I absolutely love October, Halloween, and everything that comes with fall! I might be a #BasicTeacher, but it does lead me to instill some seasonal activities into my classroom. In this post, I want to share a classic writing activity: two-sentence horror stories!
Before I get into all of the details, I just want to share a link to a FREE two-sentence horror story worksheet right here. You can also use the Teachers Pay Teacher’s Easel tool to distribute the worksheet virtually for distance learning!
What is a Two-Sentence Horror Story?
A two-sentence horror story is exactly what it sounds like: a horror story written with just two sentences.
This activity isn’t new; two-sentence horror stories have been floating around the internet and Reddit for years. It even inspired a Netflix series. (For the record, I don’t recommend the show for the classroom although I haven’t watched every episode, so maybe there is a good one!)
Google the phrase “two-sentence horror stories”, and you’ll find many examples. This site has quite a few to get you started, but here are some just to illustrate how cool they are:
- I just noticed a picture of myself sleeping in my phone’s gallery. I live alone.
- The daughter ran up to her father, arms outstretched for a hug. Her father recoiled; he buried her three months ago after the accident.
- A body was found in the basement. Strange, since I placed two in there just yesterday.
When you introduce this lesson to your students, they’ll be instantly engaged!
Why Teach Two-Sentence Horror Stories?
Two-sentence horror stories reinforce some essential writing skills.
Students will have to use precise and concise language. They’ll have to be choosy about the words they pick. The ability to choose the exact right word is one deserving of consistent practice. It will help all of your students’ writing–including academic assignments.
If you’re teaching grammar to students, two-sentence horror stories can also be a fun activity to challenge students to use these skills. Students who can properly use a colon or semicolon will have an advantage over their peers. (Using a semicolon to squeeze in an extra independent clause is a good move when you’ve only got two sentences to work with!)
Because these stories are so short, students can actually stay focused on the whole activity from beginning to end. This means that they can practice brainstorming, drafting, peer-editing, and sharing their work aloud in the span of a single class period.
Plus, they’re just fun! Any time you can work an activity into your class time that is engaging and fun for students, you’ve got a winner.
Two-Sentence Horror Stories: Introduce the Assignment
The first step to teaching this lesson is obviously going to be giving some directions. Be sure to share some examples with students, but don’t give them too many. Too many examples might encourage students to copy the style of their favorites.
If there are any specific requirements you, as the teacher, might have, be sure to share those with students as well.
I let my students sit in groups or clusters as they work. I liked the collaboration that naturally occurred with this sitting arrangement. However, this could be strictly independent, too. Consider how you want students working before assigning the activity.
Two-Sentence Horror Stories: Draft
After introducing the assignment, give students time to brainstorm.
You might want to just put a timer on the board for five minutes of silent brainstorming.
Personally, these stories are so short that brainstorming naturally leads to writing for me. I don’t need much transition time.
But it may help your students to separate “brainstorming” from actually “writing/drafting.” If you like using timers, I think five minutes for brainstorming and fifteen minutes for writing their stories will work well.
Set the Ambience
Ok, this step is totally optional, but did I mention how much I love Halloween?
If you’re the type to do so (and your school allows it), help get your students in the horror mood by preparing the room ready with some decorations. You may want to avoid Halloween decorations (in case you have students who abstain from celebrating) and stick to seasonal/harvest decorations: pumpkins, corn, scarecrows, etc.
You can also be sure to have some spooky music ready to play in the background as students write! I have a Pandora radio account just for teaching; I keep everything on that account PG and have used a Halloween party playlist many times with success.
If you’re completing this activity the week of Halloween, you can also score some bonus points with your students by passing some candy around while they work.
(Looking for more ways to include the Halloween spirit in your classroom without angering parents or admin? Check out this post!)
Two-Sentence Horror Stories: Edit
After students have had time to craft their two-sentence horror stories, give them time to peer-edit.
If you have a standardized way of peer-editing in your classroom, go for it! Otherwise, don’t make this overly complicated.
Students can trade stories and give one compliment and one constructive criticism. Or students can ask readers questions like “This was the only word I could think of, but do you have any other suggestions?”
Students should focus on meeting requirements (just two sentences!) and word choice.
One of the biggest mistakes I see students make when they write two-sentence horror stories is that give too much away. For example, I’ve read plenty of stories that read something like “The chair floated in the air. It was scary because there was a ghost.”
Students struggle to hint at why a situation is scary without giving it away. This might also be a good time to discuss showing and not telling in writing. (Student really struggling with this? Check out this “Show. Don’t Tell” Mini-lesson.)
After peer editing, give students a few minutes to make any necessary revisions.
Two-Sentence Horror Stories: Share
I encourage you to have your students share out if they’re willing. But I know getting students comfortable with reading their work aloud is often a struggle.
Still, ask for volunteers to share. Let students have their friend or you read their story if they’re too shy to read it themselves.
If having students share their work aloud is just impossible, have them hang up their work around the room. To remain anonymous, students can put their names on the back of their work instead of the front when hanging it up.
Alternatively, if you’d like to showcase students’ work, you can use them to create a bulletin board!
Writing two-sentence horror stories is an easy and engaging activity. It forces students to practice essential writing skills and can even add some seasonal fun to the classroom!
If you’re ready to share this activity with your students, grab your FREE worksheet and lesson plan right here!