The problem with Halloween

It is my last post of October, and even though I had fun with all my themed lessons, a few questions stood out to me. What if I don’t like teaching themed classes? What if I don’t like teaching Halloween? To all those questions I say – fair enough. You shouldn’t teach anything that doesn’t bring you joy. If you are not excited about the topic, neither are your students.

If you work on your own, you have a choice to avoid any type of themed lessons. You don’t need to celebrate any local or British/American holiday. However, if you work at an academy, then from time to time, you’ll be asked to prepare a themed class (whether you like it or not!). Remember that you are still in charge of lesson preparation, so be creative and spin the topic in your favour! PS. This class was heavily inspired by the Teaching with Tracey’s IG post.

This is a B2+ lesson plan that focuses on reading supported by expressing and responding to opinions. You can download all the files at the end of the post for free. I hope it will spark some creativity and not much controversy in your classroom!

Start the class by asking about students’ experience with Halloween. In some countries, it has become popular recently. The chances are that some of your adult students don’t have any memories or sentiment on this holiday (I’m one of them!). You can ask them to share their opinions on this holiday, and if they have children, ask if they allow them to go trick-or-treating. Maybe they have been to some Halloween parties and got dressed up. If yes, what were their costumes?

While you are on the topic of Halloween costumes, show some outfits taken from the Insider – 15 offensive Halloween costumes that you shouldn’t wear. Just yet, don’t mention the problem behind those outfits. Instead, casually chat about them and ask if the students like them, which one is their (least) favourite and if they would ever wear any of those costumes. Once you finish the first part of this discussion, you can mention that these outfits may be a bit problematic. If your students haven’t mentioned the way, in which the costumes are controversial, you may play a snippet of a Bo Burnham song – Problematic (0:52-1:10). I wouldn’t focus on the whole song, as it talks about the cancel culture, which is a whole other class. Instead, focus on the following lyrics:

I'm problematic (He's a problem)
When I was 17, on Halloween, I dressed up as Aladdin (He's a problem)
I did not darken my skin
But still, it feels weird in hindsight

If your students haven’t guessed the theme of the outfits, this verse should help them figure it out. That would be a good moment to explain the meaning of in hindsight and introduce the phrase cultural appropriation.

Move on to the main part of the class – the reading of an article by Alessandra Malito A lot of really bad things are more likely to happen on Halloween. I divided this article into two parts – the problems and the solutions. Firstly, divide the students into pairs or groups and ask them to discuss any other problems that may occur on Halloween. If they struggle with thinking of any other issues, you can help by giving main topics, such as crime, theft, accident, etc. Then let your students read the first part and check if any of their ideas are mentioned in the text. Ask them to read the text again, this time paying attention to the details and answering multiple-choice questions. Proceed with the vocabulary task – matching the words with their definitions, for example, perilous and deductible.

Go to the reading part 2. Before you ask your students to read the text, ask them to work in groups and discuss different ways in which they can stay safe or protect others on Halloween. Read part two and check if your ideas are similar to the ones mentioned in the text. Explain any new words and move to the last part of the class.

Since the class is hand-picking problems in a relatively harmless holiday, ask the students to complain about other topics related to Halloween. You can illustrate it by giving an example.

Put one minute on the clock and start by saying: Don’t get me started on…candy. Proceed by complaining about it in the most ridiculous way, for example, Who needs it? You get so much of it, and all it does is damage your teeth! Pointless! Hand out topics to your students. With weaker groups, you may want to give them some time to prepare their answers. Other topic suggestions are candy, Halloween, costumes, trick-or-treating, pumpkins, parties, etc.

That’s my idea of going against the typical Halloween lesson! Click and download all the files below.

You can do it before or right after Halloween to check on your students and their non-problematic costumes. Did you celebrate Halloween in your class? If yes, what did you do?

Halloween Escape Room

If you want to have a fun and relaxing class, look no further. I’ve got something just for you! Your teenagers will love this Halloween-themed escape room style class. All you need to do is monitor the answers and make sure that your students don’t get too heated in this instalment of spooky classroom activities!

