Halloween Lesson Plans for Middle School and High School ELA

Confession: in the past, I've skipped right over Halloween and continued class as usual. I don't think this is a bad thing in secondary ELA. However, a few years ago, I decided to embrace the Halloween excitement, and I'll never look back.

Not only did I embrace Halloween, I dove in head first dressing up as a detective and transforming my classroom into a crime scene from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell Tale Heart" (more details on that below!). I created an escape room that required close reading and analysis of literary elements of one of Poe's creepiest short stories. My students were so engaged, they forgot about the distraction of Halloween and the sugar coursing through their veins!

Here are five lesson ideas to engage your middle and high school ELA students this Halloween:

1. Implement an Escape Room.

Escape rooms have quickly become the most popular lesson I teach in my classroom. My students love them, and so do I! Last year, I decided to get super risky: I scheduled my formal observation (the rest are unannounced) on Halloween in my 7th grade classroom. My lesson: "The Tell Tale Heart" escape room.

My students read "The Tell Tale Heart" the day before the escape room. On Halloween, they walked into my dark classroom, our door covered in pictures of Edgar Allan Poe, read hearts I bought from the Dollar Store, and yellow caution tape. I played spooky music on my smart board and explained to students that the old man's heart was hidden somewhere in our classroom. It was their job as detectives to find it!

Students had to dive deep into the story, analyzing the literary elements, using context clues to unlock the meaning of vocabulary words, and assembling a plot line of the story in order to unlock clues I set up ahead of time. They were GLUED to their stories, whispering answers to their teammates in attempt to not give away answers to other groups, and best of all, they were LEARNING.

Escape rooms are perfect for Halloween. They require some upfront work (see my post on creating your own escape room here), but it's totally worth the effort!

2. Create blackout poetry using the pages of a spooky story.

Print the pages of a scary story. Do a close read with your students, turning the lights low (I use Christmas lights and a few old lamps) and playing some creepy instrumental music for effect.

After reading, instruct your students to create their creepiest blackout poetry. Make it a Halloween challenge by giving awards (hello Halloween candy!) to the best use of repetition for effect, hyperbole, simile, metaphor, personification, most creative, etc.

Find creepy stories here:

"The Tell Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe

"The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe

"The Landlady" by Roald Dahl

"A Ghost Story" by Mark Twain

"The Mortal Immortal" by Mary Shelley