As nice as patterns and predictability are in teaching, surprises and changes can be fun too. I met a new 6th grade class this month and when they took my survey, Horror came out on top! Immediately, I knew I was going to like this group because I also enjoy scary stories all year round. (You might be wondering if they picked Horror to study first because Halloween decorations are out in full force by early September, but no, this was just their collective interest/personality.)
Many teachers I know feel nervous about teaching horror as a genre, partly because they might not like scary stories themselves and partly because they worry about mature themes and content. While it is absolutely right to be aware of mature themes and content, it is important to be aware of what might motivate your students to write. When I teach horror, I always use age-appropriate examples to support the conversation I have with every class about PG and/or PG-13 boundaries. With this group, I used examples from the films Monster House, ParaNorman, and Coraline. I also used the Lockwood and Co novels by Jonathan Stroud as mentor text examples.
Here are 25 Horror Writing Prompts that are mostly ok for school – filter based on the age of your students! This link will take you to a PDF of a scary story planning page.
Given the choice between a student not writing at all, and a student writing the legend of a Korean demon in a box (yes, that happened), I choose writing over not writing every time.
I continue to query my YA Heist novel, but have now broken ground on my new project, a novel about a teenage championship sharpshooter turned vigilante.