Posted 26/10/11
The Life and Death of a Pumpkin won the Best Short Film and Best Concept at the 2006 Chicago Horror Film Festival. It was directed by Aaron Yonda, who is probably best known for his part in the Chad Vader series. Note that some of the language in the story is quite grotesque. Please be aware of this and be sympathetic to your students.
  • Language level: Intermediate; Upper intermediate (B1; B2)
  • Learner type: Teens; Adults
  • Time: 45 minutes (+ Follow up)
  • Activity: Reading (+ Writing follow up)
  • Topic: Halloween; Horror
  • Language: Past perfect
  • Materials: Video clip; Worksheet
Halloween horror story pdf [downloaded 10584 times]

Lesson plan summary

  1. Write the following on the board and ask students to suggest words that could fill the gap:
  2. __________ story

    (Possibilities include: sad, news, love, ghost, horror, tragic, true, etc)

  3. Tell students that they are going to hear a story. Write the following questions on the board:
    * What type of story is it?
    * Who do you think the main character is and what does he look like?
  4. Play the video clip from 0:12 to 3:00 but importantly, do not let students see the screen. Ask students to consider the questions from Step 2 as they listen.
  5. Note: It is very important that you play the video / audio from 0:12 after the words “I am a pumpkin. Hello”. If your students hear these words, the main task will be ruined.
  6. Let students share their ideas.
  7. Give out copies of the word cloud. Tell students that it contains some important words from the story. Clarify the meaning of any new words or allow students to look up definitions in a dictionary.
  8. Ask students to reconsider the questions in Steps 2. Perhaps their ideas have changed now that they have seen the word cloud.
  9. Give out copies of the Horror Story worksheet (see below). Let students follow the text as you let them hear the clip a second time (0:12 – 03:00). Ask students if they can work out the missing word. Ask them to write down answers rather than shout them out.
  10. Halloween Horror Story


    I am a ________________. Hello

    In the beginning, my life was peaceful: Days spent with my family in the garden; The sunlight warming my skin. Peaceful.

    Until they came without warning – cruel hands dragging me roughly from my dreams into a wheeled box.

    I was carried past my brothers and sisters and friends. My family. I cried out for rescue but my kin remained silent and unmoving, perhaps fearing similar fate.

    My home began to fade in the distance. And suddenly, everything went dark.

    When I came to my senses, I saw that my abductors had placed me on hard grey earth. I was afraid I had just been left to die. Now I know if I had, I would have been lucky.

    The pain was incredible. I became dizzy – I felt sick. They had cut a giant hole in my skull and were now tearing my innards from my body and throwing them in front of me, like ribbons from a gift.
    Moments later, the knives returned, stabbing me over and over again.

    What made those people do what they did that day?  I do not know. I began to think they were playing some sort of mad game especially when they put a really big knife inside me and just sort of waved it around.

    When the cutting was done I sat in shock, not daring to think that the torture might be at an end. But of course it was not.

    They lowered a stick of hot fire into my belly. Burning, burning flame.

    My captors had carved a gruesome visage into me, as if this was all some kind of sick joke. Who were these sick people and why had they done this to me? Why? Why? Why?
    Note that some of the language in the story is quite grotesque (e.g. “They had cut a giant hole in my skull and were now tearing my innards from my body…”). Please be aware of this and be sympathetic to your students. Perhaps you should let them know that they will soon realise that the story is not as bad as it sounds.
  11. Go around the class and ask students to show you (i.e. only you) what they have written for the missing word.
  12. Note that students should not share their ideas with each other at this stage. It is very likely that someone will work out that the missing word is pumpkin. As long as this is not made public, you will be able to prolong students’ curiosity and engagement.
  13. Go over and clarify any new words or language in the text. In some cases, you will be consolidating students’ understanding of individual words from the cloud. In other cases, you will be dealing with new phrases (e.g. I came to my senses = I regained consciousness). Also draw students’ attention to the bold phrases in the text and ask them to guess what they refer to but don’t tell them the answers at this stage.
    * A wheeled box (= a wheel barrow)
    * Hard grey earth (= a door step)
    * A stick of hot fire (= a candle)
    * A gruesome visage (= a face)
  14. Show students the clip (audio and video) from the very beginning until 3:00 – the same stopping place as before. Students will now realise that the protagonist is a pumpkin. Perhaps they know about Halloween and this custom in particular. If not, tell them about it (find out more at the “Jack-o’-lantern” entry on Wikipedia).
  15. Ask students to predict what happens next in the clip before playing it to the end.
  16. Past perfect practice: Tell students to put away their texts and dictate the following sentences:
    * Who were these sick people and why had they done this to me?
    * When I came to my senses, I saw that my abductors had placed me on hard grey earth.
    * My captors had carved a gruesome visage into me.
    * They had cut a giant hole in my skull and were now tearing my innards from my body.
    * I was afraid I had just been left to die.
  17. Ask students to compare what they have written before identifying the common grammar point (the past perfect). Finally, ask them to put the sentences into the correct chronological order before checking their answers by looking at the texts again.

