High School English Lesson Plans for Use at Halloween

Even high school students enjoy having an excuse to dress up in costumes that require a bit of creative thought and consideration of their own talents and personalities. Halloween is an opportune time to allow students to sort through top novel lists to select just the right clothes to don in a parade of literary characters. A lesson might literally take to the streets in an actual parade, or the teacher might have groups of students form themselves into a still life portrait, called a tableaux vivant of individuals from the pages of classic novels. Jeremy Ehrlich, with the Folger Shakespeare Library, offers additional insight into the tableaux vivant as a teaching tool.

Halloween Lesson Plan: A Tableaux Vivant of Literary Characters

By the time October rolls around, high school English teachers have developed a rhythm. Teachers know students’ names and work habits. Students know the expectations. First report cards have gone out. It’s time for a break in the monotony of it all. Halloween is an ideal time to do something different. The bewitching holiday provides an excuse to be silly, creative and dress up as a literary character.

Teachers can decide whether they want the final product to be an active parade of diverse personalities and costumes, or a still, motionless grouping, or tableaux vivant, of individuals frozen in time, or at least for long enough to capture a digital photo of the gaily bedecked entourage.

Top Novel Lists: A Wealth of Literary Characters From Which to Choose

Have students brainstorm and come up with literary characters whose fancy clothing and accessories might evolve into Halloween costumes. Let them consult existing book lists of classic novels to add to the master list.

Lists might include characters from assorted literary works:

  • The Three Musketeers
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Iliad
  • The Odyssey
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • The Woman Warrior
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Moby Dick
  • Cyrano de Bergerac
  • Hamlet
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Pygmalion
  • Frankenstein
  • Antigone
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Gulliver’s Travels
  • David Copperfield
  • The Diary of Anne Frank
  • Les Miserables
  • The Odyssey
  • Mythology
  • Gone With the Wind
  • Tom Sawyer
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Jane Eyre
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • A Tale of Two Cities

Lesson Plans for High School Students Should Involve Research Into Literary Characters

Teachers should urge students to select vivid, colorful characters that are readily identifiable just by observing the way they look, the accessories they carry and the way they position themselves in the frozen portrait or literary parade of characters.

Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales by itself gives students a chance to make themselves over as a nun, a priest, a poor country farmer, a knight, a squire and a middle-classed woman wearing new shoes and flowing scarves. Add to the mix a Greek goddess or two, Harper Lee’s Scout and Boo Radley, Scarlet O’Hara and a musketeer or cartload of Joads from the Oklahoma dust bowl.

Students should also come up with a reason behind their selections. They should choose appropriate, in-context details when putting together their outfits and character combinations. Characters who make up a group should align with a group-selected theme or motif. In other words, form must follow function. Something must tie their final creation in a logical, orderly manner. Part of the assignment for the group is to come up with a cohesive concept or idea from within top novel lists.

Halloween Learning Activities Should Spark Student Interest Levels

High school English lesson plans need not be tedious and blah every day of the year. Holidays are a perfect excuse to step outside the box and engage in a bit of histrionics and even silliness while studying literature. Wise is the teacher who incorporates a bit of freedom and fun into his Halloween lesson plans.

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