What do Halloween costumes say? Lesson Plan

Level: Grades K-5

Author: Teaching Tolerance is a Web project of the U.S. based Southern Poverty Law Center.

The lesson was adapted with permission from Teaching Tolerance, a Web project of the U.S. based Southern Poverty Law Center. Teaching Tolerance provides educators with free educational materials that promote respect for differences and appreciation of diversity.

media representation

This lesson is part of USE, UNDERSTAND & ENGAGE: A Digital Media Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools. 


This activity, adaptable across grades, is designed to help students look critically at the Halloween costumes marketed to them. In schools where Halloween is observed, the activity can be used to develop guidelines for acceptable holiday garb.

Learning Outcomes

Big ideas/key concepts: Students will learn the understand that...

  • Media are constructions: Costumes are media works
  • Media have social and political implications: Media works send messages about topics like diversity, gender, identity, and law
  • Each medium has a unique aesthetic form: Costumes communicate meaning through colour, image, and associations such as tie-ins with history, culture or other media
  • Audiences negotiate meaning: Different people respond differently to the same media text (e.g. costumes)

Key questions:

  • What messages can costumes send?
  • What questions should we ask before choosing a costume?
  • How can we decide if a costume is appropriate?

Essential knowledge: Students will learn...

  • Media representation: Different costumes are marketed to different groups of people
  • Media health: How we feel can be affected by how we’re represented in media

Performance tasks: Students will be able to use costumes in a conscious and responsible way, understand how genres influence how works are made and experienced, and engage with issues of stereotyping and representation in media

This lesson and all associated documents (handouts, overheads, backgrounders) is available in an easy-print, pdf kit version.

Lesson Kit