Comment

Some gentle changes have been made to the actual transcript. In most cases, this has been an attempt to replace lower-frequency terms (impaling, strewn, nauseated, etc) with their higher-frequency synonyms (stabbing, thrown, sick, etc). Although students may not notice such changes, it is something that you may decide to discuss with them (see Follow ups below).

Follow ups

  • Tell students that you changed some of the language in your transcription. Give out copies of the Actual Transcript (provided in the PDF file). Ask students to compare the two transcripts to find out what lchanges were made. This is a potentially interesting activity which can lead to discussion on why teachers and course book writers amend or simplify language for learners.
  • Find out how students celebrate Halloween in their own country or if they have a similar festival.
  • Ask students to write their own horror stories for other everyday objects or food (boiled eggs, strawberries being made into jam, a golf ball, carpenter’s nails). There are other clips on YouTube that could be used for inspiration. E.g. show the Screaming Eggs clip with the sound turned down and ask students to write an account from one of the victims.
Posted 26/10/11

24 Responses to Halloween Horror Story

  1. Magda says:

    This lessonplan is fantastic! My students are going to have a lot of fun tomorrow. Thanks for sharing!

    ps. There is also a film ‘The Life and Death of a Christmas Tree’ :)

  2. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Magda

    I am always interested to hear how this lesson plan works with teachers and their students. I hope yours weren’t too scared!

    Thanks for the other clip. I had never seen it before. It was uploaded last year and was created by the same guy(s) as the ‘Life and Death of a pumpkin': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZ4b7-offis

    Jamie :-)

  3. Callie Wilkinson says:

    Thank you :)

    Just to confirm: if you’re students hear ‘I am a pumpkin’ at the start, it’s does detract slightly from the activity (bl*?!y computer skipping about)…they still found it fun and interesting, though – I know that for a fact because they told me so!

    Happy Halloween!

  4. Jamie Keddie says:

    Oh bugger!
    I downloaded the video from YouTube and then used video-editing software (Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, etc.) to snip off the first few seconds. The potential problem is exactly the same for the video used in these activities:
    http://lessonstream.org/2011/04/21/television/
    http://lessonstream.org/2010/04/24/animated-poem/
    Oh well, at least they enjoyed the activity
    Jamie :-)

  5. Callie says:

    Aha, yes, Clever editing. Was also thinking earlier that a screen capture tool like Jing would provide a good (illegal?) alternative to (illegally?) downloading things from the internet…

    Do you have any good lesson suggestions for proofreading and homophones, by the way?!

  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    A lesson plan four homophones and proofreading? Their must bee lots of possibilities. Why knot give students a text fool of homophone mistakes. Then ask them two proofread it. Sorry that is a really bad idea :-(

  7. Callie says:

    …hmmmm…which raises another question: are ‘full’ and ‘fool’ Scottish homophones? Hehehe :)

  8. Jamie Keddie says:

    Ha ha – I knew you would ask that. Yes they are.
    I’ll give you some more:
    * wok and walk
    * ant and aunt
    * pool and pull
    These are our homophones and we are proud of them. We will fight for them too so watch it!
    J :-)

  9. Callie says:

    Have now GOT to tell you this…my friend has a Scottish boyfriend…called Jamie…but that is not the story…this is…she spent a considerable time thinking his neighbour’s dog was called ‘Prawns’…it only transpired when she said goodbye to the dog one day, that its name was, in fact, ‘Bronze’…too funny…

  10. Jamie Keddie says:

    Ha ha
    That is a funny story. The funniest thing is the idea of a dog called ‘prawns’! Sounds fishy!
    J :-)

  11. Beth says:

    I just did this lesson with my intermediate class. They loved it, thanks!

  12. Jamie Keddie says:

    Great to hear Beth. Was is a late Halloween activity? If so – great idea. Takes your students by surprise!
    Jamie :-)

  13. Beth says:

    I just ignored that it was related to halloween! They didn’t guess it was a pumpkin though. In fact, when they first listened to it they looked a little freaked out. I think they were relieved when they saw the video.

  14. Aaliyah says:

    This is so sad. I am never eating or buying a pumpkin ever again. :'(

  15. Jamie Keddie says:

    Or eggs :(

  16. Lisa says:

    LOVE your lesson plan!
    Thanks for sharing!
    I’m gonna try it next week for Halloween!

  17. Jamie Keddie says:

    Good luck Lisa
    J :)

  18. Tim says:

    Great video and lesson idea. Thanks

  19. alejandro gonzales says:

    It made me remember Mr. Allan Poe, ´the father of terror´. The lesson plan is eassy to follow, and it is smooth. Great job!

  20. Jamie Keddie says:

    Yes – very Poe-ish. Glad you enjoyed it Alejandro.
    Jamie :)

  21. hege says:

    This lesson plan is very good! Thank you for sharing, I had a great lesson using this material.

  22. Jamie Keddie says:

    Happy to hear it Hege
    Happy Halloween
    Jamie :)

  23. Taide says:

    Wow! I really like this one. I’ll try it with my PET and FCE students this week. Thanks for sharing :-)

  24. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Taide
    Good luck with the activity. Hope it doesn’t spook out your students!
    Jamie :)

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