Kids love Halloween, and I love to get them excited about learning. There are literally thousands of ways to bring spooky Halloween fun into the ESL classroom, combining culture, relevant vocabulary and even grammar into haunted activities that naturally spark interest and curiosity.
Kids and teens legit don’t get bored with this one, which means that you can easily supplement two or three classes with tricks & treats, without ever once using a boring old PowerPoint to explain the history of the holiday.
Here you’ll find tons of ideas you can incorporate in the classroom, from your little preschool spooks up to the too-ghoul-for-school teens. And if you’re into adding another level of culture and creativity, check out this post to see how I switch it up by introducing Mexico’s colorful and vibrant Day of the Dead celebrations.
Primary & Preschool Ghouls (3-11 years)
The first thing I do when preparing holiday activities for the little guys is think back to the songs and crafts I remember from my childhood. Skeletons, jack-o’-lanterns and the Monster Mash are all big hits that have come into play in my classroom.
🎶These Bones, These Bones, These Dancing Bones🎶
Skeletons are ideal for teaching body parts and obviously tie in perfectly with Halloween.
For the little guys, there are no shortage of cute Skeleton Dance videos on YouTube to sing and dance along to – I love this one by The Kiboomers.
For those that are a little older, skeleton crafts are a great way to make the vocabulary come to life. You can find tons of patterns online and either do a cut/paste/label activity on a black background, or make puppets connected by brads for movable joints. I love this pattern by Color with Leo because Mr. Bones is smiling and not too scary. You can also use this as a two-part activity, later turning these little guys into colorful Día de los Muertos skeletons.
Jack-o’-lanterns are a great way to teach emotions (and shapes as a bonus!) With the minis, I like to introduce emotions with this awesome video by Super Silly Songs, then have them practice making their own jack-o-lanterns by drawing or cutting/pasting emotions onto pumpkins. Going forward, when you ask how they are, encourage them to use “I’m happy”, “I’m sleepy”, etc. rather than the usual “I’mFindThankYouandYou.”
🎶Do the Mash🎶
Who doesn’t love the Monster Mash? The video and Groovy Goolies’ characters are classic, and a great way to teach some Halloween vocabulary and have students tell you what they see using the present continuous – The vampire is playing the piano, The skeletons are dancing, etc. Bonus points if you have them learn the chorus and make masks or finger puppets representing the characters.
Usually in October the kiddos are struggling with learning to tell time, but even something as dreaded as “a-quarter-to-xyz” is way more fun if you do it in a pumpkin. Some construction paper or a paper plate and a brad for movable hands makes Halloween-o-clock way less painless!
Counting & Creating Itsy Bitsy Spiders / Ghosts / Jack-o’-Lanterns / etc🕷️
If they’re learning numbers, there are tons of online worksheets with Halloween themes to keep them on track with their lessons while incorporating Halloween fun.
I like to get crafty and switch out the project every year for variety, but here are some I used this October:
Jack-o’-Lanterns (8-9 year)
Handprint Spiders (7-8 years)
Handprint Ghosts (4-6 years)
Spooky Activities for Secondary (12-17 years)
Micheal Jackson’s Thriller is synonymous with the Halloween season. We all know it, we all love it, we should all learn it! There are tons of YouTube tutorials you can use to teach your younger teens some of the basic choreography. It’s a great way to get them up, dancing and having fun in English.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
You can stick to the good old fashioned “Here Comes Halloween” gap fill, or get creative with this one. I once came across a “Making of” video about this film that I supplemented with a listening comprehension worksheet. If you’re blessed to be in a school with materials, you can even have them try to make their own claymation characters.
Haunted in the Hood
I came up with this gem one Autumn afternoon when I stumbled upon a blog post about abandoned areas in the Canary Islands (where I happen to teach). I popped some photos on a PowerPoint and have used them in various ways in the classroom – picture descriptions, asking them to tell me scary stories associated with the places, and having them brainstorm horror movie plots set in these haunted locations.
Every place has a couple of spooky sights, and I love giving older teens the opportunity to share their local culture with me and to discuss urban legends in their second language.
Who Done It?
My absolute favorite Halloween activity for higher level students is a good ol’ fashioned murder mystery roleplay. The teacher presents a plot and 10 – 15 students are given characters to portray. The rest of the class act as detectives to solve the crime. This activity requires some pretty in depth listening skills, as well as logical thinking. There are various templates online, but my favorite so far is this one by One Stop English.
** Remember that it’s imperative to talk with your colleagues first to ensure a murder mystery is appropriate for your school.
Halloween Trivia Videos
Betcha Didn’t Know is an awesome video series from the History channel that provides fun facts for almost every holiday. I use these all. the. time. The Halloween edition works well for high-intermediate students, so I typically use it with Bachillerato classes (17/18 years).
Halloween in Numbers by Alltime Numbers (another classic video series!) is another great one. They speak quickly, but a lot of the information also appears on the screen which makes it easier to understand. I typically use this one with low-intermediate to intermediate students (14-15 years, or 3rd / 4th ESO in Spain).
There are a ton of ways to use these videos but my favorite is as follows:
- Tell the students you are going to play a video and that they need to take as many notes as possible. Warn them that the narrator speaks fast, but to focus on what they do understand, not what they can’t.
- Afterward, tell them that they are going to watch the video a second time and will need to use their notes to make questions for the other groups. The idea is to stump the opposing groups, so try to listen for details. Give them an example (IE, What is the most popular costume in the USA?)
- After a second viewing, give them 3 – 5 minutes in groups to create their own questions and then have each group asks their questions to the opposing teams. +1 point to each group who gets it right, or +2 points to the asking group if no one answers correctly.
Get Weird This Halloween!
Halloween is a blast all around, and an easy way to bring some fun into the classroom. If you have any Halloween hits, I’d love to hear about them in the comments 👇! And click here if you’re interested in switching it up with some Day of the Dead activities this season!
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