The kids are back in school this autumn but the specter of COVID brings a host of new restrictions to the classroom. Schools around the world have eliminated pair work, group projects, teacher and student circulation, sharing supplies, break times with large groups, and even giving students handouts.
To help teachers everywhere this October, I’m sharing a Halloween activity series for kids and teens in socially distanced in-person school settings. Each week I’ll focus on a different type of activity.
This week’s activities are low-tech games and crafts that can be done with only a chalkboard (projector preferred but not required) and basic student supplies.
All you need for Scattergories is an alphabet die or random letter generator and something to write the list on. If you have a computer and projector you can simply project the list and call out the letter.
Alphabet Words Scattergories Variation
This is a great bell warmer and way to introduce new Halloween vocabulary. Write all the letters of the alphabet A-Z on the board. Give students 5 minutes (I like to have it on the board as they file in so they can immediately get started and then I give them the first 5 minutes of formal class time as well) to write down one English word related to Halloween for every letter of the alphabet.
COVID restrictions permitting, they can pair up and pool their answers. The individual or pair with the most answers wins. The teacher calls for answers for each letter and writes the answers on the board. Depending on your class size it can take way too long to get every word for every letter from every student. I usually list two or three words per letter.
This way of introducing vocab gives students the chance to teach each other. Since your wordlist is student suggestions every word has at least one person in the class who knows it. If there’s any particular words necessary for the rest of the lesson that students didn’t generate for you just add them in as you make the master list on the board. Make sure students copy down at least one word per letter so their alphabet is complete. Space permitting, leave the list up throughout the class for kids to consult in the rest of the games and activities.
The original Halloween Mad Libs can be purchased from the Mad Libs website. These are a great investment if you teach a lot.
If you don’t want to purchase Mad Libs or write your own, there are tons of Halloween Mad Libs already available for free to use in your classroom.
Scholastic Canada offers a printable Halloween Mad Lib here.
Busy Bee has three different Halloween Mad Libs for kids here.
My Sister’s Suitcase has an adorable and not too scary Mad Lib available for download here.
Woo!Jr has a spooky school cafeteria-themed Mad Lib available for printing here.
Heidi Kundin’s Happiness is Homemade has three shorter Mad Libs in one sheet. The shorter format is great for younger learners. To download or print the image as a worksheet click here.
DVD.com teamed up with Mad Libs themselves to make a horror movie Halloween Mad Lib available here.
Halloween Taboo with a Social Distance Twist
This activity is based on Teacher Vision’s Halloween Word Game but I’ve adjusted it to meet social distancing guidelines and better apply to English learners.
You should play this game after having already introduced Halloween vocabulary
Taboo words: HALLOWEEN, WITCH, PARTY, CANDY, PUMPKIN, GHOST, COSTUME, and TRICK OR TREAT.
Option 1: Play the game as a class
Depending on your class size and student confidence you could play the game as a group. Instead of the teacher asking the prompts like in the original game, I recommend adding some Wh- question practice and letting students ask the prompts. Depending on their level they can formulate their own or they can choose from pre-existing prompts.
Prompt 1: What is trick or treating?
Prompt 2: How do people celebrate Halloween?
Prompt 3: What are 3 different Halloween decorations?
Prompt 4: Where is the best place to trick-or-treat? Why?
Prompt 5: When is the best time to get your Halloween costume? Why?
Prompt 6: Who are the most popular characters to dress as for Halloween?
The respondent must reply to the question without using the taboo words. The audience listens for the taboo words and shouts “Boo!” when they hear a forbidden word. Retaining the points element from the original version could still work, especially in a smaller class. If you can’t give out candy, just track the points normally. Students lose 1 point for every error, get 1 point for catching an error and shouting Boo!, and get 3 points for giving a complete and flawless response.
Option 2: Play in pairs
If students can play in pairs at school, or you’re teaching at a private lesson with siblings, play the paired version of the game. If you are permitted and want to use candy as points feel free or eliminate them and just use regular points instead.
Origami is a great way to practice instructions. You can provide written instructions or spoken instructions depending on what you want to practice. Students need their own paper. It doesn’t have to be origami paper but it is more fun when they have at least colored paper.
There are tons of Halloween origami resources. My favorite projects for school kids are:
Ghost (written instructions)
Ghost (video instructions)
Extend the fun by using the origami creations to tell stories, create a dialog, or even perform a play.
Other Halloween Paper Crafts
3D Pumpkin: For this inside of each pumpkin piece, have students write the answer to a Halloween question. If possible, have students exchange pumpkins and the partner write the questions for each answer. For a simpler, individual only English addition, have students write Halloween or other vocabulary inside their pumpkins. Although the instructions call for a green pipe cleaner, green paper (even just normal paper colored green) and some glue with work just fine.
Jack-o-Lantern (easy): This Jack-o-Lantern is great for younger learners practicing instructions and crafting skills.
Handprint Black Cat: This one requires black paper and some light colored markers or gel pens that will show up against the black. Students can decorate their cat’s face themselves if you don’t have or can’t give out googly eyes or other decorations. Have students write one Halloween fact on each finger or practice any other language point you want.
For young learners, I like to have them practice Wh- questions: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. They write them on their paper hand and then we play a game. I ask a Wh- question starting with one of those words and they wiggle the matching finger on their real hand raised high in the air.
I hope these activities bring some spooky Halloween fun to your socially distanced classroom this year!