over the years, I've discovered various activities that keep students engaged during this exciting time of year. I'm sharing my 5 favorite hands-on Halloween ELA activities below!

1. Zombie Escape Room

The Zombie Escape Room might be my favorite Halloween activity for middle and high school ELA. Not only is it an extremely entertaining way to bring the sprit of Halloween into the ELA classroom, but it is also content-based, so your students will be developing their ELA skills (homophones, spelling, etc.) at the same time.

Students will begin by watching a beautiful hand-drawn video (made by John Spencer) that introduces the escape room backstory. The premise is that they arrive at school and learn that their teacher has been transformed into a zombie. It is up to them to turn you back to your human form.

This is a super hands-on activity! Students will be up and moving around the classroom, visiting stations, and completing puzzles and other tasks to find the ingreidents needed to save you. Some teachers have pushed the hands-on element even further by dressing up as a zombie that day—one teacher even hid in her closet to scare the students. Now that's commitment!

2. Spooky Found Poetry

Another hands-on Halloween activity you can do is spooky found poetry. There are a number of different ways you can do this, but the idea remains the same. Students will arrange "found" words from a source text to write a poem of their own. As for the source text, I suggest using a spooky short story or poem!

One way you can do this is by giving students a paragraph of text from a scary short story—like W.W. Jacobs' "The Monkey's Paw" or Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Art", for example—and getting them to cut up words to create their own found poetry. If you go this route, just be sure to provide students with enough text for them to make their own unique poems.

Another option is to hand out photocopies of a page of text from a spooky poem or story and have students emphasize words by drawing shapes or omitting words using a black marker. If you go with this option, encourage students to really get creative with how they emphasize their "found" words and tell them to make it as haunting as they can!

3. Crumpled Pumpkin

This next Halloween activity is one that will have even your most reluctant students putting pencil to paper. With the crumpled pumpkin, each student will be given an orange-colored worksheet with a unique Halloween-inspired story prompt.

Students will start the activity by writing a story using their given prompt, and then, after an allotted amount of time, they will stop writing, crumple the story into a "pumpkin," and toss it to the front of the room. Another student will then retrieve the "crumpled pumpkin" and continue writing where the other left off. The process repeats, and eventually, a completed story will return to the original writer for them to edit and finalize.

My favorite part about this activity is how easy it is to implement, and the collaborative element seems to really help students avoid having students stuck staring at a blank page. The crumpled pumpkin is also super hands-on! Students really love the part where they get to crumple up their stories and toss them across the room.

4. Reading Mysteries

Who doesn't love a good mystery? Another one of my favorite activities for this time of year is Halloween-themed reading mysteries, such as the Mystery of the Halloween Prank and the Mystery of the Missing Halloween Treats. All your students will use reading comprehension skills, critical thinking, and text evidence strategies to solve high-interest mysteries. 

You will start either mystery by putting up the Halloween-themed poster on your door to build anticipation. Then, when students enter, you'll put them in small groups to work together to solve the mystery. The presentation slides will guide you and the students through each element of the lesson.

One of the best parts of the mysteries is they come with a wide variety of hands-on evidence for students to work with and use to support their predictions throughout the activity. Once each group has made their final predictions, you will use the presentation slides to reveal the guilty culprit(s) and go through each of the suspects to show the evidence of their innocence or guilt. 

5. Halloween Sensory Activity

Finally, you can also do a Halloween sensory activity with your students. To do this, you can prepare boxes that students cannot see into but that they can put their hands inside to feel its contents. Fill the boxes with food and other generic items but create labels that make students imagine that the boxes are filled with different creepy, Halloween-inspired things! 

For example, you can label one box "Zombie Brains" and have cooked spaghetti in it. Another could be labeled "Monster Teeth" with popcorn kernels inside, and so on. One with grapes can be labeled "Spider Eyeballs." Use golf tees with the label "Vampire Teeth," nuts and bolts with "Frankenstein pieces," and raisins with "Witch Warts."  Grab some FREE labels to use on the boxes here.

After feeling inside the boxes, students will write descriptive texts describing how each creepy thing felt—using tactile imagery of course. Encourage them to also use figurative language in their descriptions. If, for sanitary reasons, you don't want to have each student reaching into the same boxes, you can do this using a bunch of individual boxes (or containers) placed on each student's desk. 

There you have it! I hope you found this helpful. Need other Halloween activity ideas?  Check out some of the other Coffee Shop blogger ideas below! 

Halloween Coloring Pages by Tracee Orman

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