It’s almost Halloween and the ghosts and vampires will soon be coming out to play! Did you know that although we often associate Halloween with pumpkin carving and eating candy, the festival has much older origins?
Samhain is an ancient Gaelic festival which celebrates the end of the harvest and the start of winter. This is why people often associate the colours of orange and black with Halloween: orange is the colour many leaves turn in autumn and black is the colour of the darker winter months.
People used to believe that spirits walked the Earth on the night of Samhain. The tradition of dressing up as ghosts and demons started as a way to hide from the spirits who walked the streets. Similarly, people used to leave treats outside their houses for the spirits and from this came the tradition of trick-or-treating.
So to help get your younger students in the Halloween spirit, here are five spooky ideas to try in your primary classes.
1. ‘Pumpkin’ oranges
Pumpkin carving is fun – but it’s also messy and pumpkins can be really heavy! Instead, bring in an orange for each student and give them a black marker pen. Get them to draw a scary face on their orange and then write a short text describing it. Here’s an example you can share with your students:
My pumpkin orange, Ghoulie, has two big eyes. He’s got a small nose and a big mouth, with lots of teeth. This Halloween, he’s going to sit outside my house. He’s going to scare people but he doesn’t scare me! I think he’s very funny!
2. Bat fishing
This is a great way to practice questions and review language with your younger students. Have your students cut out bat shapes on card and tell them to write a question on the back of each one. They can write personal information questions, such as ‘What do you eat for breakfast?’ or questions related to topics you’re studying at the moment, like ‘How do you spell dinosaur?’
Attach a paper clip to each bat and put them on the floor, with the questions face down. Then attach a magnet to a piece of string.
Divide the class into teams and have students take turns to fish a bat from the floor. When they catch a bat using the magnet, a student from another team asks them the question written on the bat. If the team can answer correctly, they keep the bat. If they don’t answer correctly, the bat goes back on the floor.
When all the bats have been fished, the team with the most wins.
3. Haunted house dictation
This is a good activity to review prepositions of place and house vocabulary. Before you start, elicit some scary things from the students, such as ghost, spider, witch, zombie. If these words are new for your students, draw a picture dictionary on the board for them to refer to in the next stage.
Next, give students an outline of a house with the rooms labelled, but without any furniture. Then dictate a sentence to the students and have them draw what you say on their individual houses. For example, ‘In the kitchen, there’s a big cupboard. In the cupboard, there’s a witch.’ Or, ‘In the living room there’s an old sofa. A zombie is sitting on the sofa.’
You can then divide the class into pairs or small groups and have them take turns dictating sentences to each other. When they finish, they can compare their pictures and then write a short story about their haunted houses.
For higher level groups share these ten hair-raising Halloween adjectives and get them to use as many as possible in their stories.
4. Trick-or-treat board game
Draw a 7×5 grid on card and add Start and Finish squares. Number the other squares so the students know what direction to move in. Then, on some of the squares write Trick and on some of the other squares write Treat. Finally prepare a set of ‘trick’ and ‘treat’ cards for each group. (There are some ideas for tricks and treats below).
Before students play, teach them some phrases to use while playing the game. For example:
- Whose turn is it?
- It’s my turn.
- Roll the dice.
- Who’s winning?
Then divide the class into groups of four and give each group a board, a set of ‘trick-or-treat’ cards, a dice and a counter. Have them take turns to roll the dice and move. If they land on a Trick or Treat square, they have to take a card and do what it says. Then they put the card at the bottom of the pile. The winner is the first person to reach the Finish square.
Ideas for ‘trick’ cards
- Go back 3 squares
- Miss a turn
- Go back to the start
- Count down from 10 to 1 in English
- Say the alphabet backwards (Z, Y, X…)
- Laugh like a witch
- Pretend to be a ghost
Ideas for ‘treat’ cards
- Go forward two spaces
- Roll again
- Go forward five spaces
- Choose someone to miss a turn
5. The Nightmare before Christmas
Are your students bored of celebrating Halloween every year? That sounds just like Jack Skellington, the main character in the story The Nightmare before Christmas. He lives in Halloweentown, where everybody else loves Halloween. One day, Jack visits Christmastown and decides it would be great for everyone in his town to celebrate Christmas… but his plan doesn’t work out well.
Encourage your learners to read this Halloween with this spooky Level 2 Reader. The book comes with the audio and there are extra resources for teachers available online.
After reading the story, have your students create comic strips of different parts of the book and display them around the classroom. Or, if your learners love dressing up and singing, why not watch the film and teach them one of the songs?
What other Halloween activities do you have planned for your primary classes? Let us know in the comments.