Free Social Studies Halloween Lesson
October is one of my favorite months of the year – especially in the classroom! When searching for Halloween activities, crafts and writing prompts are easy to find. But what about social studies Halloween lessons? They are few and far between. After doing some digging, I have found the perfect historical ghost story that makes an amazing social studies Halloween lesson! Check out the lesson plan detailed below and be sure to click on the link for the downloadable materials. Happy Halloween!
“The Golden Arm” Ghost Story
“The Golden Arm” is one of the most famous ghost stories in American tradition. It is known throughout both Europe and America and was told by both White and Black communities. It was most famously told by Mark Twain in his essay, “How to Tell a Story.”
The tale begins with a woman who has a golden arm. She makes her husband promise that when she dies he will bury her golden arm with her. After she dies, her husband admires the arm and decides that burying it would be a waste. He decides to keep the gold. The woman’s ghost comes back from the dead to haunt her husband. After scaring him, she takes back her golden arm and disappears.
Morals of the story: Be respectful of the dead. Don’t be greedy.
Now, my telling of the story really doesn’t do it justice.
You have to listen to this six-minute audio clip of the ghost story told by famous storyteller Jackie Torrence at the National Storytelling Festival of 1986.
As a child, Jackie Torrence heard this story from her father Jim Carson, a formerly enslaved person. She grew up to become a well-known professional storyteller.
Lesson Objectives: I can analyze the source of a story. I can summarize a story by including key details. I can determine the moral of a story.
- First, give students background information on the audio recording and the storyteller, Jackie Torrence. Information can be found in this article.
- Next, pass out the student worksheets in this free lesson.
- Before listening to the story, students fill out section one: “Reflect on the Source.” In this section, students reflect on when and where the story was recorded.
- Create a spooky mood in the room by turning off the lights!
- Listen to the audio recording of “The Golden Arm.”
- Once the recording has finished, have students verbally summarize the story to a partner.
- Then, have students write a brief summary in the corresponding section on the worksheet.
- Students fill out the “Dig Deeper” section of the worksheet. In this section, students think about the moral of the story and write down any questions they may have.
- Extension Activity: Students write their own ghost story set in the historical time period you are currently studying in class! I have included a planning sheet to help your students.
Download the Social Studies Halloween Lesson
I hope this free social studies Halloween lesson will be an engaging (and spooky!) way to incorporate history in your Halloween festivities this year. This resource is also available in a Google Slides format which can be used with Google Classroom. To download, simply click the button below.
Looking for more social studies lessons? Check out these other free lesson plans I have created. All lesson plans are Google Classroom compatible – perfect for both in-person and distance learning!