As educators, we need to promote student independence, group work and above all, know when to sit back and just relax. What bothers me the most about typical Halloween classes is that teachers normally choose the same activities over and over again. I think that it’s important to know the history of holidays, but we also need to think about keeping our learners engaged and motivated in learning languages.

Before I knew how to manage my planning time and prepare good lessons, I’d often resort to searching and downloading free worksheets from websites such as iSLcollective. It’s a great website with so many resources, but what I realised when I worked alongside other colleagues is that we often chose very similar if not the same activities. It saves a lot of time, but these classes are predictable and at times boring.

As I was researching different possible Halloween activities, I started thinking about exercises that are fun, different from your normal class, allow independent group work and most importantly, give you some time to sit in the corner of your classroom and just observe. Escape rooms check all the above! This class is designed for A2+ level groups (possibly Flyers).

If you are back in the classroom, you can download the tasks, print them out (and laminate if you can!), divide your students into pairs (or small groups) and start! Make sure that students know that they compete against each other. That will make them more determined to finish the tasks as quickly as possible. At the end of the post, you can download a set of three tasks for free. If you want a full version of six tasks, feel free to visit my TpT store.

Task 1 – This is Halloween

If you divide your students into smaller groups, you can start with the song. In this way, all students can do the task at the same time and then continue at their own pace. Play This is Halloween, a classic Halloween song, and ask your students to write the number of times the word Halloween is mentioned. This will make them settle down and concentrate. Once the song finishes, students write their answers on the answer sheet. If the answer is correct, they can move on to the second task – if it’s wrong. They get to listen to it one more time!

Task 2

Following the typical Flyers exam task, give your students three definitions of Halloween related objects and creatures. Students read the prompts and write their answers. Remember to accept only the answers that are spelt correctly! If your students get a bit stuck, you can help by giving some hints. If they know the word in their L1, you can allow the use of dictionaries – it is about learning after all!

Task 3

Students put a jigsaw together. This can be done using the physical or a digital version of the jigsaw (in case your learners have their phone in the class). Both versions have the same number of pieces. The puzzle has four questions written on it. Once your students put the puzzle together, they need to answer the questions about the escape room and the number of phonemes in Halloween and witch. Explain the meaning of phoneme if necessary.

A jigsaw from the task 3.

These are just examples of tasks that can be done in the escape room style class. I think that this escape room shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes, which gives you some time to teach certain vocabulary or phonemes that may be useful in this activity.

As always, these are only some ideas that you can expand on or use as a filler. Click the file below to download the a set of three tasks, an answer sheet and the answers for free.

Halloween Comparatives and Superlatives

Grammar doesn’t have to be boring! Ask your students to come dressed in their best costumes and practise comparatives and superlatives for short adjectives, using different Halloween objects and creatures.

I love themed lessons. However, I don’t think they should always be the same and focus on the vocabulary. That’s why I’ve prepared a set of worksheets for young learners (Movers level). It will not only refresh the Halloween vocabulary but will also allow them to practise the use of short adjectives as comparatives and superlatives.

At the end of the post, you can download the lesson plan, a set of worksheets (3 pages) and a card game for free. They will help with the reinforcement of the spelling of short adjectives in comparative and superlative forms.

The class starts with the first exercise on the worksheet. You can divide your students into pairs and ask them to find as many Halloween words as they can. If you want to make it a bit more competitive, you can give a time limit and reward them with candy (or another, possibly healthier option) as points. Another way in which you can make this task a bit more engaging is by giving the first letters to the words that your students are looking for. You can make it into a race and point out any spelling mistakes.

The next task can be either done as writing or as speaking. Students read the questions and answer them by looking at the picture. Some of the questions are open-ended and students can give their subjective opinions! For example, some of the learners may find zombies scary meanwhile, others may find them quite cool!

Then you can move on to the next exercise that deals with comparatives of short adjectives. Students read the statements and answer them by saying yes or no. To make this task more engaging, you can draw the Halloween objects and creatures or ask your students to do that for you! If you are currently teaching in a classroom, then you know the joy of drawing on a whiteboard! (Drawing on a Zoom whiteboard is quite fun too).

