Urban Legends Reading Race: Halloween Lesson Plan

039332358701_bo2204203200_pisitb-dp-500-arrowtopright45-64_aa240_sh20_ou01_sclzzzzzzz_1.jpgHolidays from your own country provide the perfect opportunity to break the mold and shake things up a bit with an activity that’s not from the text book. Here’s one developed right here at the TEFL Logue.

You can start by asking students to share a scary story or ghost story they know – all the better if it isn’t even one that happened to them, but which is told and retold in their culture because this can help you introduce the term “urban legend.” Choose three urban legends a couple of paragraphs long from a site like snopes.com or Urbanlegends.com (my own picks follow) and stick them up on three different walls.

Write the titles on the whiteboard and give students a short time to stand up and scan each story to match each title to a story. Next, each student (or pair) gets a set of several slips of paper with one question on each. The goal is to find the answer to a question, write it on the paper, and check it with you before going on to the next question. The procedure for this reading race is described in more detail in Teaching Reading.

You can finish the activity by assigning each student one of the stories to retell…but in the first person, as if the story happened to him or one of his friends.

Note that scary urban legends very often deal with topics like death or crime; do put some thought into whether these topics will be okay with your students. My feeling is that for a young, fairly advanced group, many urban legends are fine; for older or more serious people, or people who don’t really get that these aren’t true stories, they may not go over as well. I’d make sure it’s clear that the stories are just legends, and aren’t really true.

I’d use these with a strong Upper-Intermediate or Advanced group. They don’t need to understand all the vocabulary to appreciate the stories, but if there are too many new words to understand the text, this can weigh down the whole activity. The questions are not particularly challenging, but when they are mixed up, students do have to think about which story they come from.
Three urban legends I chose: The Vanishing Hitchhiker
The Babysitter And The Man Upstairs
The Killer In The Backseat

Questions on these:
What kind of dress was the young lady wearing?
Why did the young woman have to sit in the backseat?
Describe the man who opened the door when the driver knocked:
When was the young woman killed?
Who did the woman go out with for drinks?
Why was the woman scared?
What was the woman going to do when she got home?
What was the man sitting in the backseat of the car holding?
What was the babysitter doing when the phone rang?
What did she think after the first phone call? What did she do?
Who was waiting outside the house for the babysitter?
How had the murderer entered the house?