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Top 5 Spooky Short Stories for Halloween and the Literary Elements and Skills to Teach with Them!

Uncategorized Sep 28, 2020

Stuck on how to introduce your Spooky Story unit?  I'd love to share how I start mine!

Spooky Story Beginning Lesson Plan

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Halloween Spooky Stories HAVE to be my favorite units of the year!!  All the suspense and mysteries left unknown just make me (and my students) so excited!  Below are my students' and my favorite spooky stories to read during the scariest month of the year and the literary elements and skills to be taught with them.

"The Tell Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe

This is a story of a deranged caretaker who labels himself as mad.  Every night for a week, he stalks the old man in his sleep and is convinced the old man's eye is evil.  He kills the old man on the 8th night and thinks he is successful until his mental illness takes over and the "heart beat" of the old man drives him completely mad, and he confesses to the murder.

Literary elements to cover-

Static and Dynamic Characters-track how the mad man changes from being arrogantly confident to deranged and confesses of his crime.  What contributed to his change?  What makes the old man static and unchanging?

Suspense-analyze how the 7 nights of stalking leads the reader to remain in suspense.  Discuss how the standoff on the 8th night elevates the suspense.  Finally, how does the process of the mad man going completely deranged lead to the reader's suspense?

"All Summer in a Day" by Ray Bradbury

This is a futuristic story of a colony on the planet of Venus.  The sun comes out only once every 7 years and the rest of the time, it is only dark, dreary rain.  Margot, who had only come to the colony 5 years prior, still remembered the sun which makes her a target for her jealous classmates who hadn't seen the sun since they were two.  Her depression because of the lack of sun made her remember it fondly but only angered her classmates.  Out of jealousy and hatred, her classmates lock Margot in a closet and forget about her on the very day that the sun returns.  As they enjoy all summer in a day, Margot frantically tries to free herself from the closet. Her classmates only remember their vengeful act once the sun has disappeared for another 7 years and when the rain had returned.

Literary Elements to Cover-

Symbolism-Analyze how the grey darkness and the rain symbolize Margot's depression and unhappiness in her new home.  Analyze the symbolism of the students' action of locking Margot in the closet in relation to the sunshine.

Inferencing-The short story leaves the reader wondering what happened to Margot.  We know that she was very down with the lack of sun and that the students locked her in the closet causing her to miss the sun again.  When they approach the closet, all is quiet...and that is all the information we get.  Bradbury crafts an ending that leaves the audience complicit in the story.  We must determine how bad off Margot will actually be when the closet door is opened.  Students can use text evidence to justify their thoughts.

"The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs

This is a story that is suspenseful from the beginning.  Broken into parts, the author tells a story of making a wish on a haunted monkey's paw and the consequences of testing fate.  The author spins a tale that shows readers that they don't always get what they wish for and attempting to change fate can have devastating consequences.

Suspense-Because this story is broken into parts, it is ideal for teaching how these breaks build suspense.  Additionally, the knocking on the door at the end of the story is an excellent scene to analyze character actions and events in relation to building suspense.

Tone and Mood-Through the events revolving around the character wishes, the author builds a dark mood relaying a tone that is cautionary about testing or changing fate.  Character reluctance to make a wish and the ultimate catastrophe that "grants" the desired outcome of the wish makes the tone apparent for students. 

"The Open Window" by H. H. Munro (Saki)

 A young caretaker of a retreat house shares with her visitor the tale of the tragic death of the retreat house's owner.  The guest takes pity of the owner's widow as she sits daily and waits by an open window for husband's return. The visitor's pity turns to horror as he sees the husband emerging from the moors.  He bolts from the retreat house as if he had seen a ghost, never to return.  

Irony-This is an excellent story to teach irony because the reason the visitor was at the retreat center was to find rest and relaxation to cure his stress and anxiety, only for that stress and anxiety to be exasperated by the sight of the returning man.  Furthermore, the irony is enhanced by the reader experience since the reader (and the caretaker/niece) is the only one who knows all sides of the story and the truth behind the husband's return on that day and the visitor's quick departure.

Flashback-The reader learns much about the guest's reason for visiting the retreat house through a flashback.  This story is an excellent text to use in analyzing the flashback's effect on the story.  Students can determine the effectiveness through eliminating the flashback or rewriting the scene to include the information in a different format.

"The Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury

Embarking on a time-traveling dinosaur hunt and safari, Eckels is consistently and urgently reminded to stay on the path his guides had set out before him to ensure the past is not altered.  When a close encounter with a T-Rex sends Eckels running in terror, he finds himself far off the path and in deep water with his guides.  As the group hastily heads back to present, it is discovered that Eckels killed a butterfly on his departure from the path.  Eckels will have to deal with the anticipation of what his world will hold now that he has altered the past and the consequences of his mistake.

Foreshadowing-The warnings heeded to Eckels and his uneasiness throughout the story serve as incidences of foreshadowing throughout the story.  The author crafts various places along the story that exhibit prime places for predictions, allowing Monitoring reading-The story is rather long, but it provides ample opportunity to teach students to how to monitor their understanding.  This goes hand-in-hand with foreshadowing and predictions.  In those same stopping points, also include comprehension questions.  Additionally, demonstrate how to annotate the story with text examples to answer questions and the examples of foreshadowing to make predictions.

There ya go!!  My students love these stories, and I know yours will too!  Do you have some other great ideas?  I'd love to have you share them in our free Facebook group! 

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Are you interested in receiving my lesson plan for introducing this Spooky Story Unit? I'd love to share it with you!  Spooky Story Introduction Lesson


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