Your students are tired of reading the same three “scary stories.” It’s time for an upgrade.

Photo by Rick Monteiro on Unsplash

Spooky season is here. Sweater weather has arrived. Teachers are getting burnt out!

October is always one of the more grueling teaching months of the year. The students are tired, you’re exhausted, and Thanksgiving break seems really far away.

If you’re looking for an activity to get your students engaged and to give yourself a bit of a break, I’ve got you!

Stranger Things is a popular Netflix series. It hits all us 80s kids with nostalgia, and as a bonus, our students are already watching it.

Stranger Things - Wikipedia
Stranger Things via Netflix.

I love using high-quality film and TV in the classroom. Stranger Things is an incredible text to use in the classroom. It’s rich with details and dynamic characters, and I promise you, the more you watch it, the more you will find. It’s an excellent tool to teach suspense.

My goal when using Stranger Things is to show students the value of watching film and TV without their phones. Engage with the text.

This activity does exactly that.

When teaching suspense, it’s important for students to understand that the plot isn’t the only device that writers are using to add tension.


The Activity

First, students watch the pilot episode of Stranger Things. I’ve included a viewing guide with a key. The viewing guide has 50 questions, making it a great activity to use over the course of a few days.

After students finish the episode students complete a graphic organizer focused on the different locations the episode takes place.

For instance, the students might describe the woods as scary and dark, but the activity does encourage them to think about how the woods is a place where the unknown happens. In literature, it’s often a place where children are in danger. This type of analysis leads them to the next part of the activity where they are justifying and explaining how the choices made by the director impacts the tension and suspense.

Need the viewing guide, key, graphic organizer, and discussion board extension activity? Look no further.

Stranger Things Suspense and Setting Activity via Lit Up


Why Use Film or TV?

There are a lot of incredible suspenseful and creepy stories out there, but let me tell you, you’re students have read that Poe story. They read it in 6th grade and 8th grade and 9th grade. When October rolls around, the students know Poe is coming.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t read Poe, I just think it’s more engaging to show them how to analyze a text like the ones they are already engaging with.

Young people love scary movies and shows, and as English teachers, we have the opportunity to show them how much richer the texts are that they are already enjoying. We get to teach them how to be active watchers and readers.

So, save “The Raven” and “The Fall of The House of Usher.” Use this Stranger Things activity first, then have them discuss how the manor in “The Fall of House of Usher” is similar to the Hawkins Lab in “The Vanishing of Will Beyers.” I promise you, the students will be here for it.


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Looking for your next read? Check out my novelWith All My Love, I Wait.