Happy Halloween writing is some of the most fun writing we get to guide our students through during the school year. But Halloween is also a unique holiday because it embraces the scary, mysterious, and spooky parts of life. These tips will ignite your class’ happy Halloween writing so it matches the mood of the holiday. Instead of reading predictable stories, you will be surprised by your students’ spooky stories.
Why We Need More than Halloween Writing Prompts
Having a few great Halloween writing prompts is not enough for your students to create interesting and well-crafted stories. I have given my students awesome Halloween writing prompts to kick start them and the results were less than desirable. There have been days where getting my wisdom teeth removed was a better experience than reading and grading their writing. Grading writing takes a long time, and often the writing is weak so grading feels arduous. It feels defeating when this is the result of my hard work.
Self-Reflecting on How I Teach Writing
Have you ever dreaded grading writing like me? I wonder if it’s a lack of motivation and effort by the kids or if I’m making a mistake as a teacher. Maybe it’s a bit of both. There is one thing we can control and do something about, so I’ve chosen to focus on that. We can examine our process for teaching writing and try to make some changes.
The hard part is my teacher training did teach me how to determine what makes each type of writing unique and steps that make it accessible to my students. If your training didn’t cover the tips, tricks, and tools beyond writing prompts, then you’re in the right place
Do We Give Our Students Enough Guidance to Create Happy Halloween Writing?
Likely, we haven’t given our students enough guidance on how to craft amazing Halloween writing. It’s not on purpose, but because most teachers are not taught how to teach writing. Our training is a lot of talk about theories, not actionable steps.
I’m guilty of giving my students an awesome writing prompt and expecting creativity to follow. As I read the prompt, I could imagine endless possibilities of what my students would write. With some mini-lessons and lots of time to write the results were disappointing.
Great Tips from the Web to Teach Entertaining Halloween Writing
When I was searching for tips about how to teach Halloween Writing I had trouble finding what I was looking for. There were many lists of writing prompts. The lack of tips supports my theory that we need more training on how to teach it. Here are a few sites for you that do offer some straightforward and great prompts.
The Secret to Happy Halloween Writing
As adult writers, these tips might seem like obvious components of any written piece, but to a student learning these tips for the first time, it is a groundbreaking experience. You are simply scaffolding what will make their Halloween writing more successful in detailed steps.
Students will gain a better understanding of what they read and watch in this genre. Their increased understanding of not just writing, but everything they see in this genre will help them add new dynamic levels to their work. By using these tips in your classroom, you are scaffolding the steps to Happy Halloween writing.
Character Tricks That Make Happy Halloween Writing
The character in a Halloween story needs to face a lot of challenges along the way. It’s part of what makes a story suspenseful, scary, and mysterious. But don’t jump into challenges immediately. Before the writer starts to put their character through challenges, they need to let the reader get to know the character a little bit. After a little attention-grabbing setup, your students can start making their character face challenging obstacles, even if it’s a trick-or-treating story. There are some ways to ensure the main character is challenged as much as possible.
1. Isolate the main character. I have yelled at the tv too or said to the book, “Just stay together!” But the main character wouldn’t be challenged enough if they didn’t split up to investigate. Having a friend to depending on makes the main character stronger, which is why they go missing all the time. Putting a character in small tight spaces like closets, hallways, or refrigerators can be used in a similar way to isolate the main character.
2. Remove the main character’s comforting items. I know this is a school writing project, but these are just examples. Maybe the main character had a weapon for protection and it’s gone, dropped in a lake, or taken by the antagonist. If the character has a car or bike so that transportation is easy, maybe the keys get lost, or a tire goes flat. It can be as simple as a flashlight battery dying. Any of these items that made life easier are lost by the main character, creating another obstacle.
3. The last thing any struggling character needs is a good antagonist. Or should a say bad? You want the bad guy in the story to be the perfect match for your hero. When I think of great antagonists I think of Loki from the Marvel Universe, Coriolanus Snow from the Hunger Games, and Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter. These antagonists were the perfect match for the heroes.
The antagonist shouldn’t just be a bad guy but should contrast the hero. The antagonist’s motivation needs to be clear and established. I think students often forget to explain the antagonist’s motivation. The actions of the antagonist should match the magnitude of their motivation. A neighbor’s dog pooping on their lawn shouldn’t lead to a blood bath. But stolen Halloween candy could be a reason to egg houses.
