Seven Scary Stories to Read in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love watching scary movies on TV, I love planning which costume I'll wear this year to my friend's annual party and I love reading scary stories with my high school students. Whenever I think of Halloween I think of Edgar Allan Poe.

I used to always teach "The Tell-Tale Heart" which is one of my favorite stories to teach this time of year. We'd start the story and then all of a sudden a student will say "Is this the story where....?" and all of a sudden the entire story is ruined for every kid who hasn't read it yet. "The Tell-Tale Heart is a wonderful story but so many ELA teachers teach it that you're bound to have a student that has read and can potentially ruin it for others. This scenario has happened with "The Raven" as well. I used to teach "The Raven" every year on Halloween but a few years ago I started doing scary story writing instead because too many students had already read it. This is especially true on the high school level. For this very reason I started looking for other stories to teach. Of course I still love to teach Poe but I tend to stay away from "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Raven."



Below is a list of seven scary stories that I've used successfully in my ELA classes.

"The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe

My students really like this story even though the narrator who is both crazy and an alcoholic abuses a cat. They like that not only does the narrator get caught, but he gets caught because of the second cat. I've used this story with students who were already familiar with Poe.

"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe

The one thing my students love about this story is that the narrator gets away with murder. Unlike the narrator in "The Tale-Tale Heart" and "The Black Cat," this narrator gets away with it. They always wonder exactly what the insults were but that's where our imaginations can fill in the blanks. This story can be used with any high school grade.

"The Bad Babysitter" by R.L. Stine

Most of my students are familiar with the Goosebumps books so when I use a short story by R.L. Stine they get excited. Although this story isn't as gruesome as Poe's stories there is an element of magic and mischief that makes this story ideal for Halloween. (I don't want to give away too much for those of you that haven't read it.) I've used this story with 9th graders in the past.

"A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner

This is a story that I would use with either 11th or 12th graders. When I taught AP Literature and Composition this short story was in the textbook. This story isn't a horror story with gore but it definitely falls into the category of Southern Gothic. The entire story seems like a sad love story until the very end when find out that not only did she kill him, but she slept next to his dead, decaying body for years (the grey hair on the pillow). Other things (that I won't mention here) often come up in student questions when we get to that unique ending.

"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

"The Lottery" is another story that is taught by so many teachers that you might run the risk of students ruining the ending. Despite the foreshadowing (the children gathering rocks, people being nervous about the lottery, etc) my students are always shocked by the ending. I always get questions about the setting and whether or not this story is non-fiction. This is definitely a story that students will remember. I've used this story with grades 9-12.

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

"The Monkey's Paw" is definitely a scary story and it even starts out on a stormy evening which you'd expect in this type of tale. I always enjoy the classroom discussions about our own three wishes. I usually do this story with upper grades because there is some difficult vocabulary in it.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

"The Yellow Wallpaper" doesn't seem like a horror story at first. It's the story of a woman who is sick and her husband decides to rent a house in the country so she can recover. What happens in the house is what makes this story a Gothic tale. The language is difficult because the story was written over 100 years ago so I use this story with 11th and 12th graders. This story always brings up discussion about gender equality and traditional gender roles.

I have a free PowerPoint lesson in my TpT store for the poem "Barbie Doll" by Marge Piercy. I often pair up the poem "Barbie Doll" with "A Rose for Emily" or "The Yellow Wallpaper. Sometimes I do all three works of literature.

I usually teach two or three scary stories and then the week of Halloween I have my students write their own scary stories using story starters. In the upper grades we don't celebrate every holiday the way that some do in the lower grades but Halloween tends to easily fit into the secondary ELA classroom.

You don't need to have a fancy color printer. You can print in grayscale and it still looks great. 

For years students have been fascinated by horror shows, horror films and horror novels. Utilize this time of the year to read some stories that will appeal to your students. You can always tie these short stories into the longer works you teach later in the year. (Compare and contrast characters, what would the narrator from ________ story do in this situation,? etc.)

I hope you have a hauntingly good time in your ELA classroom this fall.

2 comments:

  1. Where can I find a copy of "The Bad Babysitter"? I can't find it anywhere.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The thing that goes bump in the night. The reason you won’t ever let your right foot hang too far off your bed while you sleep. A nightlight to ward off the monsters lurking in your closet.

    If you had a normal childhood, your mother most likely tucked you into bed, read you a bedtime story full of princesses and princes and a magical land filled with dragons and fairies, and then planted a kiss on your forehead before saying good night.

    My childhood, however, involved no such thing.

    Instead, my mother read Bony-Legs. This was my first introduction to horror at the ripe age of 5.

    Read more at Avaaz Media for detailed story.

    ReplyDelete

 

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