A TEACHER’S ABC COUNTDOWN TO RETIREMENT: H is for Halloween

May 18, 2015

Halloween is the favorite, most anticipated “holiday” of most children I know. Everything about Halloween is geared to kids: candy and other treats, wearing costumes, telling scary stories, playing games.

In every school I’ve worked in, Halloween has been celebrated in a big way. Of course, there are always some families who don’t let their children participate due to religious beliefs, but these are relatively few, at least where I live.

What most school Halloween celebrations have in common is a costume parade around the school (outside if it’s warm enough and not raining or snowing), classroom parties during which treats are distributed and consumed and there are games or centers involving Halloween.

Early in my teaching career, I acquired the bare necessities for a witch costume: a pointed black hat with gray hair attached to it, a black cape, and scary spiders that I hang over my shoulder. I tell the kids in my best witchy voice that the spiders are my pets, and then, squeezing a bulb at the end of a tube, I make them “jump”. This scares some kids at first, but being naturally curious, they then want to find out how it works. Each spider has a inflatable rolled up rubber sac under its body, which, when the bulb is squeezed, forces air through the tube to inflate the sac and the spider appears to “jump.”

Part of my witch costume is playing the part: I speak with a witchy voice and cackle like a witch too! I have worn other costumes when a group of teachers all decided to dress in complimentary costumes, but usually I’m happy being a witch.

Most of the children bring their costumes to school in their backpacks, where they leave them during the morning, which is conducted like a “normal” school day, and a period of time is allowed after their lunch period to change into their costumes for the parade and afternoon festivities. Some kids don’t have costumes or don’t bring them because of school restrictions, such as: no masks, no “blood”, no “weapons”. With most of these kids, they don’t bring a costume because they can’t afford it. Therefore, the school collects second-hand or new costumes that staff members or parents donate in advance so that these kids can pick one out to wear for the parade and party.

Often we incorporate Halloween-themed activities into our curriculum. One big project is to give groups of students a pumpkin to carve and remove the innards. They then count the seeds and we do a math activity comparing the number of seeds in each pumpkin and finding the mean, median and range. Another whole group activity is test practice: create a two or three-step word problem to solve and write an extended response, such as:
Mary Lou wants to buy spider cupcakes for everyone in her class. The cupcakes are sold in packs of six. There are 22 students in her class. How many packs will Mary Lou need to buy? Ho9w many cupcakes will be left over? Explain your answer.

We might have math centers in which each station has an activity related to something we’ve studied, for example:
Measurement – use a tape measure to measure the circumference of a pumpkin, then find the diameter.
Also measurement – use candy corn to measure things, like the side of a book, a desk, or a picture of a ghost.
Word problems – students solve word problems related to Halloween.
Other centers could be:
Reading – read Halloween books and answer questions that have been previously written by other classmates.
Art – decorate a small pumpkin using the materials provided, such as markers, glitter glue, leaves, sticks, etc.

Making Halloween centers, though, is a lot of work and requires more than one adult to help out, so room parents are necessary. I created Halloween centers my first few years of teaching, but it was so much work that, after that, I just went along with whatever my colleagues had planned. Usually, we will just have a whole group Halloween-related learning activity in the morning and games or “rotations” in the afternoon. Room parents volunteer to come and help out, and usually parents will provide cookies, cupcakes, candy, and other treats also. There is usually a rule in the school prohibiting sugary treats for birthdays, etc., but this is always waived for Halloween and Valentine’s Day at least!

I always take lots of pictures on Halloween, including classroom group pictures. I’m posting several pictures below showing Halloween party games, parades and whole group activities that I’ve taken over the years.

I have always looked forward every year to having fun with young students on Halloween and I know that I will miss this when I’m retired!

Halloween 2009Classmates reach into the pumpkin to remove the pulp.

Classmates reach into the pumpkin to remove the pulp.

Kelly Funk cutting top of pumpkin
Teacher cuts top of pumpkin
Irais and her classmate get help from social worker Teri Bicok (in Sullivan shirt) and a volunteer mom.
Students get help from social worker and a volunteer mom.
They have to separate all the seeds from the pulp in order to count them.
They have to separate all the seeds from the pulp in order to count them.
The kids make piles of ten to make them easier to count.
The kids make piles of ten to make them easier to count.
Yecch!! A 4th grader shows her hands full of sticky, slimy pulp!
Yecch!! A 4th grader shows her hands full of sticky, slimy pulp!

Halloween 2010 – my 2nd grade classlimbo-Halloweenpartyclassroompumpkin DSCN4917-Daniela L & Valentina painting pumpkin 008 (2)

The superintendent and the principal in their matching costumes011
Parade – there was a cold wind that day!
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Bobbing for apples
031 041 042

Group picture: me with my class062

2011 – Preschool paradeMadison preschoolers' Halloween parade

2012 – Group picture: me with 3rd grade classDSCN6746

Pumpkin seed counting activity – a volunteer mom helps her son and classmates.DSCN6761 DSCN6762 DSCN6769 DSCN67772013 – At my current school, every year there is a “Pumpkin Walk” – a contest to create the most original pumpkin. One winner per class & grade level, and a grand prize winner.These pumpkins look too delicious to eat!

These pumpkins look too delicious to eat!

Bilingual 1st and 2nd grade class, with their teacher.Sarahi Ortiz's 1st/2nd grade bilingual class

Lined up for the ball toss game.
Lined up for the ball toss game.
Playing Halloween Bingo in Ms. Moon's classroom
Playing Halloween Bingo
Making skeleton pictures with cotton swabs
Making skeleton pictures with cotton swabs
Daniela & Valentina play game.
Tossing game
Andy Tieman, the principal, dressed in some sort of devil(ish) costume!
The principal, dressed in some sort of devil(ish) costume!
The kids ask them questions or said things like, "I know you! You're the art teacher!" But the mimes said nothing in reply.
The kids ask them questions or said things like, “I know you! You’re the art teacher!” But the mimes said nothing in reply.
The students' pumpkins were left on the shelf to dry.
The students’ pumpkins were left on the shelf to dry.

2014 – Bilingual 1st/2nd gradeStephanie, Maria B., Virginia & Jose 'bobbing' for doughnuts!

Students ‘bobbing’ for doughnuts!

Elia & volunteer moms stringing doughnuts.
PA & volunteer moms stringing doughnuts.
Beatris & Alex choose a prize.
Students choose a prize.
Three witches, including music and art teachers, pay a visit to Amy Moon's classroom.
Three witches, including music and art teachers, pay a visit to the classroom.

IMAG2765_BURST002_COVERThe teacher with her current class of 1st/2nd graders.

2nd grade door decorations
2nd grade door decorations
Ortiz's door
Our classroom door

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