There are a lot of lesson plan resources out there for Halloween. Unfortunately, they are all for very young children and English speakers at a beginner level and I teach at a high school. Also, my students are already familiar with a lot of Halloween traditions!
I thought long and hard about how to make a Halloween lesson plan that challenged my students but also allowed them to have a fun day in the classroom. That’s when I got the idea to challenge them to write a poem about Halloween. So much of Halloween is about atmosphere and tone. It could be a great chance to practice some descriptive writing.
I teach in Japan, so all my students are familiar with the Haiku format. However, they aren’t familiar with writing haikus in English by counting syllables. When I started putting this idea together in my head I knew I had found a high school level Halloween lesson that was fun, appropriate for the level of my students, and educational. SCORE!
There are 3 Objectives to this lesson:
- Students review and learn about Halloween
- Students will learn to distinguish syllables in English words.
- Students will practice creative writing through writing an English haiku about Halloween.
INTRODUCTION OF THE LESSON
For the introduction of this lesson I always start by asking, “Which popular American holiday is this month?” One quick student will be sure to shout “Halloween!” The kids all get really excited because Halloween is starting to become very popular in Japan and holiday lessons are always a welcome break from the normal curriculum.
Next, I need to know what the kids already know about Halloween, so I give them 2 minutes to write down as many English words related to Halloween as they can. Then I have each group write one of their words on the whiteboard. I check as the students write to make sure no word is repeated. If a group repeats a word I tell them to pick a different word from their list.
Now you should have a good idea about what words the students are familiar with and what they already know about Halloween.
Next we need to fill in any gaps in their knowledge about Halloween as a holiday, where it comes from, and how it is practiced. This is tricky because you want to be informative and also fun.
In order to avoid a lecture, I do an English powerpoint quiz where the students can win candy for getting a question correct. Here are the slides from my powerpoint quiz. This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. Remember, the kids need time to write their Haiku.
Next I tell them the main activity of the lesson, writing a haiku in English about halloween. I then do a quick couple slides and questions about Haikus. My questions usually go like this:
ME: “What is a haiku?”
STUDENT “A poem.” “5, 7, 5 characters.”
ME: “Good. How do you think you write a haiku in English?”
STUDENT “5, 7, 5 words?” “5, 7, 5 letters?” *muttering to themselves*
ME: “No, we do 5, 7, 5 syllables. A syllable is a sound.”
I then teach them to count syllables using the “chin method.” I place my hand under my chin and count the syllables in Halloween by saying the word like a robot moving my chin distinctly for each syllable.
ME: “Ha-llo-ween. Ha-llo-ween. One-two-three. There are 3 sounds in Halloween. There are 3 syllables in Halloween.”
Explain that each time your chin moves up and down that is one syllable.
I have them try and guess the syllables with a few other easy words related to Halloween like “bat” and “vam-pire.” After they try with their partner and have their guess on their own, I show them the correct answer. Then I do a difficult one like “Sca-ry.” At this point, I show them that if they are still unsure of the syllables they can look it up in the dictionary.
Lastly, I show them an example haiku. We count the syllables of the example haiku together, so the students can understand what they should be writing. Instructions on counting syllables and writing a haiku should only take about 10 minutes.
Now it’s time for the students to write their own haiku. They have 25 minutes to work on their haiku. As I give the students their haiku writing worksheet and a dictionary, I tell them that I will choose the best haiku from each class and hang them up in the classroom as Halloween decorations. I also tell them to use the words they wrote on the board at the beginning of class as inspiration.
I quickly add the number of syllables to the words already on the board in order to help the students. Lastly, I walk around the classroom helping students count syllables.
At the end of the class, I have the students turn in the haiku with their name and class. I read through each one and pick out 2 or 3 that I think are the best and put them on a bright orange pumpkin and hang them up in the classroom as decorations. The next time the kids come to class they are reading each haiku looking to see if theirs was chosen. It’s my sneaky way of getting students to practice their reading!
Later in the year I use syllables as a way to help students with their pronunciation. It can be a great tool to get rid of the extra syllables Japanese students add to their pronunciation of English words because of katakana!
Below are the lesson plan and the worksheet for this lesson. If you use this lesson in your classroom please let me know in the comments below. Also, if you have any ideas for improvements or alterations please tell me. I’m always looking to improve my lesson plans!