From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."

Simple Halloween Activites and Lessons for ESL Students


Halloween is not as popular in Korea as it is in other countries, but some hagwons and  schools here hold Halloween parties and festivals for students. Halloween is one of my favorite school events to prepare for because there are a lot of activities that I can incorporate in my lessons. I’m going to share some of these activities.

Let’s get the ball rolling! ^^

WHAT’S IN THE MYSTERY BOX?20161024_102130

This has been a favorite of my students.  I’ve used it as a springboard for teaching the five senses and for describing objects.


A box (The size depends on the items you are going to put in the box.)

Paper for wrapping (It can be colored paper, leftover gift wrap, newspaper, etc.)


Halloween-themed objects (For example: scary masks, furry item as werewolf’s tail, cooked spaghetti as worm, gelatine as slime, old T-shirt splattered with ketchup to make it look bloody, dried chicken bone as part of a skeleton, Halloween decorations, etc.)



Wrap the box to make it look presentable. Make a small hole on top of the box just large enough for a hand to squeeze through. Draw question marks around the box. Place all the objects in the box.


Have students take turns in touching one of the objects in the box. Encourage the student to describe the object by using expressions like “It feels… It sounds…” The student can move or shake the object inside the box to have an idea of what it sounds like, but he can’t take it out until he gives at least three descriptions. The rest of the class tries to guess what the object is. The student who guesses the object gets a candy. If no one can guess what the object is, ask the student to show it to class. The class describes the object using other expressions such as “It looks… It smells…” You can’t ask a student to taste random objects, so prepare something that can be eaten (for example: a candy, a chocolate, worm jelly, etc.), so “It tastes…” can also be used in making descriptions.



What’s great about this activity is that you can use it for elementary and middle school students. With my younger students (Grades 1 to 3), I give them a pictionary and have them cut and glue pictures randomly on their bingo cards. I don’t ask them to write down the words, because younger students take a lot of time to write; some can barely read. Besides, the little ones enjoy cutting and gluing. Bogglesworldesl is a great site to find Halloween printables. They even have a bingo card generator, so your students don’t have to cut and glue pictures or write down words on their bingo cards. If you have a smaller class, I suggest you use the bingo card generator, but if you’re printing cards for 20 students or more (let’s say, for your public school classes), it would be better to use an empty bingo card.

My 4th to 6th graders enjoy word searches, so I have them do word search before they write the terms on their bingo cards. Islcollective has tons of these word searches. On the other hand, I give my middle school students crosswords and have them select words to jot down on their bingo cards.


Worksheets (vocabulary/pictionary/word search/crossword)

Bingo cards



I’m not going to give a how-to, since everyone knows how to play bingo, but here are some tips:

  • Say the first word.
  • Have students take turns saying a word.
  • Give students tidbits of information about the words or ask them questions as you play the game. This is an excellent way to review their vocabulary and encourage speaking.
  •  It’s up to you how many bingos they should make. I usually require them to make 3 bingos.
  • The first student/students to make 3 bingos gets/get a bigger prize or more candies.



This is more suitable for upper grade and middle school classes, because you’ll be showing the students pictures of scary movie characters. You know how the younger ones easily get frightened.

This activity is perfect for teaching adjectives or adjective phrases.


Pictures of well-known scary movie characters like Anabelle, the clown from the movie “It”, Chucky, Samara or Sadako from “The Ring” etc.

*** I’ve prepared a PowerPoint Presentation for this game. If you’d like to use it, feel free to comment or message me.



Group students. Each member should get a chance to answer. You can assign each member a number and ask, let’s say, all number 1 members to stand and put their hands up. Show part of a scary movie character’s face and describe that character. Say “Guess who?” as a signal for students to clap their hands if they want to answer. The student who claps his hands first gets to answer.  If the answer is correct, you give the group a point. The group with the most number of points gets the price. After someone guesses who the character is, you can show the character’s whole face and ask students questions like “What does he/she look like?”, “What is he/she wearing?”, “What is he/she holding?”, etc.



