It’s haunted house and candy corn season, which can only mean one thing: it’s Halloween time! Although many Halloween celebrations are brought to elementary students, it’s actually the perfect time to spice up your lesson plans for middle school students and high school students!
Having taught AP English students, I know firsthand that even the most academic lesson plans can take on a Halloween twist that is fun, engaging, and meaningful for the whole class. Older kids love Halloween too! In this blog post, I’m going to list a variety of great ideas to get your middle schoolers and high schoolers in the Halloween spirit.
There are two types of activities you’ll find in this article. The first type of activities provide a great opportunity to bring a Halloween activity to your already planned curriculum. Basically, it’s a supplement to what you’re already teaching. The second type of activities are Halloween related activities that you can add in as a standalone Halloween idea. Think fun Halloween games and activities. Either way, this list of Halloween games and activities is perfect for any secondary classroom!
1. A Spooky Escape Room
If you haven’t tried an escape room in your classroom yet, this is the perfect time of year to try it! Educational Escape Rooms are one the easiest ways to bring a high-engagement, meaningful activity to your classroom, especially during Halloween. Using the principles of gamification, an educational escape room will challenge students to complete a series of activities before time runs out.
My students loved my Edgar Allan Poe escape room featuring his best spooky stories, such as “A Tell Tale Heart,” “The Black Cat,” “The Masque of the Read Death,” “The Raven,” and “Fall of the House of Usher.” I added some simple Halloween décor to set the mood, such as spider webs with plastic spiders, black balloons, caution tape, and black plastic table cloths from the Dollar Store. They had so much fun (and learning) racing to the finish line, and the first person or first team to finish received a Halloween treat.
You can check out my exact Edgar Allan Poe escape room here.
2. Scary Stories
As an English teacher, I can tell you this is one of the easiest ways to celebrate the spooky season. Students love reading a spooky story, and there are plenty of options to choose from. Don’t forget picture books work well too even with older students! You can analyze mood, tone, symbolism, diction, and other literary concepts with a picture book.
Of course, I already mentioned Edgar Allan Poe stories, which are perfect to read at this time of the year, but here are a few of my other favorites:
- For a true ghost story, the classic Washington Irving short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, is always a hit.
- The Bus Ride by Sahar Sabati is a very realistic, creepy story about a narrator who encounters a creepy situation on a public bus.
- The Continuity of Parks by Julio Cortazar is a creepy story that uses a unique point of view and twist ending.
Check out my Halloween Workbook for a great way to incorporate a literature-focused Halloween lesson into your curriculum.
3. Punny Halloween Costumes
If you’re looking for a great game that is very low-prep with your students, you have to try a punny Halloween costume competition. The rules are so simple. You just have to tell students to dress up as a visual pun. I always tell them they aren’t allowed to buy anything for this competition. Next, have them dress up in their punny Halloween costumes. When they get to school, go one by one guessing each other’s visual puns.
I always participate too. Pictured above you can see two of my favorites from over the years: copy cat and bump in the night! Search Pinterest and Google for more ideas!
4. Crime Scene Classroom Transformation
A crime scene room transformation is a fun activity for students of all ages. Here’s how I do it quickly and easily:
- Put up an ambience video on your smartboard, shut the lights, and add some caution tape to make the room look like a crime scene.
- Take an old slide show and include a question at the bottom of the content. Then, take a big envelop and put the first task in the envelope. When students finish the first envelope, give the next envelope with the next task and so on until they finished each task.
- When students come in, stand at the front of the room and slowly put on some medical gloves and then walk to each table dropping off the first envelope.
- Explain that your regularly scheduled class would need to be rescheduled because you need to investigate a case.
- Let them get to it!
This activity is a great way to incorporate a little Halloween fun into content you already teach. Even my older students appreciated this activity and said it made the content more memorable.
5. Halloween Characters Pumpkin Decorating
Although you probably can’t go to a pumpkin patch or do pumpkin carving in school, you can definitely do pumpkin decorating, and I love adding an academic twist. All you have to do is give students plastic pumpkins. You can buy these at any craft store. Here is the one I used. You can put students in groups (so you only have to buy a few pumpkins), or you can give a small pumpkin, like the one here, to individual students.
Then, give them items to turn their pumpkins into literary characters or symbolic references to your content. Here is a list of some of the items I have for their decorating: pipe cleaners, toilet paper, markers, washi tape, rubber bands, paper plates, tissue paper, paint, and googly eyes. Alternatively, you could compete against other classrooms and have each classroom design one pumpkin. Here’s an example of one I created last year for “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak.
