To be perfectly honest, I am one of those people. You know, those people who love to go all out for holidays. I especially love celebrating the holidays in my classroom, which is a great way to make learning fun for students! But, when I do celebrate holidays at school, I try to always make sure that the holiday-themed activities align with standards I am teaching. During October, one of the best ways I have found to do this is by using Halloween Read Alouds!
You may be thinking Halloween read alouds are not for upper elementary students, but older students enjoy listening to Halloween books just as much as primary students. Best of all, Halloween picture books not only work well for ELA. They are also great with other subject areas and for SEL (social and emotional learning).
Here are some of the best books to read during Halloween with your upper elementary students and how I use them in my classroom. You can also download my FREE Halloween Read Alouds Checklist and Worksheets for even more books to use as Halloween read alouds and worksheets to go with them!
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Great Halloween Picture Books for ELA
One of the most obvious ways to use Halloween read alouds is during your ELA instruction. Halloween stories work great during whole group instruction as a way to introduce or review reading skills. Often, I will start a lesson by reading a Halloween picture book to the whole class. Then, students will use the stories to practice reading skills during centers and guided instruction. Here are three of my favorite Halloween books to read during my ELA instruction.
Does anyone else struggle to come up with fun ways to teach poetry? If so, Mother Ghost by Rachel Kolar is for you! Mother Ghost is a Halloween book full of fun poems. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce students to different types of poetry and encourage them to write their own Halloween poems.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
I love showing my students the Charlie Brown holiday movies, but did you know there is also a Halloween book to compliment the It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown movie? Try reading the It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown book by Charles M. Schulz and Maggie Testa to students before showing them the movie. As students watch the movie, they can compare and contrast what they are watching to what they read.
After the movie, I have students rotate through Great Pumpkin-themed centers that I have created. The Halloween activities students complete at each center allow them to practice a variety of reading and writing skills.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson is not a true Halloween story, but it is about a scary monster! In the book, a mouse avoids being eaten by inventing a Gruffalo, a creature that frightens all the other animals in the forest. Throughout the story, the mouse describes the Gruffalo’s appearance, although the Gruffalo is never actually shown until the end of the story.
As I read to the class, I have students use context clues to determine what the Gruffalo actually looks like by drawing pictures. When the Gruffalo is actually revealed at the end of the story, I have students compare their drawings to what is illustrated in the book.
Top Halloween Read Alouds for Science
Things such as pumpkin life cycles and bats are science topics, so there are many Halloween picture books that can also be used during your science instruction! Here are a few of my favorite Halloween read alouds for teaching and reviewing science skills.
Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell tells the story of a pumpkin named Jack. The story begins when Jack is carved into a jack-o-lantern and ends when his seeds are planted to grow a new pumpkin. This fall
Upper elementary students love STEM challenges! Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman is a great Halloween read aloud to introduce a holiday-themed STEM challenge. In Big Pumpkin, a variety of silly Halloween characters attempt to move the biggest pumpkin ever so that they can make pumpkin pie. After reading, divide students into groups and give each group a mini pumpkin. Then, give each group materials and a set amount of time to design a device that can move that pumpkin from one location to another. This is certain to be one of your student’s favorite Halloween activities!
Like The Gruffalo, Stellauna is not a true Halloween book, but bats are a fun topic throughout the month of October. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon is about a bat that is raised by birds. After this read aloud, I like to set up bat centers. At each center, students learn more about bats and how animals fly. One of my favorite bat centers is a sentence and fragment sort with bat facts.
Best Halloween Books to Promote SEL
SEL stands for Social and Emotional Learning and is a popular topic in education right now. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL is “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” You may be surprised to learn there are several Halloween picture books that can be used to help get students thinking about their own emotions and the emotions of others. Use these Halloween read alouds as part of your morning meeting or classroom community time.
There’s a Spider in This Book!
There’s a Spider in this Book! by Claire Freedman and Mike Byrne is a silly story for kids about a spider who doesn’t understand why people always scream when they see him. Throughout the story, the spider shares that even though he may look scary, he also has many positive attributes. Using this book, start a conversation about a time students thought someone was mean or scary and then found out they were actually nice. Also, encourage students to find positive attributes in each other.
What Was I Scared Of?
We are all afraid of something! Our fears may seem silly to others, but they are real to us. In What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss, the main character is terrified of something. By the end of the story, he learns to overcome his fears. Using this story, have students discuss the things they are afraid of and how they can work to overcome those fears.
Dia de Los Muertos
Part of SEL is helping students understand the emotions and ideas of others. Since our cultures often influence our emotions and ideas, it is important for students to learn about the traditions associated with other cultures. During the month of October, use read alouds to introduce holidays celebrated instead of Halloween in other countries. Dia de Los Muertos by Roseanne Greenfield Thong is a fun way to introduce Mexico’s Day of the Dead to your classroom. In addition to learning about the Mexican holiday, students will also be introduced to Spanish words. If you have Spanish-speaking students in your class, they will be especially grateful that you are taking time to recognize and celebrate their traditions at school.
Using Halloween read alouds with upper elementary students is a great way to celebrate the holiday while covering important standards. I like to use at least two read alouds per week through the month of October. I do not just use the read alouds during my ELA instruction. I also use them during my science instruction and morning meetings. If you are looking for Halloween books to use with your students and activities to go with them, the list above is full of suggestions and ideas to help you get started!
Looking for even more Halloween read alouds and activities to go with them? Check out my FREE Halloween Read Alouds Checklist and Worksheets. This resource includes a complete list of Halloween books for upper elementary, activities to go with those books, and worksheets to help students review reading skills while you read.
For even more Halloween ideas for your upper elementary classroom, you can also check out my Halloween Classroom Ideas for Upper Elementary blog post!