Using a Cluster Map and Storyboard to Understand the Main Ideas in a Modified Halloween Reading Lesson

The Haunted House: A Halloween Story

Everyone knew that the house at the end of the dead end road was haunted. It wasn’t just the gray peeling flakes of paint off the sides of the house covered in layered webs of spider art displaying dead flies that gave it away. It was the muted screams of shrill voices that shattered the broken shards of glass in the darkened interior that kept the neighborhood kids walking on the other side of the block on most days.

But on the day before Halloween, an orange pumpkin suddenly appeared on the broken wooden steps leading up to door latched only by a single hook and latch. The pumpkin seemed lost as if it had been placed on the steps by mistake and wanted to move houses. In the dusk of the evening, the pumpkin appeared to cry real tears which made the sounds from the house shrill past the full moon and the night racing into Halloween day.

On Halloween day, the pumpkin was gone. The haunted house was quiet for the first time in years. The house had been painted a sunflower yellow and the broken windows had been fixed along with the wooden steps and the porch rails. The smell of baking pie permeated through the neighborhood. As the first kid walked up to the door and said “Trick or Treat,” the freshly painted black door opened slowly.

The pumpkin from the porch held out a brown paper bag with candy corns and said to the little girl, “Would you like some candy and a piece of pumpkin pie?” As the girl went into the house, she noticed a large square table with at least ten slices of pumpkin pie laid out on white paper plates. Taking a slice, she quickly ate it and within seconds, she disappeared. The pumpkin rolled her onto the broken wooden steps. As the afternoon turned into the darkest of Halloween nights, the house turned back into its brokenness and shrill screams with the biggest scream coming from the pumpkin sitting innocently on the edge of a broken wooden step waiting for the next trick or treater.

Original story by the author of this article – Copyrighted 2009

Visuals for the Modified Lesson Plan

The Halloween Pumpkin
The Haunted House
Welcome Home

Modified Lesson Plan: Cluster Map

Teachers can use cluster maps to organize reading material ideas in a compare and contrast format for special needs students. By starting with the main topic idea, teachers can show students how to organize the details of the story into meaningful and smaller chunks of learning context.

  • Read the story “The Haunted House.”
  • Create a cluster map by drawing a circle in the middle of your paper for the topic and four smaller circles for the main idea about the topic in each paragraph.
  • Draw smaller circles around the four smaller circles for details contained in the story.
  • In the example, below the bold indicates the topic and the italics are the two main ideas in the story. Have students indicate the main ideas in the last two paragraphs of the story.

Cluster Map without the Cluster Circles:

dead end___flaky paint___screams___ House details ——-Haunted House———Pumpkin appears___broken steps-dusk,cries


Using storyboards, students can summarize, put the story in sequence and outline the main ideas of the story. See the details below on how the storyboard for “The Haunted House” has been modified to meet the needs of learners having difficulty in reading context.

  • First, it was known that the house at the end of the road was haunted. It looked creepy with broken windows, screams and it was dark.
  • Second, the day before Halloween, an orange pumpkin appeared on the broken steps. The pumpkin seemed human because it cried and looked lonely and out of place.
  • Third, on Halloween day, the pumpkin was gone and the house looked real. Someone inside was baking good food when a little girl went up to the door and knocked for the Halloween trick and treat.
  • Fourth, the pumpkin on the porch opened the door and offered the girl candy and a piece of pumpkin pie which she ate. Somehow the girl disappeared inside the house.
  • Finally, the girl who turned into a pumpkin was put on the steps until the next kid came for trick and treating. The house didn’t look real anymore and became haunted again.

Teachers can use one story to build a portfolio of modified lessons that students with special needs can read and understand immediately. It is also a great Halloween read for students looking for a scary story that is almost human. This is a lesson that can also be used with gifted and exceptional students to apply the main ideas into an analysis of details, tone and meaning of the underlying story ideas.