Halloween is the perfect time to tell spooky stories, and what better way to celebrate the season than with some classic tales from the public domain? Here are five timeless Halloween short stories and suggestions for follow-up that are sure to give your students a good scare!
“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe
This classic tale follows a man who is driven to madness by the sound of his victim’s beating heart. It’s a chilling story that will keep your students on the edge of their seats.
Here are five ideas that students can do after reading “The Tell-Tale Heart”:
- Write a character analysis: The students can choose a character from the story and write a character analysis, focusing on their personality, behavior, and motivations.
- Create a storyboard: Students can create a storyboard that illustrates the events of the story in a visual format. They can use images and text to depict the key scenes from the story.
- Write an alternate ending: Students can write an alternate ending to the story, changing the events and outcomes of the original story. They can explore different scenarios and outcomes and explain why they made those changes.
- Analyze the setting: Students can analyze the setting of the story, exploring how it contributes to the mood and atmosphere of the story. They can describe the physical and emotional environment and explain how it affects the characters.
- Research the author: Students can research the author, Edgar Allan Poe, and learn more about his life, works, and influence. They can write a biography, create a timeline, or analyze his other works to gain a deeper understanding of the author and his writing style.
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving
This story tells the tale of Ichabod Crane, a schoolteacher who becomes obsessed with a local legend about a headless horseman. It’s a spooky story with a surprising twist at the end.
Students can show their understanding with these projects:
- Create a spooky diorama of the Headless Horseman chasing Ichabod Crane through the woods. Use cardboard, paint, and other craft materials to bring the scene to life.
- Host a Sleepy Hollow-themed costume contest. Encourage students to dress up as their favorite characters from the story, like Ichabod Crane, Katrina Van Tassel, or the Headless Horseman.
- Write a spooky short story inspired by the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Encourage students to use descriptive language and build suspense to create a spooky tale that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
- Design a haunted house based on the setting of the story. Students can work in groups to create different rooms, each with its own spooky theme inspired by the eerie woods and old buildings of Sleepy Hollow.
- Have a pumpkin carving contest where each student carves a pumpkin inspired by the story. Encourage students to get creative with their designs, incorporating elements from the story.
“The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs
In this eerie tale, a family is given a monkey’s paw that can grant them three wishes. But when their wishes come true, they quickly realize that there are consequences to messing with fate.
After reading “The Monkey’s Paw,” there are several activities a small group of students could do to further engage with the text. Here are five suggestions:
- Group Discussion: Encourage students to share their thoughts about the story, including their interpretations of the ending. What themes or messages did they take away from the text? Did they find any symbols or motifs particularly interesting?
- Creative Writing: Ask students to write an alternate ending to the story. What if Mr. White had made a different wish? What if the family had never found the monkey’s paw at all? Encourage them to think creatively and experiment with different narrative possibilities.
- Character Analysis: Have students choose one character from the story and write a character analysis. What motivates this character’s actions? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do they change over the course of the story?
- Visual Representation: Ask students to create a visual representation of a key scene from the story. This could be a drawing, painting, collage, or even a diorama. Encourage them to be creative and think about how they can capture the mood and atmosphere of the text.
- Research: Have students research the cultural context in which “The Monkey’s Paw” was written. What was happening in the world at the time? What were some of the literary and artistic movements of the era? How might these factors have influenced the story? Encourage them to share their findings with the group.
“The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe
This haunting story takes place during a plague, where a group of wealthy partygoers try to escape death by hiding out in a castle. But they soon discover that death can’t be outrun.
There are a variety of games that students could play or create to show their understanding of “The Masque of the Red Death.” Here are a few ideas to get started:
- “Red Death” Board Game: Create a board game where players move around the board trying to avoid the “Red Death” while collecting points. The game could include events and characters from the story, such as the masked figure, the clock, and the different colored rooms. Players could also have to answer questions or complete challenges related to the story in order to progress.
- “Masked Ball” Role-Playing Game: Have students create their own masks and costumes, and then hold a “masked ball” where everyone takes on a character from the story. Students could improvise conversations and interactions based on the events of the story, and try to discover who the masked figure really is.
- “Escape the Red Death” Escape Room: Create an escape room where students must solve puzzles and clues related to the story in order to escape the “Red Death.” The room could be set up to look like the castle from the story, with different rooms and challenges related to each color mentioned in the story.
- “Red Death” Trivia Game: Create a trivia game with questions related to the story, such as character names, events, and symbolism. Students could play individually or in teams, and the game could be customized to different difficulty levels depending on the age and ability of the students.
“The Canterville Ghost” by Oscar Wilde
This humorous ghost story follows an American family who moves into a haunted castle in England. But the ghost they encounter is more interested in scaring them than haunting them.
- Inferential question: Why do you think Sir Simon de Canterville’s ghost is unable to rest in peace?
- Discussion question: How does Oscar Wilde use humor to explore the themes of tradition and progress in “The Canterville Ghost”?
- Inferential question: What do you think is the significance of the bloodstain that appears in the library every time Sir Simon de Canterville’s ghost appears?
- Discussion question: How does the character of Virginia Otis challenge traditional gender roles in the Victorian era?
- Inferential question: Why does the ghost decide to haunt the Otis family instead of other families who have lived in Canterville Chase before them?
- Discussion question: In what ways does “The Canterville Ghost” critique the idea of American exceptionalism and the British class system?
- Inferential question: Why does Sir Simon de Canterville’s ghost feel guilty about his past actions towards his wife?
- Discussion question: How does the theme of forgiveness play out in the resolution of “The Canterville Ghost”?
These classic Halloween short stories are perfect for grades 6-10 and are sure to get your students in the spooky spirit!