Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Halloween!

There are so many things you could do with Halloween. It's not only a chance to discuss American culture but it is also a way to incorporate fun and creative projects, readings and media.

I have seen a lot of worksheets floating around the Internet about Halloween, which is fine, but I personally try to limit my use of them and use videos and activities instead.

In terms of videos, the History Channel has some really great ones. I love "Bet You Didn't Know: Halloween" and " Haunted History of Halloween". They both are a little over two minutes, have Greta visuals and a lot of interesting information. I did a KWL activity with my students asking them before what they knew, what they learned in the video and what they wanted to know. We also had a small discussion.

This is Halloween

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a fun film to watch and not just for children. I used the song, "This is Halloween" in my class and asked my students, according to the video, what is Halloween?

Here's the link:

We had just finished clothing at the time so I has students design costumes from the clothing they had at home. This was a fun exercise to see who could come up with the most creative costume without actually buying one. Beforehand I gave them some example of DIY costumes including a How To video.

The Velvet Ribbon
This is a classic scary story and perfect for Halloween. It is also quite short and simple, making it accessible for all levels and ages (with scaffolding as needed). There also are many different versions, for more or less advanced classes. I used An McGovern's version with my beginner English class this semester and it worked really well! Here is the text, which I found from

by Ann McGovern 

Once there was a man who fell in love with a beautiful girl. And before
the next full moon rose in the sky, they were wed.
To please her husband, the young wife wore a different gown each night.
Sometimes she was dressed in yellow; other nights she wore red or blue
or white. And she always wore a black velvet ribbon around her slender
Day and night she wore that ribbon, and it was not long before her
husband's curiosity got the better of him.
"Why do you always wear that ribbon?" he asked.
She smiled a strange smile and said not a word.
At last her husband got angry. And one night he shouted at his bride.
"Take that ribbon off! I'm tired of looking at it."
You will be sorry if I do," she replied, "so I won't." Every morning at
breakfast, the husband ordered his wife to remove the black velvet
ribbon from around her neck. Every night at dinner he told her the same
But every morning at breakfast and every night at dinner, all his wife
would say was, "You'll be sorry if I do. So I won't."
A week had passed. The husband no longer looked into his wife's eyes. He
could only stare at that black velvet ribbon around her neck.
One night as his wife lay sleeping, he tiptoed to her sewing basket. He
took out a pair of scissors.
Quickly and quietly, careful not to awaken her, he bent over his wife's
SNIP! went the scissors, and the velvet ribbon fell to the floor
SNAP! off came her head. It rolled over the floor in the moonlight,
wailing tearfully:

There also is audio, which I also had my students listen to as they read along. Since it's short, we were able to go through the words they were unfamiliar with and read it a few times over with out it becoming too tedious

Here is the link to the video which is only audio:

The Raven

Edgar Allen Poe's famous short story, The Raven, is also a personal favorite but is much more difficult and unlike the other short story, requires a higher level.  Despite this, there are some great resources out there.

Below is a link to the full text, broken in two vignettes with vocabulary word definitions and explanations. Very good, I believe, if you're going to read it with your students.

Here is a fun "interpretation" done by the Simpsons.

Here is Part 1 of a very well made short film which depicts The Raven.

Also, if you'd like to make an extended study of the short story, Edgar Allen Poe and his other short stories, definitely visit this website that has a ton of resources:

Pumpkin Carving

I think this one is self explanatory. We did this at our school Halloween party. On another occasion I had younger students and we instead painted the pumpkins, which was also really fun for them and got everyone in the Halloween spirit!

Superstitions Around the World

An interesting cultural aspect that can be tied to Halloween is  Superstition. I had a big talk with my students about American superstitions and asked them to think of a list of superstitions from their countries. Then, we looked into one and found the origin of it. Very interesting!

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