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Scary Movie Activities for Secondary ELA That Will Leave Your Students Shook This Halloween

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Spooky Season is upon us, and I can’t wait for all the chills and thrills! Growing up, Halloween was always such an exciting time in my neighbourhood. My mom would blast Thriller and the Ghostbusters theme song from a bedroom window while trick-or-treaters came to the cob-webbed door, ready to fill their makeshift pillowcase bags with Mars Bars and Skittles.

As a teenager, I had an odd fascination with the paranormal, signing books out from the library on all things ghostly and unexplained, and this interest only intensified as I got older. In university, my best friend and I went to see every single paranormal themed horror movie in the theatres, wearing hoodies so we could slowly tie them around our faces during the scary parts. I still remember being among the first to see The Blair Witch Project, when audiences were still under the impression that this was actual footage recovered from the Black Hills of Maryland, or going to see every Paranormal Activity movie to put together all the pieces in the saga of Toby.

Once I became a high school teacher, my love of all things creepy crawly came to good use as a Student Council advisor. Some of my favourite memories in my career involve the haunted houses I helped to create with my students. Creating a compelling storyline and finding innovative ways to set up all of the scares really gets my creative juices flowing.

Reflecting on my love of spooky cinema, I recently researched the real life stories behind famous haunted houses depicted in horror movies. The result is a new resource that I can’t wait to detail for you below. But, let’s not stop there!  Without further ado, I give you three scary movie activities for secondary ELA to leave your students shook this Halloween.

1. Reel Life Haunted Houses

Shadowy figures, creaking doorways, and bumps in the night! Ghost stories have provided spine-tingling entertainment for centuries, but the best and most terrifying tales are those based on true events. In the last hundred years, many horror films have taken inspiration from real-life paranormal occurrences. My new resource, Reel Life Haunted Houses, reveals the bone-chilling details in the history of five real-life haunted houses, and the famous films that shared their spooky stories on the big screen.

Students will read about five real life haunted houses that inspired the films, The Amityville Horror, The Conjuring, Winchester, Poltergeist, and The Shining. After reading, students will choose one of eight creative writing short story prompts to extend the ghostly stories even further.

2. MOVIE VILLAIN ORIGIN STORIES

3. TWISTED TAGLINES

Help your students embrace the dark side with a fun creative writing activity that requires imagination, and a willingness to explore the twisted back stories of memorable villains in horror film history.

Students can brainstorm famous villains from horror films and write about a key moment in their history that led to their villainy. Instead of writing an entire backstory for their chosen character, a more interesting approach is to write in the style of a personal narrative, detailing a specific memory from the past.

Provide students with a variety of famous horror movie posters with the original taglines removed. Students can come up with their own taglines based on the title and cover imagery.

A variation of this activity would be to provide students with horror movie posters with the taglines removed, as well as slips of paper with all of the taglines. Students can race in teams to place all the taglines on the correct posters. 

Happy Haunting!

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