Get your ESL classroom ready for Halloween

Halloween is around the corner. While it’s not officially celebrated in Korea nonetheless, it is becoming very popular in Korea these days. Of Course, the halloween celebrations and parties are different than back home and you won’t see kids going around trick-or-treating.

Just like kids back home love Halloween (and the candies), Korean kids are no exception. Most private schools or English hagwons hold halloween parties. It is not only a good chance to introduce Western culture to your students but also a great opportunity to help people open up and be creative.

Halloween is a wonderful holiday to celebrate in your ESL classroom. Younger kids love it and many adults want to join in the fun too! It will be a welcome change from your normal lesson.

Your goal as an ESL teacher is to provide your students with some cultural background into this holiday that is quickly becoming popular around the world. Furthermore it is a wonderful time to provide your students with a chance to practice their English skills in a different setting.

There are many halloween activities and games that can be used in an ESL classroom with a few modifications. In this post i will talk about a few activities and games that over the years have worked for me in my ESL classroom.

The main focus of using a ‘Halloween lesson’ should not be ‘just’ to have fun but also to practice English skills. This is especially true if you are working with younger learners. Many Korean parents may get upset if they feel that their child ‘only’ had fun and did not learn anything.

So in order to avoid any negative feedback from the parents and getting in trouble with your boss, here are a few activities and games that are not only fun but educational as well.

Conversation activities for Halloween

Halloween is a great time to get people animated about spooky stuff.

Scary Story Telling:

Choose any scary story. print it up. Make sure that the story is short and can easily fit in the given time slot. You can modify the length and difficulty depending on the level of your students. Set the mood by dimming the lights or burning a few candles, some halloween decorations, spooky music etc. Give your students the handouts and have them take turns to read. discuss the vocabulary. Have a few comprehension questions ready to check the understanding. You can do this activity whichever way you want. Be creative, Just make sure you: 1) warm up; 2) introduce new vocabulary; 3) give your students post reading comprehension questions; the level of difficulty in the questions depends on your students’ level.

Another spin with the same activity is read and discuss some short scary stories with your students. Put the students in groups and have each group retell a story in their own words. I encourage my students to be creative and do voices. The group with minimal pauses, least mistakes and the most creativity wins!

Spelloween

This is a spelling bee just on Halloween day, hence the name. This is a fun way to test students vocabulary and expressions in pairs or small groups.

Another similar activity is to have students create their own words or expressions. Divide the students in small groups. Give them a topic or theme and let them go wild! In this case the theme is obviously ‘Halloween’. I usually give them a Halloween vocabulary list to help them along and then have them come up with their own words. They can combine two different words etc. I have them explain what the word or expression mean and why they chose it. You can decide the winner how ever you like. In my class the team with the most words or the most hilarious words wins!

Have a ‘Trick or treating debate’. Is it right or wrong for kids to go door to door asking strangers for candy? Divide the class in half. Assign each half of the class a position (for or against).

Halloween writing activities

Halloween is perfect for writing tasks! here are some Halloween writing activities to turn your ESL learners into writers.

Prompted writing: Give your students a writing prompt like: “I was trick or treating with my friends, and we lost track of time. It was a dark and foggy night, and we never noticed we were wandering too far. Suddenly, we realized we were lost. There was a dark, creepy abandoned house on the corner. As we tried to figure out which way to go, the door slowly creaked open. We were very curious to see more, so we went up the front steps, and we looked inside. We saw…” Ask them to complete the story (you may choose to give them a minimum of 300-500 words, or ask them to complete a full page).

Movie review: Ask your students to write a review of a horror movie they have recently seen, or one of their favorites, perhaps a classic. They should include main characters, plot, and their opinion of the movie.

Halloween Fold over story: Another excellent writing activity is a ‘fold over story’. Take a sheet of blank paper. Write the following words on the board in a vertical line: WHO, WHAT, HOW, WHERE, WHEN, WHY. Explain that everyone will be writing a sentence story about Halloween. Tell them to write someone’s name at the top of their paper, i.e., their own, a classmate’s, the teacher’s, a famous person that everyone knows; fold the paper over once so no one can see it, then pass the paper to the person on their right. The next person writes a sentence with what , fold it over and pass it on to the right. Continue to write one line, how they did it (adverbs), fold and pass; where-pass; when-pass; and last of all, why (because…) and pass it one more time. Have the last student unfold the story , and read it aloud for the whole class. Help the student if he/she cannot read what the others wrote, or doesn’t understand. This is an exciting and fun activity that encourages the students to be creative.

Games: Like I mentioned earlier most private hagwons throw Halloween parties for students. if you are planning a Halloween party for your students you have a wide range of games to choose from. Go for the traditional Halloween activities and games like bobbing for apples, candy hunt, pin the tail, pumpkin carving etc or try some new games.

Pin the boo on the ghost is similar to ‘pin the tail’ only except a scary looking cat you have a ghost and instead of tails you have ‘boo’.

Witch ring toss is another favorite of the students. Prepare a few rings (you can use bangles, bracelets etc) make a big paper witch hat or several small ones and have the students take turns to toss the rings.

Mummy race is a widely liked game and extremely simple. All you need is rolls and rolls of tissue and a few volunteers. Divide the students in groups of four or five. Each group gets a volunteer who will be their mummy. Set the timer. One minutes timer is good for older students but 2 minutes works well for youngsters. When you say ‘ready-go’ the groups have to start wrapping their mummies with tissue. When the time is up whichever group has the most realistic (or finished) looking mummy wins! Beware though this game can get them excited and very loud. Also the clean up after this game is terrible :(

Donut Chomp: Thread donuts on a long piece of string and make sure to leave space between each. Have the kids race to eat the donuts off of the string with their hands behind their backs.

There are also different arts and crafts activities you can try with your younger students. You can find free printable templates and instructions for various Halloween projects on the Internet. Remember to prepare small presents for different games and loads and loads of candy. Whatever you are planning for this Halloween I hope these ideas can help you. The main focus should be to engage the imagination of your students and encourage them to have a blast while speaking in English.

Happy Halloween!

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