Ghost stories are fun at any time of year, and they’re perfect for Halloween.
You need to tell or read ghost stories aloud. This can be an excellent way to introduce some classic literature, delve into folklore, or start a study of short stories. Read a few and then let students pick their own from the library. Here are some of our favorite collections of ghost stories:
- In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories is for emerging readers (I Can Read Level 2). It includes The Ghost of John, variants on the ghostly hitchhiker and the story in which a decapitated person’s head is reattached with a ribbon, plus a couple of “jump” stories. It’s a good choice for younger elementary students.
- Favorite Scary Stories of American Children is a collection of folktales retold by professional story tellers from Silver Dollar City. There’s a little overlap with the previous book, but there are more stories, and they’re longer and more detailed. “The Hobyahs,” “Wiley and the Hairy Man,” and “Bloody Mary” are among the stories included.
- The Best Ghost Stories Ever is a collection of classics, including everyone from Poe to Jerome K. Jerome. “The Monkey’s Paw,” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and Bram Stoker’s “The Judge’s House” are among the offerings. Middle school, junior high, and high school students should enjoy these.
- Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories has 14 stories personally chosen by Dahl. They are varied and suitably spooky, and will be good choices for high school students. Excellent writers like E.F. Benson and Edith Wharton are among those represented, and there are also a couple of better known stories such as “The Upper Berth” and “The Ghost of a Hand.”
- An online collection of ghost stories contains all those you remember hearing around the campfire. We’re not going to suggest these for lit study, but it’s a great collection for folklore, or to refresh your memory so you can tell that favorite scary tale to the class.
- “The Teeny Tiny Woman” is a versatile ghost story, and the link will take you to our lesson plans for it if you want to get more detailed in your study.
Once you’ve enjoyed some ghost stories, aloud and also individually, it’s time to get writing:
- Read Oscar Wilde’s story, “The Canterville Ghost.” This story is hard to read for modern students, but it has been made into movies several times. As a class, figure out the events of the story and write them up on the board in episodes. Then divide the class into small groups and have each group write one of the episodes as a film script. For additional fun, polish up the script, practice it, and make a classroom movie. Whether you go so far as to make a movie or not, discuss what makes the original story hard to read, and how the class was able to simplify and modernize the story to make a movie.
- Have students ask older friends and relatives for local ghost stories, or ghost stories from their childhoods. Then have each student write a story based on the oral traditions they discover. Use the flowchart idea from our Mystery Genre Lesson Plan to organize the story.
- Is there a haunted house near you? We have The Crescent Hotel, and if you click on that link you can read about its ghosts. The article isn’t very well written and has some errors (“fan fair” for “fanfare” is one), so this would be a good opportunity to work on editing skills. In fact, we found that online articles about haunted houses tend to be poorly written, so you may be able to find a perfect proofreading opportunity. If not, have students write a story set in the local haunted house.
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