Number one for English language teachers

Webquest: Halloween

This spookily-themed webquest by Luke Vyner includes activities on the history of Halloween, popular traditions, global celebrations and terrifying tales. It is free to all onestopenglish users.

To download the printable student worksheet and teacher’s notes, please click on the links to the right of the screen.

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What do you know about Halloween?

Activity 1: Halloween’s history

Visit http://www.history.com/topics/halloween and read the first section entitled Ancient origins of Halloween. Look for the answers to these 13 (unlucky for some) questions. Share your answers with your classmates.

  1. Where is the celebration of Halloween thought to have come from?
  2. The Celts occupied an area of land covering six modern day countries. Name at least four of them.
  3. Why did the Celts celebrate ’Samhain’ on the night of 31st October?
  4. What did the Celts believe the ghosts of the dead would cause damage and trouble to?
  5. To commemorate the event, what did the Druids build?
  6. What costumes did they wear?
  7. What did they re-light to help protect them from the coming winter?
  8. By 43 AD, who had conquered the Celts?
  9. What two other festivals were combined with ’Samhain’?
  10. After many changes due to the spread of Christianity, what new celebration was created in 1000 AD?
  11. What were the similarities between this day and ’Samhain’?
  12. What was another name given to this celebration?
  13. What was the night before called and what did this finally become?

Discussion

  • Are you surprised by the history of Halloween?
  • Do you know any other stories about its origins?
  • Are there any celebrations in your country that have a strange and uncertain history?
  • Do you agree with this type of celebration?
  • Do you believe in ghosts and the supernatural?

Activity 2: Popular Halloween traditions

Jack O’Lantern

Read the introductory paragraph taken from http://www.history.com/topics/jack-olantern-history and then describe the Jack O’Lantern tradition to your partner. Then, read the full article entitled ’The Legend of Stingy Jack’. Look for the answers to the following questions. Share your answers with your classmates.

  1. The Jack O’Lantern tradition originated from which Irish myth?
  2. What did Jack do with the coin instead? Why?
  3. Under what condition did Jack free the devil?
  4. What trick did Jack play the following year and how did he prevent the devil coming down from the tree?
  5. What happened soon after?
  6. What problem did Jack then face?
  7. What did the Irish call Jack’s ghost?
  8. What did the Irish then begin to make and place in their windows and doorways and why?
  9. What did the vegetable become in America?

Apple-bobbing

Read the first paragraph of this website link about the rules of apple-bobbing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_bobbing. Answer the following questions and share your answers with a partner.

  1. How is the game played?
  2. Why are apples used?
  3. What do players use to catch the apples?
  4. What part of your body are you prevented from using?

Trick-or-treating

Read the first paragraph of this website link about the tradition of ’trick-or-treating’: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trick-or-treating and answer the following questions, sharing your answers with a partner.

  1. What do children ask for when they travel from house to house? (Note: the answer is an American word, do you know the British English equivalent?)
  2. What question do the children ask?
  3. What is usually the ’trick’?
  4. Since when has this tradition been practised in North America?
  5. What do homeowners who wish to participate usually do to their houses?
  6. In what countries did two traditions similar to trick-or-treating already exist?
  7. What were these traditions called?
  8. What was different about these to current trick-or-treating traditions?
  9. Trick-or-treating has become prevalent in countries outside of America - what do the children ask for in Mexico?

Discussion

  • Have you ever practised any of these traditions? If your answer is yes, which is your favourite? If your answer is no, what do you think would be your favourite?
  • Have you ever seen a real carved-out Jack O’Lantern? Have you ever designed one yourself? Would you like to make one with your classmates?
  • Do you think you would be good at apple-bobbing? Would you like to have an apple-bobbing competition with your classmates? Who do you think would win?
  • Would you be interested in going ’trick-or-treating’? If yes, what would be your costume of choice? What trick would you play?
  • If you had some children knocking on your door would you opt for giving them a treat or accept the trick?
  • How do you think people from your country would respond to trick-or-treaters?

Activity 3: Halloween around the world

Although Halloween is often seen as a predominantly American celebration, you’ll be surprised to know that many countries around the world also celebrate Halloween. Many have their own unique traditions.
a. Tell your classmates if and how your country celebrates Halloween.
b. Your teacher will give you a country to research from this website link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween_around_the_world. Before you begin your research, consider the following questions:

  1. How long has your chosen country been celebrating Halloween?
  2. What unique traditions does it have?
  3. What costumes do people dress up in?
  4. Why has Halloween become popular there?

Note: you may not find information on all these questions, but as you read, write down any other interesting facts you discover about your chosen country to share with your classmates. Write your answers in note form and share them with your classmates.

Activity 4: Terrifying tales

Go to the following website and find a list of titles to scary ghost stories: http://www.americanfolklore.net/spooky-stories.html. Scroll down and click on ’Hairy toe’ and ready the story. Answer the following 13 (unlucky for some) questions below.

  1. What was the woman digging up to cook for dinner?
  2. What did she uncover?
  3. Why did she put ’the hairy toe’ in her basket?
  4. What did she cook with ’the hairy toe’?
  5. Later that night, what did the voice coming from the woods say?
  6. Was the voice heard in the same place or was it getting closer?
  7. Where was the voice coming from when the old lady woke up?
  8. What did she do when she jumped out of bed?
  9. Where was the old lady when she saw the massive figure in her doorway?
  10. How did the old lady respond to the figure?
  11. What finally happened to the old lady?
  12. What was the only clue of her disappearance?
  13. What was distinct about the footprint?

Go back to the list of stories and choose one that interests you. Read it and make notes in your own language. You may need to use a dictionary or ask your teacher for help with the vocabulary. Once you’ve completed your notes, share the story with your classmates. Did you manage to scare them with your tale?

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Readers' comments (10)

  • Thanks Claire, we're glad you like it!

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  • I'm so glad you included The Hairy Toe in this. It's our favourite scary story to read at home. We use a children's version illustrated by Daniel Postgate which is full of onomatopoeia to enhance the scary sound effects. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hairy-Toe-Daniel-Postgate/dp/1406322520

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  • Sorry for the delay. Due to a technical glitch we've only just been able to amend this.
    Best wishes,
    The onestopenglish team

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  • Hi Chris,

    You are absolutely right! It should have been something like territories!
    Thankfully you've corrected that little mistake!

    Best wishes

    Luke

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  • Question 2 ".... three modern day countries". Really???? The UK is not one country, but in itself encompasses Scotland, Wales and England - that's three; add in Ireland and France and if my arithmetic doesn't fail me there are FIVE modern day countries. You need to be accurate in things like this.

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  • Sorry again my pad is mad! Rate 4 and activity now are the right words

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  • Sorry it's first time for me I wanted to reate fuor stars! Interesting attivity for Halloween

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  • Thanks, this will motivate my students!!

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  • I really found these activities very interesting and challenging for the pupils! Great!

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  • that is great...thanks a lot.

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