Welcome to the year of virtual celebrations! With holidays such as Easter and Labor Day being celebrated within the confines of people’s bedrooms rather than the auditoriums of their local churches or their favorite shopping malls, we can safely assume that Halloween isn’t going to be much different than the other 2020 holidays.
Thankfully, people all over the world have been making up for the lack of face-to-face get-togethers in a multitude of creative ways, and Halloween is certainly no exception.
And the good news? You can use the same kind of creativity right “inside” your virtual language classroom. Here are three Halloween-themed activities to get you started.
1. Virtual Costume Party
Not having public gatherings doesn’t mean that you can’t have Halloween parties. If you’d like to spice up your classes this year but are worried about the limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, you have nothing to worry about.
As the epicenter of WFH activities worldwide–from business meetings to online classes to employee training sessions–Zoom has got a few features up its sleeve that would perfectly complement your upcoming Halloween party.
A prime example of this would be Zoom’s video filters. For your costume party, you and your students can select your “costumes” (in the form of masks, hats, mustaches, etc.). And, if anyone wants to go for a more bedazzling look, they can also wear items they find around their homes (e.g., jewelry, scarves, sweaters). After students have completed their looks, they can create things such as names, personality traits, superpowers (if any), allies/enemies, and likes/dislikes for their respective roles.
When all your students’ characters and costumes have been created, they can role play a Halloween meet-and-greet (you can turn on some spooooky Halloween background music!), introducing themselves using their characters’ information. Afterwards, your students can practice using reporting language by sharing information about their new friends with the class.
Possible Language Focus: Clothes Vocabulary, Reporting Language, Describing Character Profiles
2. Spooky Storytelling
Surely your students, no matter where they’re from, have a number of terrifying folktales from their home countries that they can share. If that’s the case, why not throw a spooky storytelling extravaganza?
I did this myself with a group of Japanese, Chinese, Saudi Arabian, and Indian ESL students at Enderun Colleges back in 2018, and it was a huge hit. The whole activity was conducted in person, but, with a few minor tweaks, you can throw your own Virtual Spooky Storytelling Extravaganza 2020!
This activity requires a bit of preparation. You can have your storytellers prepare PowerPoint presentations with background music in advance. As they’re practicing their storytelling, you can guide them through, ensuring they’re using grammatically correct sentences, inserting appropriate vocabulary, and incorporating linking words and phrases into their stories.
Language Focus: Linking Words and Phrases, Sentence Construction
3. Horror Movie Viewing
I strongly recommend that you assign movie watching as homework rather than have your students watch it during class so that you can save your precious class time for discussion and teaching. Whatever route you end up taking, you want to make sure that your students glean something from this experience, whether it’s a wider range of vocabulary or sharpened listening skills.
If the former is what you’re going for, your students would greatly benefit from a preview task. Ideas for this including creating semantic maps, matching terms with their definitions, and completing fill-in-the-blank exercises. After watching the movie, your students should have a vocabulary review task so that they can see and digest the new terms at least three times (before, during, and after the movie watching).
If you’re looking for some horror movie recommendations, here are some of my personal favorites that also happen to have a good amount of English dialogues (be warned: some of these movies are quite graphic and you’d need to clearly tell your students this beforehand before they agree to watch): The Shining (1980), The Conjuring (2013), It (2017), A Quiet Place (2018), Pet Sematary (2019), Eli (2019).
Language Focus: Vocabulary, Listening Comprehension
With Halloween right around the corner, it’s time to get psyched up for the holiday. Hopefully, these activities will give you just what you need to maximize the fun–and fear–for everyone!