By Teachers, For Teachers
It’s the spookiest month of the year. And while high school students may be too old for costume parades and cutting pumpkins out of construction paper, there are entertaining and effective ways to create effective and educationa Halloween Lesson Plans.
Zombies are extremely big in today’s pop culture. Why not use them to teach science? Dr. Steven Schlozman, a Harvard Medical School professor, wrote a great book called The Zombie Autopsies that offers a potentially realistic explanation for how a disease could turn people into zombies. Check out this science teacher podcast in which he explains how to use zombies in the classroom.
Too gory for your taste? What about taking time in biology class to learn about the fungus that turns ants into zombies?
Still want to satisfy your science craving? We've got the Top 5 Halloween Lesson Plans/Science Tricks that will amaze your students.
Advanced English students offer struggle to identify the components of an author’s style – pacing, word choice, tone, and other elements. Use mystery and horror short stories to help students grasp these more slippery concepts. Stories by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, or Raymond Chandler are easy to find. Mystery stories in particular are plot-driven and move quickly, and it’s easy to identify the contrast in tone between Raymond Chandler’s “mean streets” and Agatha Christie’s genteel English village.
Looking for a fun way to review basic math concepts? Have students draw up plans to turn the school gym into a haunted house. Have students calculate how much material they would need to cover up all the windows, what their budget would need to be if they wanted to run the haunted house for a week, how much helium they need to blow up 50 balloons, or what they would have to charge as an entry fee to cover their costs.
A psychology or health teacher who’s not too squeamish could do some interesting lessons on abnormal psychology by using carefully-selected excerpts from books, TV shows, or movies on serial killers – avoiding the gory scenes in favor of scenes that demonstrate characteristics of psychopathic or antisocial behavior, such as lack of empathy, recklessness, aggressiveness, and so on.
Have students watch or read the scenes and ask them to envision themselves as a psychiatrist who needs to treat this person. How would they diagnose the person based on these scenes (in other words, not by saying “he’s crazy because he kills people”)? Consider providing them with selections from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to help them make their diagnosis. As an alternative, use these characteristics to start a conversation about the kinds of behavior we want people to engage in – being empathetic, controlling anger/aggression, and the like.
History has provided us with many great mysteries – some solved (Napoleon’s “poisoning”), some unsolved (Jack the Ripper, Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, Roanoke’s “lost colony”). Choose one that is appropriate for your class and have them explore it. To make this challenging enough for high school students, ask them to write a paper or give a presentation that not only explains the initial mystery, but its impact on/importance to society at the time it took place. For example, the Ripper murders captured a particularly Victorian attitude toward “loose” women and demonstrated the distinct class structure of England at that time. Students can have fun learning about a mystery while also working to understand the social and political climate of the era.
For even more activities, we've got Halloween Video Writing Prompts based off of The History Channels video on The Haunted History of Halloween.
On Halloween, everyone loves a scary movie. Using these Halloween Lesson Pans from the American Chemical Society, a special-effects-laden scary movie or two can teach basic chemistry concepts. Today, most students assume effects are created by a computer. But sometimes computer effects don’t look “real enough,” leading special effects technicians to use their knowledge of chemistry to create an apparently-out-of-control fire, a blizzard, or fog creeping along the ground. Chemistry also plays a role in developing prosthetics for actors to wear when they play ghouls, aliens, or other creatures.
If you prefer something that’s more hands-on, try these Halloween Lesson Plans. Turning water into “blood” or holding fireballs in your bare hands is sure to make this Halloween a memorable one for your students! Just remember – even the simplest smoke machine will set off the fire alarms!
Give students a classic mystery story and ask them to adapt it into a movie. Explain that this story is famous, so students need to make their film as accurate to the original story as possible. Students need to create many documents to give the cast and crew the information they need: setting descriptions, character profiles, lists of props (with specific descriptions), as well as a script. If you’ve got the time and the technology, let them film their scripts and have a screening where the audience can vote on which one is the most accurate. The activity stretches their writing skills and encourages precision; using a “period” story from the 1930s or 40s also opens up the opportunity for research assignments on the era.
For those teachers looking for Halloween activities for students younger than high school, we've got Classroom Halloween Activities for Any Grade.
To liven up the dull days of October, mix a little Halloween magic into your curriculum and watch your students’ eyes light up!
What are some Halloween ideas that you use in your classroom?