6. Spooky Season Speeches
If you’re looking for a simple idea to fill some left over time around the Halloween holiday, have your students give Spooky Season Speeches. This activity is impromptu speech practice, but with Halloween topics, they end up being quite hilarious and one of the best Halloween activities for a meaningful Halloween game. I simply write out a bunch of Halloween topics on slips of paper and have students volunteer one at a time to pick a topic. Once they have their topic, they’re tasked with giving a speech on the topic with a one-minute time limit.
Don’t expect true facts here! I want students’ creativity to shine. You can use a simple point value system, or you can have students vote on the best speeches at the end. Of course, the top speakers get a Halloween candy or treat (you can always give something else if candy isn’t allowed in school). We had such a great time with this activity! Even students who don’t love public speaking enjoyed this activity! If you’re looking for some structure, you can check out my exact Spooky Speeches resource here.
7. Blackout Poetry
Blackout poetry is a fun way to bring a unique style of creative writing to your classroom, and it’s so simple! Give students a piece of paper from an old book or a specific spooky story and a black marker. Then ask them to use the marker to black out specific lines at just the right place leaving only the words they want to leave to compose a unique poem. You can do this activity anytime of the year because it’s a great activity to hone in on close reading skills. Still, I really love doing it at Halloween time and asking students to focus their poetic choices on a spooky mood. This is a great way to teach them about diction and mood.
You can see from the example above that I created an example blackout narrative poem from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat.” My goal was to create a new spooky story focusing on the narrator’s tone. Since “The Black Cat” is part of the public domain, I was able to copy the text into a document and print it. Alternatively, you could give them the digital document in Canva and have them use the draw tool to blackout the text. Be sure to read these out loud! They’re always fun!
8. Flashbulb Props
In Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning, we discuss the use of flashbulb props to harness the element of surprise. Halloween is a perfect time to use these props to surprise students and spark curiosity. As you can see in the picture above, I hung witch hats on my classroom ceiling. When the students walked in, I didn’t say anything about them at first, and they just looked around wondering why they were there. This was a good idea (and very easy way) to hook them at the beginning of our Macbeth Unit since Act I Scene I introduces the three witches.
You can place random trinkets or symbols around the room that in some way connect to the content you’re already teaching. You can ask students to guess what’s to come, or you can ask them after to explain why the item is in the classroom. This makes for a great bell ringer or discussion question.
9. Halloween Scavenger Hunt
A Halloween scavenger hunt is a cute idea for a fun Halloween party game, but you can also make it academic! It’s a great way to review Halloween vocabulary and symbols. First, put students in small groups with a list of Halloween-themed items. Then, ask them to identify what the symbol means and a literary reference related to the item. Here are some example:
- A black cat often symbolizes a bad omen. It’s the title of Poe’s short story, “The Black Cat,” and a central character in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
- A mirror often symbolizes a distorted view of the world. A mirror is an important symbol in “The Lady of Shalott,” and a minor character in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- A jack-o’-lantern often symbolizes supernatural beings. A jack-o’-lantern is an important symbol in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas has a jack-o’-lantern style face.
10. Trunk or Treat
I’m rounding out this list of Halloween activities and games with one of my absolute favorites: Trunk or Treat. Trunk or Treat isn’t necessarily an activity to bring to your classroom, but rather an activity to bring to your whole school or community. Last year, the Council of Exceptional Children (CEC) chapter in the School of Education at my college hosted a Trunk or Treat for charity, and it was a huge success. Students from all over campus decorated their trunks with different colors, designs, and themes. Then local children came to “trunk or treat” around the parking lot. My daughter loves Harry Potter, so she picked a Harry Potter themed trunk for our SUV (pictured above).
If you did want to do something similar in your class, you could create an activity similar to the pumpkin decorating activity above. Ask students how they think a particular character or author would decorate their trunk. You could take this one step further and have them design it on paper or a digital notebook.
I absolutely love Halloween, and I hope this article gave you great Halloween activities, ideas, and games for your classroom and maybe even your home! Remember, you can pick and choose activities from this list to fit what you need for your classroom, students, content, and time.
If you’re interested in the specific resources I mentioned in this article, you can find many of these ideas in my Halloween workbook. This workbook is part of my bestselling Full-Year ELA curriculum, which includes a complete Common Core aligned pacing guide of activities to plug and play your own works.