Two-Sentence Horror: A Quick, Fun, Challenging Writing Assignment for High School Students on Halloween

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Right before Halloween, one of my sixth grade teachers sent me a post on Facebook leading me to an aggregation of two-sentence horror stories. She still teaches sixth grade and thought that while these stories might be a little too much for sixth-graders, as a high school English teacher, I could have some fun sharing these with my students. And I agree with her. So I did.

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I told them how I came to find these stories and some of them commented on how neat it was that I stayed in touch with my sixth grade teacher still and that it was sort of cool and sort of creepy that she would send me a link to such scary stories. After I read through one of them, my drama students insisted that we turn the lights off. With my AP English students, we just went ahead and turned them off from the outset. The reactions to the stories were pretty good in that I think some of them legitimately creeped out some of the students, which was, after all, at least partially, the goal.

The other goals were to practice brevity in writing. How can we deliver a power-packed story with only two sentences? Which word choices will give the most bang for the buck? Which would be more effective-short sentences? long ons? a combo of both? We had an opportunity to analyze some of the sentences’ grammatical structure. Are some of these run-ons? comma splices? long, grammatically correct sentences? We also talked about formula. Was there a trick to making a short horror story work? Was there a pattern that tied all nine stories together? Which stories were the scariest? Why were they scary?

After reading through all nine of the stories, and having a wee discussion comprised of the aforementioned questions and their responses, I gave the students time to compose their own two-sentence stories. Then we shared them aloud in Drama class. (We had other things to do in AP English, so they just submitted them to me to be shared on a another day.) Oh, and I wrote one too! You will see some of the results below.

from Morgan Z.

That creep was still standing by the bus stop the next day. Even after running him over twice the day before, there he was, standing there.

from Hannah C.

He woke up from a nightmare in which a creature was in his bedroom. He drifted off, while staring at two yellow lights outside his window, except they weren’t lights …

from our foreign exchange student from Holland

De donkere nacht is nog maer net begonnen. Er tyn al 10 lyken geuonden …

(If you read Dutch, you are probably really scared right now…)

from Shaylee M.

I walk down the hallway toward the bathroom, only to see a light coming from a crack under the door. I slowly open the door, but I see no one there … until I turn around …

I woke in the middle of the night and heard a girl singing beautifully. I follow her voice to a pond outside, but all I can see is my demonic reflection.

from Jax C.

Marry had a little lamb; it’s fleece was white as snow. Now Mary’s dead and the lamb’s fleece is red as blood.

I couldn’t move as thousands of their little legs crawled up my arms, legs and into my moth. I screamed, waking my self up only to feel the little legs crawling up my neck.

from Sophia V.

He whispered, “Go to sleep.”  So I did … forever.

I was walking though the forest as the sun was going down.  I saw a tall man with a white face and now all I can give you are signs from my own blood to stay away.

She was only four years old and dressed in white.  But she managed to kill me anyway.

from Tanner P.

One day I came home from school and had a hankering for some oreos. When I opened the package, it was empty.

I was walking through the forest, hopelessly lost, and my phone was dead. Then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted him: Shia Labeuof.

It is a tough job being a mortician nowadays. It is getting harder and harder to hide the claw marks inside the coffins.

Supper is the one time that my family all comes together. The only bad part is the main course will not stop screaming.

from Maria B.

Every night, the old woman would say goodnight to her dead husband before crawling into bed. One night, a scratchy, dark voice responded from under her covers, saying, “He’s not here anymore.”

As they lowered my little sister into the ground, i just wanted the funeral to be over. I couldn’t help but wonder if the coffin would supress the screams that were sure to start at any moment.

from Devin N.

It was Halloween night and it was pitch black outside when out of the corner of my eye I saw something on the ground. To my horror it was a person tearing the flesh from a dead rotting corpse and as I looked closer I said, “Mom!?”

And finally … MINE:

“Lullaby, and goodnight,” she sang in her raspy coo to the children. “When did Fluffy learn to sing?” said the boy to his little sister.

My Students Have Passion!

NOTE: If you just want to get to my students’ blogs, scroll down. The links follow my rambling!

