Updated: Oct., 2020
It’s October, and that means an opportunity for us to suggest some creepy creative writing, scary science, and candy-centric community service — all inspired by articles, images and video from The New York Times. Especially since, according to experts, many Halloween traditions can still be celebrated, even in a pandemic.
Below, six teaching ideas, including a new one just for 2020, followed by a list of even more resources, including writing prompts, lesson plans, Poetry Pairings, and more.
1. Investigate Spooky Science
Next, read the Trilobites article “A Scaredy-Cat’s Investigation Into Why People Enjoy Fear” to learn about how “each person’s threshold for experiences that provoke fear is made up of a unique recipe that blends nature and nurture.” Invite students to underline the lines or descriptions in the piece that ring true for them, either because they describe their own relationship to fear and thrill-seeking, or because they reminds them of someone else they know.
Then, invite students to do their own investigations into one of the ideas in this article, perhaps by researching the role of dopamine in thrill-seeking; by observing social conditioning and fear; or by interviewing others to learn more about fear-seeking as a way of testing oneself.
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?
Another option? Check out this truly terrifying series of photos in “Scenes of Quiet Horror in America’s Haunted Houses,” and choose one to be the setting of a story you invent.
Or, 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?
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.
6. Scare Yourself at Home in 2020