For me, Halloween can be a challenge. The build up and the sugar alone make it hard to keep kids focused. Today we have a guest post from Louise Blake who will give us some great ideas and activities to help keep kids engaged and motivated through the season. ~EMP
Fall is probably one of the most exciting seasons of the year for young children. Halloween, Thanksgiving and the build up to Christmas are all exciting events that children of all ages look forward to, but this can make teaching around these dates a challenge.
So how can you hold the attention of your elementary or middle school class and make sure they complete the challenges you set them, when all they can think about is candy and pumpkin pie?
Sometimes as an educator it’s better to go with the flow of your students, rather than attempting to build barriers, and Halloween is one of those times. The excitement, the costumes, the colours and even the candy can all be an asset to your teaching, if you accept that your class will be thinking about these festive traditions and chatting about them with their friends. Try these five ideas to keep a balance between your class’ attention span and the curriculum.
If your class is allowed to dress up for the day on Halloween then keep their focus by asking each student to prepare three facts about their outfit to present to the class.
For example, if a student wants to come to school dressed as a pumpkin, spend time in lessons the day before by helping them to research fun facts, such what family of vegetables pumpkins belong to and what they can be used for other than a food source – for example, Native Americans used to dry the shells and use them as bowls and cups.
Incorporate Halloween into your biology lesson by asking your class to build a skeleton out of white paper. Borrow a life-size skeleton from the science department and divide your class into six groups. Assign them a separate area of the body, and ask them to name all the bones that they can think of within that area, and discuss the functions of each area.
Students can then write the name and function onto a white piece of paper and cut it into the shape of a bone, before the whole class can use paper clips or fishing wire to join each bone together to form a complete skeleton.
Follow the curriculum but incorporate Halloween into your math problems. Put sums into context but instead of talking about the number of apples in a grocery store, give each question a ghoulish twist to keep your class interested. Simple questions such as ‘if 12 witches ride in pairs, how many broomsticks will they need to buy?’ work well.
Play the Boo Game with your students to flex their vocabulary skills. Write a different vocabulary term on one side and corresponding description on the other side of 20-40 index cards. Use a Halloween stamp that says ‘boo’ or features a ghost, and stamp three cards within the deck.
Ask students to define each word and if they win they get to keep the card, but if they win a ‘Boo’ card, they must return all their cards and forfeit a turn. The winner is the student with the most cards at the end of the game. The vocabulary you practice can be tweaked to suit different grades and subjects.
Many cultures around the world celebrate Halloween in different ways. During the week of Halloween, broaden the knowledge of your class by teaching them about the Mexican Day of the Dead festival, Japan’s Festival of Lanterns and the origins of Halloween, which can be found in Celtic Ireland.
Split your class into groups and get each group to make a collage that depicts the cultural differences for between the US and each country. Ask them to discuss common factors shared by their assigned culture, such as why these festivals are centered around harvest, why cultures feel it’s important to honour the dead and why these festivals are often very colourful and family-oriented, rather than sad, solemn occasions.
Prepare as much as possible in advance and remember to have fun helping your class celebrate this festive occasion. Do you have any further tips on how to hold the attention of your class around Halloween? Please share!