With the launch of 'English for the Zombie Apocalypse' tomorrow and Halloween coming at the end of the week, I've been thinking about the use of horror in the classroom. One of the most successful activities that I created for iT's for Teachers magazine was called The House. In fact, when I looked for it in the iT's archive yesterday, I discovered that we published it three times between 1995 and 2005. In the activity, students describe a picture of a creepy house (one of Piet Luthi's wonderful illustrations for the magazine) and then find out why the house is cursed by ordering the horrific story of its first owner. They then use picture prompts to create and write their own horror stories about the lives and deaths of the other owners. Finally, they read out their stories preferably by candlelight.
Over the years, we created related activities for The House to introduce some horror vocabulary that you don't normally find in course books, to look at the ingredients of a good horror story, and to analyse the structure of a story and the different tenses used. By using horror as the theme, students can really let their imaginations run wild. They not only enjoy using the language, they inevitably want to know new words and phrases to include in their stories. In my opinion, horror can be a great way to get teenagers engaged in learning.
So while waiting for tomorrow's launch of 'English for the Zombie Apocalypse', here's a link to download The House in case you'd like to try it in class. The PDF has the teaching material and includes teaching notes. There's also a short audio in which Derek Zinger, the talented designer (and actor) who designed the magazine, reads the story of Professor Eckenthorpe.