Ye Olde Spooky Costume Shoppe

Trick or treat?


  • adjective order
  • vocabulary (clothing, adjectives describing clothing, monsters and other spooky things)


  • Upper Intermediate (CEFR B2)
  • 9-17 years.


Practicing the Grammar Rule Which All Native Speakers Know But Do Not Realise in a fun, Halloween-y way with upper primary and secondary-aged students.

You’ll need:

  • 45 minutes.
  • The word cards – 1 set per 3 students,  printing the 3 sheets each on different coloured card.
  • The Costume List handouts (all materials at the bottom).
  • Some blue/white non-sticky sticky stuff.

For the ideal timetable fit, I’d ensure that this language area (if in your coursebook) was paced in order to naturally coincide with Halloween.  If this isn’t possible, it can make a nice review activity if fashion and clothing vocabulary has all been covered.  If not, then I’d strongly recommend supplementing with some clothing vocab input furst.  Coincidentally, I was teaching from New English File: Upper Intermediate (OUP) when I first put this material together and that complemented the activity very nicely (p23, p134).

  1. Open class discussion: Will you dress up for Halloween this year?  As who?  What are the most popular costumes at the moment? What are the scariest kinds of costumes you’ve seen at Halloween?
  2. While monitoring for this task, take the opportunity to note down the names you hear and write one on each Costume List Handout in the Costume Name box.  You’ll need these later.
  3. Do a bit of Test-Teach-Test by showing the students some pictures of various Halloween figures. (the Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, etc.)  The students have to say what they are wearing.  Elicit clothing items, not necessarily adjectives at this point.  Additionally, pre-teach “fancy dress” as it will come up later.
  4. Explain that you will give them some cards and they should put them in what they think is the right order, according to their instincts. e.g. sharp, fangs, white;  bandages, dirty, yellow; etc.
  5. Put them in threes and issue the cards.
  6. Monitor closely, but don’t correct at this point.
  7. Pause them and ask them how they were deciding which order to use.
  8. Tell them that there are some rules.  Most people use the rules, but don’t know them.  The rule is:  opinion | age | shape/style | colour/pattern | nationality | material | noun.
  9. Ask them to check their word order together and decide what costume each item could have come from.
  10. Do feedback and check the items.  Listen to suggestions.  There can be lots of possibilities to some of the items.
  11. Explain that they are going to design some costumes and then play a guessing game.  Each costume needs at least 5 items of clothing (or props) and each item must have at least 2 adjectives.  Other groups will have to guess who the costume is based upon these clues, so it can’t be too obvious.
  12. Put the students in pairs.
  13. Issue the sheets one at a time and monitor for written accuracy.  When a group finishes one costume list, issue another handout until all the forms are gone.  The numbers on the handouts are not important at this stage.  If there are any blank ones (i.e. ones that you didn’t hear any ideas for in point 2) then the students can make up their own costume ideas.
  14. As they finish, one-by one fold the bottom backwards so that only the items are visible, sticking each piece of paper on the walls around the classroom.
  15. Once all writing is done, tell each student to write the numbers 1-12 in a notebook.  They then go around in pairs, discussing what the costume might be and noting it down.  Allow them to move around the classroom for about 5-6 minutes.
  16. Tell them to take a seat and then compare their notes with the pair next door.  Ask them not to give away the answers for any of their own costumes.  This should still give them plenty to talk about.  With smaller groups skip this stage.  In the meantime, take down all the handouts from the walls and put them in numerical order.
  17. For feedback, go from 1 to 12 and read out the items for each costume.  Get the students to guess what the costume is and get the creators to say whether it’s right or not.  If none of the guesses are correct, the creators have to give a clue to help.
  18. To finish ask the students to discuss:  If we had a fancy dress lesson next week, who would you dress up as?
  19. If your school permits it and your students like the idea (generally younger ones will), consider having a cosplay lesson, where the students can come (and be) in character for the whole class.


  • It’s easy to get really bogged down in detail with the full rules for this, and it can be a lot to expect students to remember this.  There are lots of approaches to this, like mnemonics and such.  I generally give students a general guideline that it goes:
    • opinion
    • things which are generally subjective (like new/long – how long does hair have to be in order to be long, exactly?  In centimetres?)
    • what you can see from far away …
    • … to …
    • what you can see on the label.
    • – i.e. a nice, new, pink, Italian, silk scarf.  (nice is my opinion, new is relatively subjective, pink I can see walking down the street, made in Italy and 100% silk).  It’s not perfect, but students seem to find this a little easier to remember.
  • Remember to check with the school management whether or not it’s okay to stick things on the classroom walls.


A fun Halloween activity with a bit of grammar thrown in.  It scales quite nicely because advanced EFL learners can use corsets, gauntlets and a bunch of more sophisticated items.  Lower levels can just use orange everthing and make a pumpkin outfit.  Give it a try – if you dare! Mwa ha ha ha.  Sorry.

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