Boo Boo

Halloween is just around the corner and I have the week ahead to put in practice many activities related to this festival that seems to have taken hold around the world. The thing is that every time I want to focus my teaching on celebrations I find that, on the one hand it’s a wonderful way to teach culture and diversity but on the other hand I don’t see the point of teaching seemingly useless vocabulary such as jack-o-lantern, witch or reindeer. That’s why I have decided to not only have a cultural purpose but also a language one and use this opportunity to review or consolidate other topics.

Vocabulary Pumpkin words
Prepositions Where’s the pumpkin?
Do you have…? Do you have a pencil in your pumpkin?
Rhymes Pumpkin rhymes
Colors Pumpkin color
Alphabet Alphapumpkin
Numbers Two pumpkins rolling in the park
Cross Curriculum Growing pumpkins

Pumpkin words

Every year students are exposed to Halloween vocabulary, whether we like it or not, witches and skeletons are usually within the first 100 English words a child learns. A good way refresh this year-in year-out vocabulary is to  make a mini book that will be a good reference tool for the following activities. We can also have a poster on one of the walls ready to check a word at any time:

Halloween word booklet (from http://www.activityvillage.co.uk)

Halloween word poster 1 (from http://www.activityvillage.co.uk)

Halloween word poster 2 (from http://www.activityvillage.co.uk)

Where’s the pumpkin?

Let’s review some of the prepositions by decorating a house for Halloween. This activity can be done in several ways, I like to do a picture dictation:

Have students cut out the pictures on page 2 of the worksheet. Give instructions, asking them to stick them in various places, such as: The pumpkin is in front of the door, the cat is on the roof and so on. Note that there are many picture to stick, my suggestion is to have some selected for following the teacher’s instructions and the rest  to decorate the house as they want, writing the name beneath each of them. All teacher know that kids love to have an outlet for their own creativity.

Worksheet (from http://www.activityvillage.co.uk)

Do you have a pencil in your pumpkin?

Have students make a pumpkin basket. Use little flashcards from other topics, it can be just pictures or just words. Tell students to work in pairs. Choose a topic to review and tell students to put some flashcards in the basket. In turns they ask:

-Do you have a pencil in your basket?

– Yes, I do. Do you have a crayon in your basket?

This is a great way to review vocabulary while be in the Halloween mood. This can of course be changed for “Have you got” if you are teaching with UK coursebooks that have yet to change to the simpler American/International form. They can later use the basket for their treats!

Pumpkin rhymes

There are many activities to recognise words which rhyme. An easy rhyme is ending in -at such as cat, bat, hat. For me, it’s easier to find these kinds of activities in Literacy books for native speakers than in EFL books, but this will probably(hopefully?) change with time.

There is one magazine that I particularly like that is The mail box. Even though it is intended for native speakers and covers other areas (Science, Maths) I find it a great tool especially preschool,  grade 1 and grade 2-3 as these can in many cases be used directly without adapting them, or can be used in a grade or two higher than originally intended for non-native speakers. After all, in the end we are teaching children and many of the techniques and ideas can be transfered to ESL.

The picture shows some examples of the worksheets you can find there (in the magazine).


We can practise the alphabet while focusing on Halloween. We can use capital or lower case (small) letters. Print one worksheet for each student. Have the students color the letters they hear. You can make it more festive by picking the letters from a Halloween bag like a bingo or play any exercises dealing with the alphabet that you find on the coursebooks CD’s. You can practise the whole alphabet or just a few letters each time like in the picture.

Worksheet 1: Capital letters (from http://www.makinglearningfun.com)

Worksheet 2: Small letters (from http://www.makinglearningfun.com)

For more activities related to the alphabet check Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Stay tuned for more activities.