If your classes are anything like mine have been, Halloween is an unfamiliar yet intriguing holiday.
Most ESL students know very little about the spooky holiday at the end of October, and even fewer have been a part of Halloween celebrations. This collection of Halloween themed games will get your class in the trick or treat mood. Try them with your students as we approach the 31st.
Use These Activities for a Joyful Halloween Lesson
What am I?
Your students will have practice using descriptive words as well as learning Halloween vocabulary with this simple game. Simply give one student a card with a Halloween picture on it. (You can get plenty of Halloween pictures online. Try to include the following in your set: jack-o-lantern, black cat, candy, pumpkin, ghost, spider, spider web, monster, trick or treaters, witch, broomstick, haunted house, bats, ghost, Dracula, Frankenstein, and candy corn.) Then give that student one to two minutes to describe their picture to the class. The goal is to get the class to guess the object without telling them what it is. The class member who first guesses the object correctly gets a point. Play until everyone has had a chance to describe an object, and the students with the most points wins.
This sensory game will get some spooky items into the hands of your students and is a good review of touch-themed adjectives. To play, save up some old tissue boxes – square boxes with plastic around an opening in the top work well. Your students will be putting their hands in the box to feel the spooky items but should not be able to see what is inside. Label each box with a creepy title and put one of the following items inside: cold pasta (zombie brains), wet grapes (Cyclops eyes), a mixture of cornstarch and water (ghost goo), dried apricots (Frankenstein ears), pipe cleaners (tarantula legs), baby carrots wrapped in gauze (mummy toes), etc. Each student takes a turn coming to the front of the class and feeling what is in one of the boxes. He or she must then describe how it feels to the class using the appropriate adjectives or figurative language. If you like, follow up the activity by having students reach into each box and write a short description of how each item feels.
This simple game is good for reviewing present tenses and vocabulary associated with careers, animals, monsters or other areas which inspire typical Halloween costumes. Gather several pictures of kids in costume (try parenting magazines that often suggest how to make costumes for kids or look online), laminate them if possible, and put the pictures into a pile. One at a time, have students draw a picture and say what the child in the picture is dressed up as. If your student gets it right, ask him how he knows? The student should then give two or three clues that helped him decide. For example, if a student picks a picture of a pirate, his clues might include the following: he has a parrot on his shoulder; he is standing by a boat; he has a hook instead of a hand.
This Halloween spin on bingo tests your students’ listening skills as well as how successfully your students can remember vocabulary associated with the holiday. Give each students a blank bingo board, and have him draw a picture of a Halloween item in each empty box. (You will probably need to review the vocabulary before you start playing. See activity number one for some Halloween words.) Then play each round as you would normally play bingo, but call out the words that match your students’ pictures rather than numbers. Students will then have to listen for the word you call and then match that word with one of the pictures on their board (if they have it there). If a student has an item on his board, he marks it. The first person with five in a row wins.
Charades is always a good game to get ESL students speaking boldly. You can make this active competition Halloween specific by using charades that Halloween items might perform. Your list might include the following.
- Walk like Frankenstein
- Dracula drinking blood
- A witch flying on a broom
- Kids going trick or treating
- Carving a jack-o-lantern
- Giving out candy
- Running away from a monster
- Putting on a costume
- Bobbing for apples
Play in teams and see which team can get the most correct guesses from their classmates’ pantomimes.
If your students aren’t the type to get up and moving in front of the class, you can use the clues from Halloween charades to play Halloween Pictionary. Simply divide your class into two teams and have one student from each team come to the front of the room. Show them a Halloween word or phrase and watch students race to draw a picture for their team. The first team to call out the right answer gets a point. Once everyone has had a chance to draw, the team with the most points wins.
Monster Role Play
This group activity will give your students a chance to practice using modal verbs while thinking of some scary situations. Give groups of about four or five students a Halloween themed situation: Frankenstein is chasing you. Dracula asks you out on a date. A big spider tries to share your lunch. Someone plays a practical joke on you. Then have the groups discuss what they could, should or might do if they were in that situation. After a few minutes of discussion, ask each group to share their best recommendation with the class.
Get your students to think creatively with some scary story starters and Halloween transitions fit for a spooky tale. Prepare a deck of index cards with some story starters and transitions that your students can use to start or continue a ghost story. Then turn off the lights and sit your class in a circle. Give a flashlight to one person and have her draw a card from the deck of story starters. For three to five minutes, she should tell the spooky story to the rest of the class, and if she likes, include scary lighting (shining the flashlight under your chin) and spooky noises. When her time is up, she passes the flashlight to the next person in the circle and he draws a transition card. (All of a sudden, bats fly… Out of nowhere… You hear a scream and …)He then continues the same story for three to five minutes. Take turns around the circle until everyone has had a chance to add to the tale.
This game will test your students’ memories as well as their knowledge of Halloween vocabulary. Put together a tray with several (aim for twenty) Halloween themed items. (You might include a rubber bat, spider ring, candy corn, jack-o-lantern, mask, etc.). Show the tray to your class and review any vocabulary as necessary. Then cover the tray and challenge your students to remember as many items as they can. After 3-5 minutes, see how many items each person was able to remember and spell correctly. For subsequent rounds, you can place five or six items on the tray, show your students, have them close their eyes, remove one item and challenge them to remember which item is missing.
Do you see what I see?
This game will test your students’ general vocabulary knowledge along with their creativity. Start one round by projecting a scary picture in the front of the room. The more that is in the picture the better. Then students have five minutes to try and identify an item in the picture that starts with each letter from a to z. After five minutes, stop and see who came up with the most words and review any new vocabulary with your class. Play three rounds with three different pictures and add each student’s score for each round. At the end of the game, the student with the most points wins the game.
Do you have any favorite Halloween themed activities that you use to encourage language use with your ESL students?
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