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Lesson Plan

Ghosts and Fear in Language Arts: Exploring the Ways Writers Scare Readers

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Ghosts and Fear in Language Arts: Exploring the Ways Writers Scare Readers

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English


Materials and Technology

Student Interactives






  • A book of scary, suspenseful short stories such as one of the following:

    • Short Circuits: Thirteen Shocking Shocking Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults edited by Don Gallo (1992, Delacorte)

    • A Haunt of Ghosts, stories by Aidan Chambers and others (1987, Harper & Row)

    • A Nightmare's Dozen: Stories from the Dark edited by Michael Stearns (1999, Laurel Leaf)

    • Ask the Bones: Scary Stories from Around the World edited by Arielle North Olson (2002, Puffin)

    • The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror edited by Stephen Jones (2002, Carroll & Graf)

    • The Campfire Collection: Spine-Tingling Tales to Tell in the Dark edited by Eric Martin (2000, Chronicle Books)

  • Scary, suspenseful books for students to examine more closely. Books by such authors as R. L. Stine, Jane Yolen, Christopher Pike, Caroline Cooney, Jay Bennett, Stephen King, and Diane Hoh will work well for this project. ALA's What Teens Want (in the library, that is) and Horror Fiction for Young Adults from Monster Librarian are useful resources for finding appropriate horror books. Alternatively, students can go to the library to select a book for this project.

  • Chart paper, overhead projector, or LCD projector.

  • General classroom supplies—markers, poster paper, chart paper, and so forth to be used as students work on their Fright Fair Projects. The specific supplies you provide will depend upon the amount of time students spend in class (versus at home) working on their projects as well as the options that you suggest for the project (e.g., if students can produce a video for the project, they'll need access to video recording equipment).

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Grades   K – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing


Students generate descriptive timelines and can include images in the description.


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  1. Select scary short stories from an anthology to share with the class.
  2. If you prefer, you can kick off the lesson by asking students to share stories they have heard about unexplained incidents or the appearance of ghosts. Usually students will share stories of close relatives who had a recently deceased family member appear to them a few days after the death, or they may know of instances of objects moving in a room or doors opening and closing mysteriously or sites at which strange things happen. When the story sharing is finished, have students jot down in their journal or notebook a few words about the stories they found the most intriguing or the scariest. This may provide them with topics or ideas for their own stories later. The Teaching the Epic through Ghost Stories lesson plan also provides resources that you can use to introduce this activity.
  3. Make copies of the Fright Fair Projects handout and the "Eek! Why we love to scare ourselves silly" article for each student.
  4. Before students take part in the Fright Fair, make arrangements for other students meeting at the same time as your class to visit.

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