The month of October brings a wide variety of emotions throughout schools everywhere. The end of the first nine weeks means that teachers have survived the first quarter of the year. The weather changes, causing vast fluctuations in attire and making keeping up with dress codes a chore. Then there is the sugar-infused finish line that kids focus on all month long. Halloween conjures up talk of costumes, candy, and monsters everywhere. So how can teachers take that excitement and harness it in the classroom? Why not find ways to utilize the monster stories that are celebrated this time of year? Here I will discuss how to use three popular Halloween monsters in the classroom.
First, let us discuss perhaps the most popular monster of all, Dracula. Most kids are familiar with the character of Dracula, but probably not the original story by Bram Stoker. This would be an excellent time to introduce it to them. The story itself is written entirely in the first person point of view (which is nice if you happen to be teaching POV), but by using diary and journal entries, Stoker is able to change characters. I enjoyed reading the varied experiences as they contended with the central character. A possible writing assignment would be to have students choose a scene in the story, and rewrite it by creating a journal entry from their perspective, and how they would have handled it. Personally, I found the story to be less scary than what Hollywood has come up with. Hopefully, students will too.
Probably the next most notable monster is the one created by Mary Shelley, in her novel Frankenstein. Students might be surprised to discover that the title character is actually the scientist Victor Frankenstein, and not the monster. This is a great text to use for when you want to talk about ethics and morals, and whether it is right to do something just because you can. As I mentioned before, though, most students are not aware that Victor Frankenstein is the scientist that created the monster, and not the actual monster. Which means that they are also unaware that the story becomes a story of revenge when Frankenstein refuses to create a bride for the monster. This would be a pretty awesome story to introduce reflective narratives with or argumentative essays. Perhaps even a class debate on whether Frankenstein should have taken responsibility for his creation or not. There are several possibilities when it comes to teaching this classic monster tale.
The third classic monster story is one of the few that takes place in the United States. Just about everyone has at least heard of the Headless Horseman and can picture the menacing figure racing along on his horse in the black of night with a lit jack-o-lantern where his head should be. The figure from Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is an amazing character that has been resurrected many times over the years (pun intended). The story itself is an excellent tale of brains versus brawn, be careful what you wish for, as well as letting the reader decide for themselves whether or not the Horseman was real. This could lead into a good classroom discussion, and could require the students to use evidence to support their claim. Two years ago, I had my students update the colonial tale to modern days and even give the Horseman a more updated appearance. I got some very creative responses back, and the students enjoyed being able to set the story in their hometown and use places they were familiar with. This story, as with any of these stories, could also be used in connection with Social Studies projects to understand the geographical location of the settings and the customs of the period.
I like to use the classic stories, mostly because they have been rewritten several times, and it is easy to find a version at different levels for differentiation. The introduction of these three classic monsters during the month of October, will not only keep the kids engaged during the monster-filled month, but also let them in on the origins of some of the most notable members of the popular Halloween favorites. It may even encourage some students to read other famous monster tales or create one of their own. However you choose to incorporate these stories into your classroom, I hope that you share it with others.
By: Shawn English
Teacher Practice Network
Author -- Teacher Practice Network
We are a cadre of teachers from Arkansas and Oklahoma brought together through APSRC and a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to empower teachers to find their own voice both in and out of the classroom.