3 Halloween Reading Activities for Middle School ELA

By Presto Plans

Halloween will be here before we know it! In my experience, even middle and high schoolers have some extra energy this time of year. With this in mind, why not lean into the spirit of the holiday? Injecting some Halloween reading activities into secondary ELA is a great way to keep engagement high, while also focusing on core skills. Here are three of my favorite ways to incorporate a bit of spooky magic in the classroom:

1. Scary Short Stories

I find there’s something about scary short stories that hook even my most reluctant readers and writers. Twist endings, jump scares, and mysterious beings are all appealing to a young adult audience (and to me, too!). If you’re looking for engaging reading activities for ELA this Halloween, here are some scary stories to try in your classroom!

  • A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury: While this short story about time-travelers who journey back to the time of the dinosaurs is engaging at any time of year, it’s especially fun at Halloween!
  • The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe: A classic for spooky season, this short story allows students to enter the mind of a disturbed narrator, who attempts to convince the reader of his sanity while telling the story of how he came to commit a murder.
  • The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacobs: In this suspenseful tale, Mr. White recovers a “cursed” monkey’s paw from a fire, believing it to have the power to grant three wishes. Through a series of unfortunate events, the family learns that the statement “be careful what you wish for” is true!
  • Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl: This short story is full of twists and turns - perfect for Halloween! In it, a devoted housewife receives the terrible and unexpected news that her husband is leaving her, and commits an unspeakable act that no one sees coming.
  • The Open Window by Saki: Trickster Vera plays a prank on an unsuspecting and nervous guest by telling him a spooky ghost story with shocking consequences!
  • The Landlady by Roald Dahl: Dahl's spooky tale tells the story of a successful businessman who, while traveling on a business trip, stays at a bed and breakfast run by a landlady—who the reader soon learns is not as innocent as she first appears.
  • The Lottery by Shirley Jackson: In Shirley Jackson's classic story, the villagers of a small town gather in the town square for the annual tradition of the town lottery. As the story progresses, the reader soon realizes that this is a lottery that one might not want to win.
You can grab these short story resources in a ready-to-use bundle by clicking here.

2. Solve a Halloween Mystery!

For a different approach to reading activities around Halloween, students can step into the role of detective and solve a mystery!

Halloween-themed reading mysteries are a great way to get into the spirit of the holiday while keeping your students engaged! High-interest mysteries, like the Mystery of the Halloween Prank and the Mystery of the Halloween Treats, invite your students to use reading comprehension skills, critical thinking, and text evidence strategies.

To build anticipation, begin by putting up the Halloween-themed poster on your door. Then, when students enter, you'll put them in small groups to work together to solve the mystery. Presentation slides will guide you and the students through each element of the lesson, including the big reveal at the end!

A thing I really love about reading mysteries is that they give middle and high schoolers a variety of types of evidence to examine. As they comb through text messages, emails, posters, and other short pieces of writing, students make inferences, supporting their ideas with evidence. Once each group has made their final predictions, you will use the presentation slides to reveal the guilty culprit(s)!

3. Examine Superstitions

One of my favorite nonfiction Halloween reading activities for middle and high school ELA focuses on the origins of some of the world’s spookiest superstitions. For example, did you know that black cats weren’t considered to be unlucky until the Middle Ages?

In this task, students read passages about four common Halloween superstitions: black cats, broken mirrors, walking under ladders, and the number 13. After they have completed the initial reading, they can work alone, in pairs, or in small groups to answer comprehension questions.

I love to set this Halloween reading activity up as stations to incorporate a bit of movement. You can also use it as a bell-ringer-style task in the days or weeks leading up to October 31!

There you go! I hope these suggestions give you some new Halloween reading activities to try in your classroom this October. 

Looking for more Halloween activities for ELA? Check out some of the other Coffee Shop blogger ideas below:

Halloween Sentence Combining Bell-Ringers by The Daring English Teacher

The Tell Tale Heart Newspaper Project by Addie Williams

Halloween Monster Research Project by Nouvelle ELA

Halloween Writing Task Cards by Tracee Orman

Halloween Treats Character Analysis by The Classroom Sparrow

Teaching Suspense in Tension by Room 213

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