2. Tell a Terrifying Tale
“Everyone has a ghost story, or at least that’s how it has always seemed to me,” begins this Travel piece, “Getting in the Spirit,” about how a writer ended up listening for suspicious sounds in the middle of the night at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, W.Va. Do you have a ghost story? Does someone in your family?
Watch the video and read the article, then use them as inspiration to tell your own spooky tale, real or invented, by making a video, writing a story or crafting an essay. (To find inspiration from history, check out this collection of Times articles from the archives about hauntings in the 19th century.)
3. Enjoy Some Halloween-Themed Community Service
Read the article “Where Mountains of Halloween Candy Go, the Morning After.” Do your students or their younger siblings go trick-or-treating? What do they do with their Halloween candy? If they could donate their candy, to whom would they give it, and why?
If they are interested, have your students organize a donation or buyback campaign in their class or school to put their leftover Halloween candy to good use. Consider sending candy to the organizations mentioned in the article, or let students brainstorm their own ideas about where to donate their candy. They can also come up with ways to use the money earned from HalloweenCandyBuyback.com to benefit their own community.
4. Debate Standards of Costume-Conduct
In a 2016 article, Clowns, Candidates and Other Halloween Costume Missteps, Christine Hauser writes that “it seems harder than ever to find a costume that won’t get you into trouble.” She elaborates:
Some cities have banned or strongly discouraged clown outfits, while costume sellers have faced protests from Native Americans, Muslim Americans and other groups about anything that mimics traditional ethnic or religious dress.
The fall ritual of dress-up has particularly haunted American universities, where past problems have led to annual warnings about costume choices.
Ask your class about the changing standards for Halloween costumes. What did they wear last year? What will they wear this year? What kinds of costumes to they think are acceptable? What kinds of costumes are off-limits? Why? Does your school have rules or guidelines around Halloween costumes? If so, what was the rationale behind them?
Next, have students read the Times opinion piece Why Halloween at College Is So Frightening. Then, using the statement, “College administrators should set standards of conduct around Halloween costumes,” try a four-corners exercise to see what students think.
5. Write Zombie Poetry
Read about some anthologies of poetry that explore a coming zombie apocalypse, and have students create their own undead-inspired verse, whether via limerick, haiku, or sonnet.
Are zombies just metaphors for things like capitalism or racism? See what some in the article contend, then find evidence in popular culture for or against that interpretation. Or, use zombies as a metaphor for something that scares you.
Learning Network Resources
When Does a Halloween Costume Cross the Line?
What Are Your Fears and Phobias?
Will You Be Wearing a Halloween Costume This Year?
Do You Believe in Ghosts?
What Are You Afraid Of?
Do You Like Horror Movies?
Will Your Halloween Costume Reflect Current Events or Pop Culture?
Should Halloween Costumes Portray Only ‘Positive Images’?
What Is the Scariest Story You Have Ever Heard?
Student Activities: Crosswords, Test Yourself Questions, Throwback Thursday Posts, Fill-Ins and More
Note: Many of these features are no longer running on our current site, but all of them are still available for use.
Throwback Thursday | Historic Hauntings : Thirteen Times reports of local hauntings from the 1800s.
Test Yourself | A Ghost in the Neighborhood Haunt?
Test Yourself | Thousands of Pumpkins Light the NightTest Yourself | Theme Park Frights
Test Yourself | Ghost-Hunting Tours at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Test Yourself | Halloween on the SubwayStudent Crossword | What Are You Afraid Of?
Test Yourself | A Scary New Pumpkin
Fill-In | Smashing Pumpkins
Fill-In | Frightful Fill-In
Fill-In | Ghostly Hotel
Fill-In | Halloween on Discount
Article of the Day | ‘Boo? Halloween Used to Be About Finding True Love’
News Q’s | Norway Has a New Passion: Ghost Hunting
6 Q’s About the News | The Chocolate Candy in the Halloween Trick-or-Treat Bag
6 Q’s About the News | How to Haunt a House
Article of the Day | ‘Mexico’s Day of the Dead Parade Pays Tribute to Quake Victims’
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” paired with two Times pieces about Poe, one from 1909.
“Monsters” by Dorothea Lasky paired with a 2008 This Land column, “In the Wilds of New Jersey, a Legend Inspires a Hunt,” by Dan Barry.
Shakespeare’s ‘Song of the Witches’ from “Macbeth” paired with an article about a store for “enchantments” in Manhattan.
The poem “A Ghost Abandons the Haunted” paired with an excerpt from the 2009 Times Op-Art feature “Nightmare on Your Street.”
Related Lesson Plans and More
Boo! Creating Halloween-Themed Projects: Researching the Holiday to Create Your Own School ‘Topics’ Page
Haunting Ideas: Halloween in the Classroom and ‘On the Street’: Using an Audio Slide Show to Inspire Visual Projects
The Horror! The Horror!: Exploring the Conventions of the Horror Genre in Film and Literature
The Only Thing We Have to Fear…: Exploring Beliefs in the Paranormal and the Appeal of the Horror Genre
Words That Will Haunt You: Writing Personal Essays for a Halloween Literary Reading
Soulfully Remembered: Creating Collages Inspired by Day of the Dead Rituals
Frighteningly Fabulous Festivals: Exploring Halloween and Other Spirited Holidays in Various Cultures
Cemeteries Are Historical, Not Solely Grave: Examining Graveyards as Historical Sites: A Social Studies or Language Arts Lesson
The Telltale Hearts of Writers: Exploring the Lives of Authors Through Their Literature
Fear Factors: Confronting Childhood Fears Through Creative Writing
The Freaky Future of Halloween: All Hallows Read: An Idea From Neil Gaiman
Times Articles and Multimedia
Times Topics Pages
Our Best Halloween Recipes
Selected Times Articles and Op-Eds
House Haunters A professional tells how to haunt a house.