Below is the video I used for this activity…

I had the students watch the video first, then we prepared the ingredients and materials and started making candy apples. Our candy apples were not as impressive as the ones  in the video, but the students had so much fun making (and eating) them.


  • Stay away from caramel! Just use chocolate or syrup. Removing hardened caramel from the dishes and other utensils was a backbreaking task!
  • Assign chores in groups, so after the fun, you won’t end up cleaning everything by yourself. (My students were awesome!)



Lower grade classes will surely enjoy this activity. I used it for the first time as part of my lesson on “can” and “can’t”, but in one of my classes in the hagwon last year, it was one of my Halloween activities.


Paper bags (large enough to have a student fit his hand in it)

Coloring materials

Colored paper





Tell students a brief story about Frankenstein. Prepare visuals. Tell students that they will be creating their own monster out of a paper bag. Show them samples. (You can make your own mask or find some in the internet.)


For smaller classes, have students talk about their monsters one-by-one. Afterwards, the class chooses the best monster who will get a candy or a prize.

For bigger classes, divide the class in groups. Have them sit in circles according to group. Members take turns in presenting their monsters. Each group chooses the best monster. The chosen members line up in front of the class after the presentation, so the entire class can see their masks. The class votes for the best mask. The winner gets a bigger prize. The others get consolation prizes.



This activity is intended for classes in the intermediate or advanced level of English proficiency. I’ve used this activity in my 5th grade classes. They vary in level of proficiency, but most of them can write simple essays and stories.


A scenario (Pinterest has a lot of writing prompts for composing Halloween stories.)

If you want it to be more exciting, you can have students make simple props, too. Provide color paper and coloring materials.


When I gave my students this activity, I showed them a picture of a haunted house, asked them how they would feel and what they would do if they were in that house. I gave them a script and asked them to finish the story. (If you want a copy of this script, message me. I’d be more than willing to share. ^^)

I assigned groups and gave them ample time to write their scripts and practise how to deliver their lines.

We didn’t have a lot of time, so I skipped prop making and did not require students to memorize their lines.


I always end my classes with a short Halloween clip before or during Halloween party or festival. When we have more time, I play a movie or an animation. Below are some suggestions:

Mr. Bean Halloween Specials

Pinky’s Halloween Spook-tacular

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Twilight Zone


I hope you find this article useful. If you have other Halloween activities to share, you may include them in the comment section.


This gallery contains 7 photos


First Things I’ve Learned from Teaching (Korean) Students

My first batch of ESL Elementary students… from naughty to nice
(The picture is a bit blurry because it was taken from an old cell phone. ^^)

Imagine yourself walking into your ESL class filled with confidence and great anticipation, but instead of your students greeting you back when you say, “Hello, everyone!”… you were greeted by a foul smell permeating the air-conditioned classroom. You think perhaps it’s Bada, one of the boys in your class, who is notorious for taking off his shoes in the classroom and torturing everybody with the smell of his feet that can be likened to the stink of a decaying carcass. (No kidding!)

Just as you are about to tell him to put on his shoes, you notice that he hasn’t taken them off. As if that isn’t strange enough, he and the rest of the class are sitting quietly, which they never do until you tell them to. From the suspicious look on their faces, you know they are hiding something… and the smell… ugh… the smell is just unbearable! If it isn’t Bada, who or what can it be? Your eyes search every corner of the room, but you can’t find the culprit.

Then you seize the opportunity to use one of the idioms that you taught the class the other day: “I smell something fishy.” (Literally… it does smell fishy.)

You start prodding until somebody speaks up, “Can you smell that?”

“Where is that awful smell coming from?”

No one answers.

Ah, right… don’t assume that they know the word ‘awful’. Most of the members of this class are at the early intermediate level of English proficiency. Some of them are even at the beginning stage. (Don’t you just hate it when they put them together in one class, regardless of level of English proficiency?)

