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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How do you "Halloween" in the Classroom?

Cool air, bonfires, hoodies, pumpkin spice everything...who doesn't love this time of year? *

*Okay, confession...I live in South Carolina and it was literally over 80 degrees most of this week, so yeah, the "cool air" part is not really happening, and therefore hoodies and bonfires aren't either yet, but autumn is still my favorite time of year!

Anyway, another thing I just love about the autumn/fall is Halloween!  Ever since I was a child I just loved the "spooky" decorations, ghost stories, and dressing up like someone or something else.  Okay, and the candy...who can leave that out?

But still, it can be tricky this time of year in a classroom.  Some schools and districts allow Halloween related activities or decorations, some allow limited activities or decorations, and some don't allow any Halloween related items or activities.

Whether or not your school allows Halloween items and activities, the kids sure remember that the holiday is going on and you can't exactly just sweep it all under the rug.  I know as a child (*cough* and adult) I was drawing jack-o'-lanterns, ghosts, and bats on the margins of my papers.  Some of us get wrapped up in the fun and it's hard to completely let that go no matter whether you're at home or school.

 Some schools also may only allow Halloween activities so long as they comply with your state standards in some way, and some not at all.  So, how do you balance what you're allowed to do versus engaging the kids in the fun of the Halloween season?

Even if you aren't allowed to do "Halloween" activities, there is still some fun to be had in relation to Halloween themes! Let's take a look at some ways to incorporate the fun of the holiday into your classroom without breaking the rules:

Costumes, Dressing Up is Always Fun!: 
* Okay, this is always a BIG deal for kids this time of year.  One way we helped combat this was holding a "Dress Like a Book Character Day" at school.  The trick was, the character had to be in a book.  I usually dressed as Hermione Granger myself, but the kids got really creative with this one, and we always had a lot of fun sharing who our character was and why we chose them.

You could even visit other classrooms and have the students write a quick 30 - 60 second monologue from their character's point of view to get other kids interested in their book and character!
(Yes, that's me above...about 10 years ago or so in my friend's classroom!)

* You could hold a "Vocabulary Parade." Now, if you have never read Miss Alaineus, A Vocabulary Disaster please consider reading it.  It's hilarious, the kids will probably relate to her plight, and in the book they have a Vocabulary Parade where she totally lives up to her mistake and has fun with it.  The kids all dress up as a vocabulary word in their own creative way.  My friend and I did this with our students and then had them parade around each other's class.  They had the word displayed somewhere on them, but the costumes were creative and fun.  Each student came up and said their word and definition, it was the most fun we've ever had with vocabulary words!

* If your students are researching historical figures, inventors, or even careers, you could have them dress up as that person, or someone who has that career!  It always adds fun to the project, and allows the kids to dress up at school.  Plus, you don't need a lot of special materials to make this happen!

Using "Spooky" Themes...That Aren't Really Spooky:
*This is a great time of year to have a day to focus on animals that might bring a fright to some students (and adults).  You could have activities centered around snakes, bats, owls, or "creepy crawly" invertebrates.  You could assign different types to students and have them research them. It may also teach them that the animals aren't really that "scary!"  If this interests you, I have one of these units already made: All About Bats!  In my unit I tried to cover different subjects and give you a variety of activities to be done over a day, or week!

*Pumpkins...not really "spooky" but definitely related to Halloween!  One activity I did with my students was dressing up pumpkins as part of a descriptive writing activity.  I used to do a "Which Witch is Which?" but when things got a little more strict with Halloween activities, I opted for the pumpkins which are arguably representative of autumn/fall as much as Halloween!  Both of these activities are here: Which Witch is Which? and Guess That Pumpkin!  For the pumpkin activity, they had to decorate/dress up their pumpkin and write a very descriptive paragraph using a lot of adjectives to help students guess their pumpkin.  A lot of pumpkins came in looking similar, but if they did a great job with their description, usually the students guessed correctly!  We then sometimes voted on the "best dressed."

*Another pumpkin activity was reading two books about pumpkins (fiction and non-fiction) and comparing them.  For this I used Big Pumpkin by  Erica Silverman (this was with 3rd graders), but if you wanted to skip the witch in the book, there is also Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White or Pumpkin Jack by  Will Hubbel.  For the Non-Fiction book, I just chose one that talked about pumpkins and their life cycle and uses.  I chose Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin Pie by Jill Esbaum, but any non-fiction abotu pumpkins will do!    We read them aloud and discussed them together, then we made a venn diagram and the students used post-it notes to help compare the books.

*And more pumpkins... Pumpkins are just so accessible and can be used in science and math so easily! (Although I haven't had time this year to put all of my pumpkin activities together, I'm planning it out, so be on the look out next year!)  With the help of parents I got each child a "baby pumpkin" and about 6 large pumpkins for the entire class.  Over the course of a week the students weighed their pumpkin, measured it's height and circumference, compared their pumpkins, and then some even used them in the above mentioned descriptive writing activity! With the large pumpkins, we weighted each and then predicted how many seeds we thought would be in their pumpkin (each group was in charge of one large pumpkin). We graphed the results, which was a great class activity. I had a volunteer come help cut the tops and in the science lab we scooped out the seeds, and tried to count them.  Was it a little messy?  Yes, but with lots of newspaper on the tables, and sinks near by, it wasn't so bad!  We compared the results to their hypothesis, and then I even had a parent volunteer to roast the pumpkin seeds for later in the week.  Healthy treat, anyone?

For those of you who are allowed to do some Halloween related activities, but need something to fit standards, be sure to check out my "Halloween: Five Subjects, One Day" product in my TpT  Store!

No matter how you celebrate this festive time of year, I hope that you have some ideas you can use in your classroom!

 To add to the fun, I've decided to give away a set of logic puzzles if you share how you incorporate Halloween (or Autumn/Fall) into your classroom!  The winner will choose either a Halloween or Fall themed set from the following:
* Halloween Logic Puzzles (single and double matrix set)
* Fall Logic Puzzles (single and double matrix set)
* Halloween Double Matrix Logic Puzzles
* Fall / Autumn Double Matrix Logic Puzzles

Be sure to enter on my Facebook page by October 18th!

Cheers and Happy Halloween!

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