It's the month of Halloween, we're leading up to Day of the Dead, and it's time for some scary stories in your upper middle grades (7th/8th) English Language Arts classroom. Here are three suggestions and a full lesson plan and teaching materials follow.
The Sound Machine, by Roald Dahl
When he uses it on a tree, he believes he hears a tree scream when he hits the tree with an axe. He calls his doctor, and together they listen when Klausner hits the tree with the axe again. A tree branch falls, barely missing them both, but the doctor refuses to admit he heard the sound.
At my local library, I found a compilation of Dahl's works that contained the story (there are many). I distributed copies to table groups of 4-5 students, so they could follow along with the audio in class. The digital audio file from Audible of The Sound Machine is also available for sale on Amazon. It's 37 minutes, perfect for a class reading and follow-along.
The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allen Poe
Poe's short story is almost universally taught in 7th grade. It's included in most ELA textbooks for either 7th / 8th grades, complete with comprehension questions and vocabulary, but you can find all sorts of free materials for this short.
The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson
For this one, I shook up the reading format a bit and instead of using the New Yorker short story, The Lottery, my students read the one-act play based on Shirley Jackson's story, dramatized by Brainerd Duffield. It's available for purchase at Dramatic Publishing. If you do table group readings of this, you only need to purchase 7-10 copies for a full classroom of 41 students. Allow more time for reading, as they'll want to parcel up roles and do a Readers Theater of it, especially if you've done RT in your classroom before this.
These short stories hit the following Common Core ELA standards:
RL 7.7 -- Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (e.g., lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).
RL 8.5 -- Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.
1. Distribute copies of the short story or play.
2. Students will read in class. They may read silently, in pairs, or popcorn in table groups. Allow students to differentiate reading techniques as needed / desired. Each story takes about 15-20 minutes to read.
3. SW discuss the short story, focusing on the emotions the words on the page make them feel. TW ask students to list on white boards / desktop with dry erase marker three emotions they felt, as they read, and where in the story they felt them.
4. Before watching the movie, SW brainstorm ways a filmmaker could show the story on screen.
6. SW brainstorm examples of times when they felt something in a movie, because of one of these film techniques. Which film technique is most effective?
7. SW take notes on Film Terminology PPT.
8. SW watch the short story's corresponding film.
9. Using the following graphic organizers, SW take notes as they view.
10. Students will compare / contrast the short story to the film, and discuss why they story / film make them feel the emotions they felt as they read or watched.
11. Homework / independent practice. SW write a paragraph, utilizing a 3 PIE structure, comparing the emotions they felt in one short story to its film, what writing / film techniques they believe caused them to feel those emotions, and why / not those techniques were more / less effective for each medium.