After explaining to the class the meaning of the word ‘awful’, one of the girls, the most mischievous and the toughest, who likes to play ‘the leader of the gang’, giggles and starts talking in Korean. The rest of the class laughs. You have no clue what they’re laughing at. Is it something that you said? The example that you gave for the word ‘awful’? (Well, that was kinda funny.) Is it the shade of your lipstick today? Remember the time when you came to ESL class, wearing your new Lancome fuchsia lipstick, and Spring, the smart-alec, told you that the color of your lips hurt her eyes? You are not wearing that lipstick today, and you certainly don’t look like a clown in your uniform. You are tempted to ask, “What’s funny?”, but the more you ask that question, the more they laugh… so you remain silent for a while and stare at them with seething eyes. (This method may work with other students, but trust me, it’s not effective for Koreans. They won’t even notice your silence.)

You hear a lot of, “Ya, ya, ya!” (‘Hey’ in Korean) and someone calling his classmate “babo” (‘stupid’ in Korean). They think you don’t know what those words mean, but you’ve heard them many times. (Your hometown is invaded by Koreans! Also, you have tutored Koreans since you were in university.) You are aware that “babo” is a common expression among friends and children in Korea, but in your class, you don’t merely teach English, you teach RESPECT and DISCIPLINE as well… two things MOST Korean students lack. You have made it clear before: saying rude or bad words is NOT ALLOWED in ESL class.

Their voices are getting louder. They sound like they are arguing, but with Korean children, you can’t really distinguish ‘chatting’ from ‘bickering’ and ‘playing’ from ‘fighting’. It seems as if they are all just the same to them. You are starting to lose your cool. You want to holler, “Shut up!”, but you’re a teacher, and you know you can’t do that. (Argh! If only you could smack them right in the face!)

Then you remember ‘the rules’.

Yes, they know ‘the rules’. It has been two weeks since ESL class started. The class rules have been discussed to them from day one. By this time, they should have learned the rules by heart.

You turn to the NOTCH WALL, and mark the names of the students who speak Korean. (A mark or notch means demerit.) You give Wan Jin two more notches for saying “babo”. The students grumble and ask, “Why? Why?” (So typical of Koreans.) (At least you’ve got their attention.)

On the white board, you write the sentence: “SPEAK ENGLISH, PLEASE.” More grumbling in Korean. Each time a student speaks Korean, you add another notch… without saying a word… then you turn to the board and underline the sentence you have  previously written. There must be more than five lines under that sentence now. Finally, the students get your point and begin to speak English. (My number one rule in my ESL class: SPEAK ENGLISH… or at least TRY TO SPEAK ENGLISH.) (Should you have this rule in your class, make sure that majority of your students can communicate their basic ideas using simple sentences. It’s not a good rule for beginners’ class, but if your class is ‘mixed’… you’ve got students who can communicate in English and you’ve got those who can barely speak the language, you can pair up a student who is unable to understand or produce English independently with someone who is able to understand and speak English better. This way, the ‘early intermediate student’ can help translate in Korean the ideas that the ‘beginning student’ finds hard to comprehend or express in English; however, make sure that the student doesn’t mind translating for his classmate. Some Korean students don’t like “translating” for anybody or they don’t like working with a partner. If buddy system is just not for your class, teach students how to say, “May I use a dictionary?”, “Can someone translate for me, please?” or “How do I say ___ in Korean?” Anyone in class can volunteer to translate or explain, but make sure you reward the student with points. You’ll be surprised how many students are willing to help a classmate in need when there are points at stake.)

Wan Jin, the most mischievous and the toughest among the group, is first to stand up and complain, “Why you put many?” (She is referring to the demerits.)

“How many times did you speak Korean? You also said, ‘babo’, right?”

“I’m Korean. I’m not speak Korean?”

“Yes, you’re Korean… but this IS NOT Korean class… and you CANNOT say bad words here.” (You remember to speak slowly and refrain from using verb contractions that you haven’t discussed in class yet, so your students don’t get confused.)

Wan Jin is furious. She slams her backpack on her desk and mutters to herself.

You tell her that is not the way to behave in front of a teacher, ask her to pick up her backpack and place it properly on her desk.