My students have been blogging now for a couple of weeks and I’m happy to say, I have a PASSIONATE bunch! We’ve been calling our blogs “passion blogs” because they are fueled by the students’ direct interests. In other words, THEY chose their topics–rather than the usual–*teacher gives writing prompt/topic + students regurgitate what they think I want to hear* formula. By the end of the school year (which is coming up quickly for ALL of us, but ESPECIALLY for SENIORS!) they should all have a minimum of 10 entries.

So far, of those posts I’ve read, I have been blown away by the variety of interests AND the depth of passion being displayed. Below I will post links to most of the students’ blogs. Some of the students have opted to leave theirs off the list. Our students are hungry for feedback, so the more eyes I can provide them, the better! If you have time to comment on some or all of these blogs, I invite you to do so.

These blogs do a few things for the students. Blogs give students 1. vital, low-pressure writing practice (Blogs don’t have to be perfect, though I do encourage them to return to edit and revise each post.) 2. a place to establish a POSITIVE online identity.  3. a place to showcase their immense knowledge about a topic (or topics) about which they care! 4. a REAL LIVE audience. (In a traditional English class, the paper comes in to the teacher and she’s the only person who sees it. A blog is open to a larger audience.)

What follows are the links to all of the student blogs AND a brief description of what each one is about (as per the students’ own words). Again, I invited and encourage you to post some comments.  They will appreciate the feedback and you will help them to realize the power of having an audience.

Nicole C. * Don’t worry. Be happy. *
“everything that makes me happy”

Destiney H. * Tattoo Blog *
“all about tattoos”

Megan I. * Pinterest Tutorials *
“seeing which/how Pinterest tutorials work”

Xiola K. * Passion Fashion Blog *
“fashion you can use”

Shelby T. * Seeing Red *
“A young redheaded woman’s view on heated topics and government”

Kylie M. * Important Problems *
“anything that I feel is important to discuss”

Jessica B. * Bitter Blonde *
“my pet peeves”

Truman S. * Aliens *
“What? Who? Where? Why?: Aliens”

Camden P. * Basketball Blog *
“blog about all levels of basketball”

James E. * Farming *
“the farming life”

Keaton D. * The love of my life, softball *
“You’ve been gripping the ball this whole time.. To find out it was the other way around.”


The Passionate (Student) Blogger

UPDATE: Here is a link to a “mock” blog I set up with instructions for my students: MRS. MORGENSON’S MOCKUP.

As an English Language Arts (ELA) teacher, I want my students to achieve at the highest level possible on district and state level goals, but ultimately, my goal is to help my students be the most effective and successful (however they personally define success) people they can be AND to help ignite a passion for reading and writing. My belief is strong: If you are an effective writer, reader, speaker and critical thinker, you can go anywhere and do anything. However, I realize that not every student I encounter is going to find passion in writing (or reading, speaking, or critical thinking), but even if they walk out of my room liking writing and/or reading MORE than they did before they met me, I am happy. (Even if they don’t LOVE it, I’m okay with that as long as they’ve moved over on the scale of LIKE.)

One way I’m trying to sneak in some extra writing this year is through a PASSION BLOG, as inspired by my Tweep Beth Still and her students. My philosophy behind this idea is that the writing will be driven by passion, thus the writing will be more palatable–even to reluctant writers.

I want my students to take ownership in this to the max, so I sent them a survey today to gauge what they found to be a reasonable expectation for these next 10ish (intense final) weeks (of their high school careers).  The requirements listed below are reflective of the collective response to that survey. I was most impressed by the overwhelming majority’s desire to REQUIRE impeccable grammar. (My cup runneth over!)




Minimum Requirements

  • 1 entry per week for 10 weeks for a total of 10 entries
  • (Feel free to post MORE than 10 entries, of course!)

Each entry should

  • be an average of three solid paragraphs (five to six sentences each) (This means that some of your entries might be shorter than three sentences and some might be longer. Sometimes you’ll have more to say; sometimes you’ll have less.)
  • be grammatically sound
  • be FULL of YOUR voice, your style and interesting word choices
  • be interesting to you and your readers (prove your content’s relevance)

Your entries might need to

  • cite sources (if applicable)
  • include links, graphics, or video (if applicable)

If you need your edublog sign-in info, please see me ASAP.



