Halloween Tips and Tricks for Secondary ELA

Don’t you just love fall?  The crisp air.  The changing of the leaves.  Pumpkin spice everything.  OK, OK, I live in a sunny Southern California beach town, so my imagined fall is always better than my fall reality, but that’s alright. 

With fall here once again, I'm joining up with some amazing secondary ELA teachers for a seasonal blog hop, Halloween Style.

For me, part of the fun of fall is Halloween.  Not only do I love to see my own kids dressed up for trick-or-treating, but I love to teach spooky stories around this time, too.  And how better to celebrate this season than with Poe and the Dark Romantics. 

Come on! How cute are my pirate and parrot in this oldie but goody?  Back when they still let me dress them in themed Halloween costumes.
Now, once fall hits, I’ve already been in school for several months.  Routines are established, procedures are down, and our classroom environment has been determined; students are now willing to show a little more of themselves and take a few more risks than they would at the start of the school year.  What better time than now for spookiness?

For my younger students, I love teaching “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe.  Not only is this an amazingly creepy story, there are so many great supplementary resources to use.  I absolutely love the audio of the story read by Iggy Pop.  It was recorded for the album, “Closed on Account of Rabies,” which was a compilation of Poe short stories read by celebrities, but you can find this story on youtube HERE.  The background noises are haunting and Pop’s voice takes on the crazed persona of the narrator.  I turn off the lights and use flickering battery-operated candles and the kids LOVE it.  After that, I use my Close Reading unit for the short story, where after reading, student have to complete a Police Report to fill in the details of what happened.  The original film adaptation from 1941 is a great wrap-up for this short 2-day plan.

For my juniors, I love to teach about the Dark Romantics in the fall.  Again, Poe, Hawthorne, even Dickinson, plus contemporary tie-ins?  The 11th-graders get sucked right in.  For this unit, I introduce the unit with an informational powerpoint, allowing students to use my CLOZE notes organizer.  They then analyze two short pieces, Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil” and “The Raven” by Poe.  I show them a presentation of Dark Romanticism in contemporary culture, focusing on music, architecture, fashion, film, literature, and pop culture (they LOVE this presentation and get so excited to see pieces they’re familiar with).  Finally, students are assigned a group project where they present their findings after reading two more pieces of gothic lit and analyzing two pieces of pop culture.  These projects are interesting and unique, and allow students to take charge of their learning.

I'd love to hear what you're doing in your classes this Halloween.  

Happy Halloween!


  1. I love that your Dark Romantics unit demonstrates how Gothic elements are still used in pop culture today -- what a great way to intrigue students and inspire them to learn more about story elements!

  2. Your boys are so cute in those costumes! Thanks for sharing your story ideas.

  3. Adorable pictures of your boys!! Great ideas here too! Happy Halloween!

  4. Your boys are adorable! They've grown so much. Thanks for sharing your great ideas and resources!

  5. Great idea to show that Dark Romanticism is still used in modern day. It does help students to make connections.

  6. I just love that picture of your boys! They look absolutely adorable!

    Thanks for sharing such great ideas. I've never heard the Iggy Pop version of "The Tell-Tale Heart". I am definitely about to check it out!

  7. I'm going to check out the Iggy Pop version as well. Thanks for the idea!

  8. Thanks for introducing me to the different media versions... I hadn't seen those before! :-)


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