Once you’ve got your sentences all figured out, ask your students to point out the adjectives and explain the comparatives. Young learners are so intuitive and observant that they will immediately spot the -er pattern! Your task is to show them that even though they all end with -er, there may be some spelling variations, for example, double consonant, or changing -y to -i. To establish this newly-learnt form, ask your students to practise it by writing four short sentences. Check for any errors and always help if necessary.

Moving on to superlatives. You can do it in the same class, or you can separate it into two days. Depending on your group level, sometimes it’s worth dividing the content into a few lessons! Look at the pictures of three skeleton animals and three Halloween costumes. Students read and discuss the questions. This is how the superlatives are introduced. Your learners are already on the lookout, so they may notice them before you say anything!

Once again, students identify any adjectives and write their superlative forms. Since you’ve already discussed different ways of spelling, they’ll immediately answer your questions about the double consonants and -y to -i change. You can supplement this activity with another speaking or writing exercise, just to help your students with any grammar issues. The last task is reading about the Ghost family. Students read the text filled with superlatives and fill in the gaps with the corresponding family members.

You can end this class by playing Black Peter! I used to love playing this game as a child. It’s ideal for groups of 4-5 students. Each student gets 6-7 cards and randomly chooses one card from the person to the left. If they have a set of three cards – an adjective, a comparative and a superlative (e.g. big, bigger, the biggest), they say the sentence using one of the forms and get a point! Be careful! There is a Black Peter card that doesn’t have a pair! A student with the Black Peter card is the loser. These cards can be also used to play memory or any other variation of Black Peter. The choice is yours!

That sums up my Halloween grammar class. Do you teach Halloween-themed classes? Do you teach the vocabulary and play games, or do you take this opportunity to still cover any grammar points? I hope you enjoyed my lesson! Download all the files for free below! If you are looking for the full version of the Halloween worksheet on comparatives and superlatives, head to my TpT store and get it today!

Halloween themed B2 speaking

Happy October! As an ESL teacher, you know what that means – themed lesson plans! I’m not a fan of conducting the standard History of Halloween lessons. Instead, I like to have the best of two worlds: exam preparation and Halloween.

Last year I was working with the second year of the B2 Cambridge exam preparation group. They were all great – just a bit stressed out about the upcoming exam. I decided to reduce the stress of the speaking exam and turn it into something a bit more fun – a speaking exam task (all the parts!) related to Halloween. It was one of my best classes. My students were excited to talk and sometimes even wanted to steal each other’s questions because they had so much to say!

This class contains a PowerPoint with all the questions and pictures (in case you either don’t want to print anything out or for all the online teachers out there!). It also has the examiner’s speaking guide (this part includes pictures and the discussion topic, available for printing). All you need to do is to download the files and you are good to go! Keep in mind that if you do this class with teenagers, you may not have enough time to finish it! Since it’s a Halloween themed lesson, I’m not very strict with time and I just want my students to have fun.

As you can see the class requires absolutely no preparation time. The examiner’s notes were written using the original B2 exam speaking script. If you want to keep this class a bit more educational, you can ask other students to take notes on their colleagues’ mistakes and things that went well. You can also time them and end class with general feedback.

The class starts with Part 1, which is just a little bit different than at the exam. Ask students to spell Halloween related words (they may be shocked that they need to spell, but it’s good to keep them on their toes!) and then some general questions about their likes and dislikes about Halloween.

I prepared this class for a group of four, so all my students had something else to talk about in Part 2. I’ve prepared four sets of pictures. Each set is supported by the main topic and a follow-up question for the other candidate. Remember to give them 1 minute to talk!

Part 3 is a pair discussion about what makes a successful Halloween costume. You read the imaginary scenario and students discuss what would make their outfits stand out at a party. It is followed by an additional question about which of the Halloween costume qualities would win them an award for the best costume.

In my opinion, Part 4 is always the best one. Ask students about Halloween celebrations, potential dangers, traditions, etc. I remember my students being so excited, willing to answer the questions for the rest of the class. They were so engaged that we didn’t have time for any error corrections! But it’s okay! It was a special class and it created many happy memories for me. I hope you will enjoy this class as much as I did!

Click below to download all the files for free!