Once we get the blogs up and running, I will post links to all of them in a post right here — on MY passion blog.

A Formative Assessment for Teaching Shakespeare (Hamlet Specifically) with Email Clarification

Yesterday, I was at some training, so I had my sub give the following assignment.


CHOOSE ONE PASSAGE and RESPOND accordingly to the instructions.


  • Pick one of the following monologues to dissect and analyze. In a formal written response capture the essence of the passage in a concise SUMMARY, and then analyze the passage through the lenses of EXPERIENCE, INTERPRETATION, and EVALUATION.
  • Please write four distinct, fully-developed paragraphs, one for each of the aforementioned areas of analysis (SUMMARY, EXPERIENCE, INTERPRETATION, and EVALUATION.) Note: Your SUMMARY paragraph will most likely be your briefest one.
  • Revisit your DiYanni text, if you need further guidance regarding these realms of interpretation. After reading through the DiYanni text –if needed– contact Mrs. M with further questions via email (email redacted) or in person tomorrow or Friday.
  • Also, HELP EACH OTHER! Processing through dialogue is a very valuable strategy.


Even though he is told otherwise, Hamlet suspect that his Claudius and Gertrude have sent for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to possibly cheer him up, spy on him, or both. He finally gets them to admit this and responds thusly:

I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation
prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the King and
queene: moult no feather. I have of late, (but wherefore
I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises;
and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition;
that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterrill
promontory; this most excellent canopy the air,
look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this Majesticall roofe,
fretted with golden fire: why, it appeares no other thing
to me, then a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
reason, how infinite in faculty! in form and moving
how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet to me, what is
this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no,
nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem
to say so


As Hamlet plans his revenge upon his new “father” King Claudius, he cannot help but contemplate his own existence. In the following speech, he weighs the ever-famous question: To be, or not to be?

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action …




Within five minutes of class time starting, I (happily) engaged in the following email exchange with one of my students, while I was in training.
What do you mean write a paragraph about experience, interpretation, and evaluation? Specifically experience and evaluation cause I’m guessing by interpretation you mean tell what happened in detail.

(student name redacted)

Hi (student name redacted)

Thanks for asking.

EXPERIENCE–>  How might you relate Shakespeare’s words to your own life? Do you agree or disagree with the message/sentiments of the passage? Why? Have you ever experienced something that reminds you of what is being expressed here? If so, tell us about it. If not, can you relate it to something else you’ve read? seen? heard from someone else?

EVALUATION–> Why do you think Shakespeare included this passage? Why is it important to the story? to the reader? or is it? Make a value judgment. Is it well-written? Is it poetic? Explain.

Hope this helps! If you have further questions, let me know.

Alright (sic) thanks. So the interpretation is just a detailed analysis of what happened right?

(student name redacted)
Hi again, (student name redacted)

The SUMMARY will be a brief account of what happened.

The INTERPRETATION will be where you explore the choices Shakespeare made. Did he use metaphors? similes? personification? oxymoron? etc. Why did he make these literary choices?  Was there any double meaning in what he wrote? What do we know that the other characters don’t know? Who else is in the scene? How do those characters play in? Who is the intended audience? What does this passage say about Hamlet? What does it say about the culture he lives in?

You don’t necessarily have to answer ALL of these questions, but this should get your brain working!


It is lovely to be able to clarify an assignment — even when I’m not there — through the marvel of (sort of old) modern technology. The 1:1 iPad initiative has done many things for our district, but one of the most valuable is leveling the communication playing field (as much as possible) for our students.

The Last Day of the World

My Contemporary Literature class has been reading some of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man. Today, they will responding to the following prompt:

In light of the supposed Mayan prediction that December 21, 2012 is when the world will come to an end, if you knew with utmost certainty that tomorrow was the LAST DAY OF THE WORLD, what would you do? In narrative form, (between 3 and 5 paragraphs) describe what your day would look like. When you are done with your DETAILED description, add one more paragraph in which you explain WHY you would do what you say you would do and then compare your response to the response of the couple in “The Last Night of the World”. I challenge you, dear students, to go beyond the obvious: I’m going to party it up! Think about it before you put in on paper. Think about the people for whom you care most. Think about what TRULY matters to you. Tell a story. Make this a reflection of who you are and what it most important to you.

