Not-So-Scary Storybook Activities
Put a literary twist on the season of bats, ghosts, and pumpkins.
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
October calls for a Halloween-themed lesson in literature. Here are six ways to help students celebrate the season while reading for comprehension and identifying setting, characters, and plot — even scripting their own spooky stories!
Create a Seasonal Books Bulletin Board
Encourage independent reading with student-recommended books. Provide a list of October-friendly titles, then ask each student to select a book with a favorite creepy character, a fall theme, or one that focuses on seasonal creatures such as bats, owls, or spiders. (For more book recommendations, see below.) When students have made their selections, have each complete the Not-So-Scary Storybook October Reproducible (PDF), naming their book and why he or she would recommend it to a classmate. Display the completed printables on a seasonal bulletin board.
Optional: Extend the activity by having children discuss their choices in small groups.
Make Reading Response Journals
Create Halloween-themed reading response journals to get the most from independent reading sessions.
- 9- by 12-inch piece of orange construction paper, one per student
- 6- by 9-inch lined paper, 12 pieces per student
Step 1: Give each student a piece of the orange construction paper and a dozen sheets of the lined paper.
Step 2: Show students how to fold the construction paper in half to make front and back booklet covers.
Step 3: Insert the lined paper, and staple the journals together along the fold.
Step 4: Have each child title his or her booklet (e.g. "Halloween Reading Journal"), then decorate the cover with crayons or other materials.
Step 5: After every independent reading session, ask students to record their reactions and ideas.
Optional: Host a special Halloween reading event. Ask students to bring in small flashlights, and set the mood with a recording of a thunderstorm at low volume. Light candles or a Jack-o'-Lantern, and have children read by the glow of their flashlights. Afterward, ask students to write in their journals about how the spooky environment enriched their reading experiences.
Hold a Story Setting Read-Aloud
Teach an important story element — setting — by selecting a favorite read-aloud passage that describes a place. For example, the third chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone describes the gloomy, sea-battered, storm-shattered shack where Harry and the Dursleys stay. As you read, have students close their eyes and listen carefully for descriptive words and phrases. Afterwards, prompt them to recall some of the language the author used and list their responses on chart paper. Then ask each child, guided by the chart, to draw on a piece of a paper his or her own picture of the same scene and a few sentences describing the drawing. Use the completed pictures to prompt a discussion of how each listener interprets the scene differently.
Script Suspenseful Settings
Challenge students to create their own suspenseful settings, inspired by the vivid descriptions in many tales of the season. Cut several cloud shapes from black construction paper and lightning bolt shapes from yellow construction paper. Add a lightning bolt to each cloud, then attach the clouds to bulletin board paper. Now, have students suggest setting-related word categories, such as time of day and year, weather, place, sound, and smell. Using chalk, write each category on a black cloud. Ask students to brainstorm a list of words for each category, recording them on the clouds. Finally, have students write descriptive paragraphs that begin with "It was a dark and stormy night," using words from the clouds.
Create Character Paper Bags
Unleash students' creativity with character bags made of paper lunch sacks.
- Brown paper bags, one per student
- Construction paper
- Collage materials
- Glue or tape
- Lined paper
Step 1: Have children each select a favorite seasonal book character.
Step 2: Ask students to use the construction paper, crayons, markers, paint, collage materials, etc., to create that character's portrait on one side of the bag.
Step 3: Have students describe the characteristics and the behavior of their chosen literary figure on a piece of lined paper, then staple it to the back of the bag.
Step 4: Invite students to present their character bags to the class by providing clues from the character studies they wrote in Step 3. Have the class guess each character's identity before it is revealed.
Optional: Display the bags for a storybook party, placing treats inside each bag.
Write Spooky Stories in Groups
Invite students to write their own tales of the season in cooperative groups. On chart paper, write columns for "Characters," "Settings," and "Problems." Write the same headings on three paper bags. Now ask students to name some of the characters, settings, and problems in the stories they've read and record their ideas on the chart. Cut out each idea from each category, and place them in the appropriate paper bags. Divide the class into small groups. Have each group draw one idea from each of the three bags, and tell students to write a story using the random elements they've selected. When finished, have each group read their story aloud, adding sound effects for drama.
Optional: Host a Halloween Reader's Theater by having groups use props when presenting their stories to the class.
No tricks, just treats! Dig into these frightfully delightful tales.
- Author R.L. Stine's Favorite Scary Books
- List of All Books by R.L. Stine
- Goosebump Books for Halloween