Although you want to skin Wan Jin alive, you try to be patient with her. You give her a warning, but you say it calmly yet firmly, “If you do that again, you are going to pick up your bag and put it nicely on the desk twenty times. Do you understand, Wan Jin?” (When you tell your students you will do something, you must do it no matter what. If you tell them that if they don’t do their homework, you are going to give them more next time, DO IT. If you say that you are going to call their parents to inform them about their constant misbehavior, keep an anecdotal record , CALL THE PARENTS and TELL THEM everything. You should have something nice to say about the child, too. No parent wants to hear only negative things about his kid. Also, expect to be asked about how the child’s English is improving. Korean parents are very particular about this. ALWAYS PREPARE YOUR CLASS RECORD AND ANECDOTAL RECORD WHEN YOU MEET A PARENT FOR A CONFERENCE.)

Wan Jin doesn’t look at you, but she nods. (Koreans don’t look the teacher in the eye when they are being reprimanded. It is considered impolite. Don’t make the same mistake I did before, when I told one of my Korean students, “Look at me when I’m talking to you!” She would not look at me, and she ended up crying. The next day, her Mom came to school and explained why she would not look at me when I was scolding her. LESSON LEARNED? Know your ESL students’ culture and why they behave the way they do.)

You address the entire class: “What class is this?”

No one answers.

You write the letters E-S-L on the board, and as you circle the acronym, you ask again: “What class is this? Can you read the letters on the board, please?”

“E… S… L…” Their voices are so low you can barely hear them.

“ESL. Say it aloud.”

“ESL.” Sounds louder.


“ESL.” Sounds better.

In one of our ‘ESL Cooking Festivals’, a group of Korean high school students in my Early Intermediate Class made this cake. The group called it ‘ESL Oreo cake’. ^^

Although you can no longer take the putrid odor in the classroom, you spare a little time to remind the students of the number one rule in class and what course they are taking up. (Most Korean students just attend their English class without even knowing what they are learning. Is it Grammar? Reading and Writing? Conversational English? Business English? ESL? What on earth is ESL? Why am I taking it? Why are my parents forcing me to take it?)

“What does ESL mean?”

No one answers (again). (Ugh! Korean students can be so passive. T.T)

“I told you what ESL means, remember? Who can tell what ESL means? If you can tell me, I will take out two of your notches from the notch wall.”

Now they all want to answer… even Han Byul, the youngest and the most quiet boy in class. (Korean students are grade conscious, you see?)

You have everyone say the meaning of ESL: “English as a Second Language!” (Some only lipsynch.) You have the class repeat the phrase twice or thrice (after you say it) to make sure everyone says it with correct pronunciation and remembers it. As they say, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. Thus, repetition is one of the basic fundamentals of memory and learning.  (But don’t dwell merely on rote learning or your ESL class will be boring, and will turn into a ‘Koreanized’ English class where students do nothing but to memorize and repeat, memorize and repeat… zzz… zzzzzz… zzzzzzzzz…)

“What do we learn in ESL?”


“What do we speak in ESL?’


“Do we speak Korean here?”


“Do we say bad words in Korean?”


“What happens when we speak Korean or when we say bad words?’

Some point to the notch wall. Some answer, “Minus”, “Notch”, “Sad point/bad point’.

True to your word, you take out two notches from each student. They all seem pleased and ‘calmer’. The grumbling has stopped. Everyone is quiet again, waiting for what you are about to do next or what you are about to ask them. (Never lose your composure in front of your Korean students. They will shake you, break you, challenge you in every way… but you can’t show them defeat nor can you IGNORE them. Koreans like to win… even against the teacher. From the first time they show wrong behavior or defiance, you have to correct them and let them know who is in charge. Korean students who are older than other members of the class tend to act ‘tough’. They do this because they want to win their classmates’ respect. The younger ones, on the other hand, follow whatever the older Koreans do, because Koreans value ‘seniority’ and it’s ‘All for one, one for all’ for them.)

You sit down in front of everybody. The students’ desks and chairs are arranged in a semi-circle, so you can easily see their faces at a glance. You smile and say, “I like the class when we are all sitting nicely and talking nicely… in English… but there is something I don’t like today.”

As you have expected, it is Spring who asks, “What, Teacher?”

