Every year as Halloween approaches, I think about what I want class to look like on that day. There is no denying that its not a regular class day. Students will not be focused, and will likely be resentful if its run like a regular class. However, there are many options.
A friend of mine teaches upper level students (juniors and seniors), with smaller class sizes. She does some really REALLY cool demos that day.
My favorite is the exploding pumpkin! It is definitely something students will remember, and be excited about. She also usually gets dry ice, and does some demonstrations with dry ice, such as these:
Sometimes, however, particularly when teaching large classes of middle school students, I don't always trust their behavior and self-control to do these type of demonstrations. Students are excited, but they are TOO excited, and it just adds to the chaos, and can get out of control.
Instead, I have used this day to build on literacy, in a fun and engaging way that still allows students a break from the regular daily routine.
I usually print out a variety of news articles on Halloween related topics, at different reading levels, and then I let them choose an article.
There are many more available, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Toxic slime, goo-spewing mouth, brain-eating parasites — oh my! (needs a free newsela.com account, but if you don't have one, get one. It is awesome!)
- The Crafty Wasps That Turn Spiders Into Web-Weaving Zombie Slaves
- Vampires’ gift of ‘blood honey’
- True vampires
- Plant ‘vampires’ lay in wait
- Early school starts can turn teens into ‘zombies’
Depending on my particular class and my goals, I may then have the students answer some comprehension questions about the article (some of these come with comprehension questions), get into a small group or partner and present, write a short summary, connect to a course topic, use a version of the textbook reading strategy, etc.
One year I was at a school that required 'literacy labs' consisting of
- a list of three or more vocabulary words with definitions that you took from the article (you may need to research to find a proper definition
- A short essay consisting of:
- a description of EITHER how this information will impact your everyday life/why the information in this passage matters/your opinion about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, with supporting arguments.
- Make a list of facts, opinions, conclusions, and speculations contained in this article.
There are also numerous free examples of news article summaries and news article assignments available online, as well as common core literacy questions that can easily be adapted.
Students are doing something slightly academic, but have been quite engaged reading about 'Halloween' topics, and taking a break from their regular coursework for one day.
How do you celebrate Halloween in your classroom?