Halloween, Instagram Style Celebrities and their creative costumes, from 2016
What Door-to-Door Tradition Came Before Trick-or-Treating? The story of Ragamuffin Day
No Rest for the Eerie What accounts for our continuing fascination with haunted houses?
You Want Haunted? We’ve Got Jeffrey Dahmer in the House Vampires, ghosts and other villains are noticeably absent at this haunted house on the Lower East Side.
Halloween Costume-O-Matic An Op-Art guide to Allhallows Eve outfits that can be fashioned from items easily found around the home or office.
The Thinking Reader’s Guide to Fear Article defending the horror genre.
Be Somewhat Afraid Article on the state of the art of horror films.
2017 Times 360 Video | Visiting R.L. Stine
2016 Video | Technology App Smart
2016 Video | Killer Eye
2016 Video | Obamas Have Fun With Trick-or-Treaters
2013 Video | Ghost Hunting
2014 Slide Show | The 41st Annual Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village
2014 Slide Show | Halloween, 19642012 Graphic | A House of Horror Films
2012 Slide Show | Street Style: Stylish Halloween Costumes
2011 Video | What's the Scariest Film You Ever Saw
2011 Slide Show | Scene City: Heidi Klum’s Halloween Party
2011 Video | Becoming Gaga and Minaj
2010 Interactive | Readers’ Halloween Costumes
2010 Video | ‘Memento Mickey’
2009 Op-Art | Nightmare on Your Street
2007 Slide Show | Halloween
2007 Video | Where It’s Spooky All Year Long
2006 Slide Show | Halloween Across the World
2005 Slide Show | Hooray for Halloween
Times Trivia Quizzes
The Films of Alfred Hitchcock
The Witching Hour
From Around the Web
The Guardian | A Sinister Soundtrack for Your Student Halloween Party
The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows Historical essay on Halloween from the American Folklife Center, part of the Library of Congress.
American Folklore: Scary Ghost Stories A collection of classic and newer scary stories and podcasts.
TeachersFirst: The Interactive Raven Interactive version of the Edgar Allan Poe poem “The Raven,” highlighting vocabulary and literary devices.
Free Scary Halloween Sound Effects Sounds and music, including the scream from “Psycho” and the theme from “The Exorcist.”Continue reading the main story
- Place a small piece of dry ice in a heavy plastic glass, and pour punch or a soft drink over it and watch it fizz.
- Mix a punch and add drops of food coloring to give it strange colors.
- Have plain yogurt and let kids put in sprinkles, crumbled cookies, chocolate chips, and other yummy stuff. This is great for kids that like to experiment with different items.
- Balloon popping. A great game for teens, blow up balloons, tie them off, and staple them to a backboard made from a heavy cardboard box, then let the kids throw darts to burst them. If you like, add a prize label behind the balloon, and when it is popped, the person wins the prize. This is for teenagers and older, not small kids.
- Water Balloon Toss. Find a volunteer to stick their head out of a hole cut in a sheet of plywood, and let the kids throw water balloons at him/her. A popular (or not) teacher, or some other "prime" target makes it more fun!
- Lawn Bowling. Buy a set of cheap, plastic lawn bowling pins and balls. Set up a cardboard lane with side rails to keep the balls from straying, and have a volunteer to set the pins between players.
- Fishing for treats. Find, or build, a very large box, and have a volunteer hide in it. Let the children dangle lines from fishing poles with clothespins attached into the box, where the concealed volunteer attaches treats and tugs the line, indicating a "bite".
- Ring toss, ball toss, or horseshoe toss. All are essentially the same, set up a target, and let the kids throw at it. You may have more than one "score target", for instance, a smaller hole would have more point value than a larger one.
Have a Karaoke stage. Set up your Karaoke machine and let the kids have fun singing with the music. For more fun, make a "Gong Show" parody out of it.
Hold a Cake Walk. Set up a course, usually a circle or oval, and lay out squares along the path with numbers. Turn music on, and as the walkers are following the path, turn the music off, signalling the people to stop. Call out a number picked randomly, and the person on that square wins the prize.
Rent a rock-climbing wall, a "Moonwalk", or an inflatable slide. These should be supervised and age limits should be established for the individual attractions.
Make sand bottles. Get colored sand from a craft supply store, and empty, clear bottles, and allow participants to pour multicolored layers of sand in the bottles to make a unique craft.
Hold a costume contest. This is a fundamental attraction at many Halloween carnivals.
Have a bobbing-for-apples booth. This may not be appropriate if there is concern about the sanitary and hygienic issues, but this was the standard for many years at Halloween parties.
Cookie and Cake Decorating- Let the kids decorate pre-made cookies or cakes with frosting and sprinkles, for a delicious treat!
Monster Lollipops- Get large tootsie pops and put a tissue over the lollipop. Tie the tissue to the lollipop and decorate with googly eyes, pom-poms, and other craft materials and remember to be creative.
Tattoos- Use temporary tattoos on the kids. Let the kids choose from a wide selection of the tattoos. You may also have face painting and draw cute pumpkins and stuff.