Empowering Writers

October 2017 Lesson of the Month

The October lesson is based on a haunted or abandoned house theme. The activity focuses on the skills associated with entertaining beginnings, but is easily adaptable for other Empowering Writers Narrative skills. There are several books and even a YouTube video that can be used as a jumping off point for this lesson. Some great book/video suggestions are: At the Old Haunted House by Helen Ketteman, The Haunted House (Choose Your Own Adventure – Dragonlarks) by R. A. Montgomery, A to Z Mysteries: The Haunted Hotel by Ron Roy, Cat and Mouse in a Haunted House by Geronimo Stilton, YouTube video – abandoned house in the woods with old cars. Students really enjoy the above video and it is a great background video for the many different aspects associated with an old, abandoned (haunted) house.

The Overview:

After sharing a book or video (check out the YouTube video – it’s awesome), the teacher will MODEL and students will write an entertaining beginning about an old abandoned (haunted) house.

Here’s what you’ll do:

1) First, share several fall-related narrative picture /chapter books with beginnings matching the four EW strategies – Action, Dialogue/Exclamation, Thought/Question, Sound. Many picture books begin with a “bang” using these four strategies and MOST chapter book/novels follow these strategies as well. After reviewing the four skills, read the first lines in several chosen fall books and have the students identify which strategy the beginning mimics.

2) Next, read and discuss a book about a haunted or abandoned house or other haunted dwelling with students. Share the beginning line and again, have the students identify the chosen strategy. Show the video to uncover even more real life makings of an abandoned house.

3) After reading/watching with students, brainstorm different actions they would take when visiting an abandoned (haunted) house, what words they might utter when coming upon an old mansion, what worries they might have, and what sounds they would hear. To do this, divide a chart paper into four sections and label each section with one of the skills, Action, Dialogue/Exclamation, Thought/Question, Sound. In each section, record the students’ responses.

4) After brainstorming, write out samples of each of the beginning strategies using some of the student responses.


I stood staring at the two-story, overgrown structure, waiting for my heart to calm before I took another step. ACTION

I inched my way up the rickety steps and stared at the dilapidated house, wondering if I should enter the collapsing structure or run the other way. ACTION, THOUGHT/QUESTION

“HELLO? Is there anyone there?” I whispered as I peeked through the open door of the ruined mansion. DIALOGUE, QUESTION

EEEE! EEEE! EEEE! The mice squealed and rummaged through the mounds of trash strewn around the rotting floor of the ramshackle castle. SOUND

5.) Let students practice writing their own entertaining beginnings, in groups, pairs, or individually. Use a copy of the Haunted House beginning on pg. 60 in the Narrative Guide. Change the wording to abandoned if the “haunted” theme is inappropriate for your classroom.

Optional Ideas:

  1. Have students draw a replica of an old house and write a descriptive paragraph about it.
  2. Have students create a “fixer upper” and let them write a how-to on transforming the old abandoned building into something new. (We loved this idea and it actually came from a student when working on the assignment in class.)