I’m looking forward to reading and responding to their writings.

Learning is just awkward sometimes … or, if you’re me … ALWAYS.

I’ve fumbled. Twice this week.  And it’s only Tuesday.

Bumbling Fumble 1:  I assumed (I know!  I know! Anyone who was in Mrs. Pickrel’s English class ought to know what evil the act of assuming leads to …) that because I was able to read my Doodle from MY Macbook Air and from my iPad that the students would be ablt to as well. In my Contemporary Literature and Writing class, we are using the Zite and Flipboard apps–both digitally customizable personalized social magazines–on our iPads. I chose this as a way for my students to access FREE high-interest non-fiction writing. The assigned part of it is that they have to share two articles per quarter with the rest of the class. They’ll do this in person (by verbally  summarizing, analyzing, evaluating the chosen article in class) as well as by sharing the link to the article with classmates via email and/or Twitter.

So, I sent them an email with a link to a Doodle I set up.  (Doodle is a site, which also has an app–of course–in which you can create and send out potential meeting times to a group of people and they can all respond with times that work best for them. It helps to alleviate the inevitable flurry of emails or phone calls that often ensue, when a group of busy people try to set up a meeting time that works for all of them. I wanted to use it in this situation to have students select two days in which they would present their articles. Essentially, I wanted to use it as a digital sign-up sheet. I like to think of it as a creative alternative to the “traditional” Doodle.)

They ALL received my email (which is a modern miracle in and of itself — no typos!) with the link to the Doodle; they all clicked on the link and then everyone–and I mean EVERYONE–one by one–then two by two–then as an entire group–began informing me, in a cacophony of outrage: “THE LINK DOESN’T WORK!” “DEAD LINK!” “IT SAYS IT DOES NOT EXIST!”

It was the browser again. The same stinkin’ browser that garbles my pdfs. The same one that makes scrambled eggs of my Pages docs. The same browser that is the ONLY one the students are currently authorized to use on their school-issued iPads.  The same browser that is … going away tomorrow. (HOORAY!)

I told the students that we would wait to use the Doodle tomorrow. Then we listened to a podcast introducing the novel Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks through AppleTV (which is my favorite favorite favorite thing right now for sound and audio). Then, I read the first chapter of the book aloud, which is probably one of the most low-tech things I could’ve done at that point, and, frankly, it felt gooooooooooooood.

Though the assumption I made during Bumbling Fumble 1 was a classic human error, Bumbling Fumble 2 was even more of a Fumbling Bumble on MY part and less related to a lack of app or website compatibility or technology failure in general. It was a rookie error really. After twelve years in this game, I should really have known better. I wanted to use Socrative in Contemporary Lit yesterday, but instead of setting it up ahead of time, I had it in my head that it was so very easy and user-friendly that I could set it up on the fly. This is never a good approach in any arena. Don’t get me wrong, Socrative IS easy. It IS user-friendly. It does NOT take long to set up at all.  That is, unless you haven’t used it since the summer, and you’ve forgotten the basics, which describes me perfectly in this situation.

So, lesson (re-)learned: Flying by the seat of one’s pants is best saved for vacations and date nights. But, then again, failing in front of the students isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It shows my hu–manity, for goodness sakes! OH THE HUMANITYYYYY! It shows that I’m taking risks (a careless risk maybe, but nevertheless a human risk) and I didn’t let it fluster me, as I might have in my earlier years. We just broke out the dry erase markers and scratch paper and kicked it old-school for a minute.

No doubt we (students, teachers, administrators, parents) are all curving along the learning continuum this year, as we matriculate in this new digi-rich environment. I am learning something new every single day thus far, and maybe it’s just me, but true learning always includes fumbling and bumbling. For me, true learning is always delightfully awkward.