Choosing from the Pumpkin Patch: What Halloween Activity Will Suit Your Students?
As follow-up to my previous posting on reasons to bring this holiday into your ESL or EFL classroom, I’d like to offer a selection of ideas for you to consider. Feel free to suggest others.
- Informational texts to develop reading skills. Compose questions to check students’ general comprehension, detailed comprehension, and their ability to make inferences. Time magazine has a special site for children. The reading level of the text The Haunted History of Halloween would be appropriate for high intermediate and advanced ESL students. It’s nicely broken into six short sections, each headed by a key question.
- Informational videos to develop listening skills. Compose questions to check students’ general comprehension, detailed comprehension, and their ability to make inferences. The History Channel site dedicates a whole section to Halloween. The History of Halloween is a free video with a convenient length of 3:20.
- Works of fiction to stimulate oral expression. Short stories can be summarized and/ or retold. Themes can be discussed. If stopped at key points in the plot, predictions can be made by the class. ManyThings.org offers a good amount of material for ESL students, including Washington Irvin’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. (You can choose to use the text and/ or the audio recording.)
- Poetry to develop writing skills. Students can discuss the themes of a poem and then in writing (a short paragraph) share their personal interpretation of the work. Advanced students could tackle Edgar Allan Poe (his short stories, too, for that matter). One site, PoeStories.com, bears in mind the challenges of the vocabulary Poe used, and offers glossed words. The definitions are a real aid. They’re to the point and accessible (just right-click on a highlighted word). The Haunted Palace is short enough to read and discuss in one class period.
- Halloween vocabulary and rhymes to develop pronunciation skills. A collection of holiday words can target various skills. For example, you can devote a class to consonant blends and clusters with goblins, spooky, monster, witch, and the like. Practice single words, phrases, and sentences. If you want to focus on suprasegmentals, try rhymes, which are available online. Most are merely cute and shouldn’t be upsetting or spooky. I like Five Little Pumpkins. Challenge the students to compose their own sentences, their own rhymes, or even a short story. Their compositions can be read aloud.
- Films to develop listening, speaking, and writing skills. Authentic material from the mystery-horror genre might take you and some of your students outside your personal comfort zones. You’d have to be careful not to choose scenes that are violent or otherwise upsetting. Horror-suspense films would be better than the very gory ones. A film like Hitchcock’s The Birds could work. (A very in-depth analysis of the film’s themes and symbols is offered by the AMC filmsite.) One or two scenes of a film should be enough to build a lesson on. Focus on listening comprehension and discussion in class. A writing task could be assigned as homework. Try to make it possible for students to view the film in its entirety on a voluntary basis.