You pinch your nose, “The smell. I do not like the smell.” Because you are pinching your nose as you speak, your voice sounds lilliputian. The class laughs at your voice, but you let them enjoy the laughter. It is your way of changing the students’ sulky mood from what happened a while ago.

“Do you like the smell?”


“So tell me, who did not take a shower today?”

Students laugh some more. Somebody mentioned Bada’s name.

“It is not Bada. He is wearing his shoes, and he smells good today.”

You look at Bada. He is smiling from ear to ear.

“I think you have something you are hiding from me. Tell me now, or we will check your bags, and we will find out all your secrets there.”

The students look at one another. He Jin, Wan Jin’s best friend and one of the smart students in class, nudges Wan Jin. She whispers something in Korean, but you don’t mark her name, because she asks permission to speak Korean. It appears that she is trying to convince Wan Jin to do something.

Later, Wan Jin takes out a petri dish she had been hiding all along.

The moment she takes out that petri dish, the fetid odor becomes worse. The students, including Wan Jin, cover their noses.

You pinch your nose again and examine what’s in the petri dish, but you can’t figure out what the slimy grayish thing is. Whatever it is, it looks and smells gross, so it can’t be good.

Before you can ask or say anything, Wan Jin, covering her nose and mouth, speaks.

“Sorry, Teacher. Only play. I’m throw now.”

“Wan Jin, what is that?” You can’t hide your annoyance anymore.

You hear someone say, “It’s yucky, Teacher.” A student pretends to throw up. Others copy the act.

Just as they are starting to make a commotion again and Wan Jin starts to say, “Ya!”… you remind them about the notch wall and tell them to keep quiet.

“Wan Jin, tell me what is in that dish.”

“Teacher, can I use dic-sher… dic-shor…”

“Dictionary… ‘dik-shuh-ner-ee’…”


“May I use a dictionary?”

“May I use a dictionary?”

Wan Jin gets her electronic dictionary from her backpack and looks up a word; then she shows you the word she typed.

“Tadpole? Are those tadpoles?”

The students must be scared of you now… even Wan Jin. Your voice can be heard in the next room, an indication that she or they (other students involved) are doomed.

“What have you done, Wan Jin?”

Wan Jin and ‘the gang’ like to catch tadpoles in the school pond. Now you remember… a few days ago, Wan Jin was bringing a bottle of mineral water with tadpoles swimming in it. She put it in her backpack when you said, “Put everything away, please.” You didn’t mind the tadpoles, because you used to catch them, too, when you were young. Besides, who would think that Wan Jin likes to massacre tadpoles?

The tadpoles had been dead for days (that’s why they are stinking). Instead of getting rid of them, Wan Jin thought it would be better to do an experiment. (You don’t know how she got the petri dish from the Science lab, but she said it’s hers.) She mashed the dead tadpoles. One of the members of her gang suggested they burn the mashed tadpoles in the petri dish, but they didn’t have any lighter or match. Thank God! Who knows what could have happened or what else they could have done with those stenchy dead tadpoles?

To make the long story short, the tadpoles are discarded. Everyone in class cleans the desk where Wan Jin crushed those poor tadpoles. The smell stays for a while, so you turn the aircon off and open the doors and windows.

You give the class a brief lecture about the consequences of what they have done and proceed to the day’s lesson and activities.

Because of what happened, you cancel the day’s game and tell the class that you are not giving them any break.

You talk to Wan Jin again after class. You call her guardian to report the incident. You also inform the parents/guardians of the other students.

You are not really a strict teacher. You are known as an amiable and ‘animated’ teacher… but from this day, you make a promise to yourself that you won’t be too kind on your ‘misbehaving’ ESL students. First, they need to know that you mean business. Second, they need to follow ‘the rules’ and YOU.  Third, they need to use English in class as much as they can… even if they make mistakes in Grammar. Lastly, they need to take part in every activity and group dynamics in order to accumulate points for class standing… and accomplish their homework and vocabulary review.

Most of all, you promise yourself that you are going to make your ESL classes MORE fun, engaging, challenging and life-changing to motivate your students to do well in class.

NEWSCASTING in my ESL Summer Class


ESL COOK FEST (Everyone loves this activity.^^)