Mood Tricks That Create Happy Halloween Writing
The mood of a Halloween story is supposed to be very different from personal narratives. Your students should be trying to capture the anticipation and suspense of a scary Halloween night. Here are some tricks you can teach your students about writing a spooky Halloween story.
1. The pace of the story matters a great deal. It does not mean it has to be fast, it can be slow (like a zombie). The pace isn’t just created by the events in the plot, but by how your students write. Long sentences tend to create dread or anticipation. A short sentence can follow and raise the reader’s heart rate as well as move the story along. The pace should be addressed though. I might make this a mini-lesson during the revision process.
2. Does the story have a ticking clock somewhere? Have you noticed many different Halloween stories use ticking clocks? Often Halloween the characters must do something before midnight and throughout the story, the church bell rings each hour or another clock reminds them of their task. It adds pressure and anticipation to the mood of the story.
3. Another way students can to add anticipation and suspense to Halloween stories is by using literary devices. Here are a few examples. Foreshadowing is when the writer drops hints about the big finale of the story. At the end of the story, the reader is like, “Of course! That makes so much sense because of this detail I read earlier.” Onomatopoeia is a great way to create suspense. Words that mimic the sounds they create are an effective tool to create suspense. Put the creepy sounds with a vague description and the reader’s imagination will start to go into overdrive coming up with so many scary possibilities. Alliteration is another tool that helps create mood in Halloween stories.
Genre Tricks That Make Happy Halloween Writing
This is a mix of several tricks that can’t be easily categorized. But if you help your students implement them you will be happy with the results.
1. Try having your students integrate another genre into their story. For example, maybe it’s a historical thriller, political thriller, or paranormal mystery. By categorizing the story in a more specific way it’s going to help your students have a better focus as they write. The increased focus will also make their story a better read too.
2. Twists and cliffhangers keep the reader engaged. They are not required but can make a difference. Twists are the unexpected turn in the story. Cliffhangers keep the reader reading. Cliffhangers are the partial information at the end of a paragraph, chapter, or episode that makes you want to stay right where you are to read or watch more. These can be challenging, but fun to play with as a writer.
3. The story must make sense. The character’s actions need to make sense to the character, and the audience should understand the character’s reasoning.
My thoughts always go to the car insurance commercials where one guy is like let’s go in the car and leave, and everyone else says no let’s hide in the chainsaws and knives. It doesn’t make sense.
The stories our students write cannot follow this example. The stories our students write must do better than that. The main character’s actions need to make sense and be believable to the audience, even if it requires a logical explanation for the reader. Otherwise, the reader puts down the book and stops reading or the teacher takes out his/her correcting pen to dock points.
How to Start Writing Without Halloween Writing Prompts
Halloween writing prompts are a great way to get students to start writing, but if your students struggle or get too literal with prompts another route might be better.
1. What is the main character’s goal? Survival, protecting loved ones, or solving an unsolved mystery? It helps to clarify the main character’s motivation with or without a prompt.
2. Then identify the main character’s fears. There are three main types: instinctive, monsters/supernatural, and society. Instinctive fears include the dark, spiders, snakes, heights. Monsters and supernatural are vampires, ghosts, demons, and witches. Society tackles fears like racism and mental health. Likely your students will be working with the first two because these are Halloween stories.
3. If your students are still struggling to get started, ask them what they were afraid of when they were “little” and try to get them to tap into that. The perspective they had when they were younger brings out more fears. My two-year-old asks me all the time, “Mama, what was that?” because he’s afraid.
Begin the Happy Halloween Writing Assignment
Now your students just need to start writing. They can revise and fix it later. Just write. You on the other hand need to decide which tips you will introduce before and during writing. Then determine with tips you think will help during the revision process.
Tapping into Halloween Writing Tips from the Masters
Halloween writing is no joke. It’s harder than a lot of other types of writing we ask our students to create, but it’s also more fun. As you take on the challenge, I wanted to provide you with some more articles and options for your Halloween ELA block. Here are some tips from some of the great spooky stories writers for you to check out.
Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry
Halloween is just one day of the year and your writing projects are probably only for the week or two before. Here is a poetry writing lesson for FREE. My Our School poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets make this the perfect lesson for your classroom.