The holidays always provide just the right themed hook that draws students into our lessons. As we roll into our first set of celebrations . . . right up there with Christmas is the one and only Halloween. Whether you can give or take this particular holiday, Halloween is a kid magnet. Just the thought of mini candy bars and transforming into a beloved character is enough to inspire and motivate dang near EVERY kiddo in your classroom. With this said, why not leverage this holiday for all that it’s worth?
On that somewhat cunning and slightly devious note, I am here to share a few ways that I have infused standards and grade-level concepts with Halloween fun. My friends over at Oriental Trading have helped me roll with many of these ideas for years. With a few of their inexpensive and spooky themed items, you will have your kids beggin’ for more 🙂
Before I launch into the details, I want you to get a picture in your mind for me. Think about Halloween day in your classroom. Although it’s not quite as bad as the day after All Hallows’ Eve, the kids are still NUTS as the excitement is in overdrive. Now, think about how much teaching you actually get done on this day. Um . . . ouch. I’m here to tell you not to fight it. Infuse it!
The Boneyard is the perfect activity to help you merry that excitement with a concept 🙂 Here’s how it works! Begin by setting up a grave yard in your classroom (it’s the perfect Halloween Day touch). You can make your own headstones or up the ante and snag a few of these light up ones from Oriental Trading. Sure it requires a little cash (less than you think) and/or effort up front, but once you make the purchase and put in a little time, you can easily recreate this center for YEARS.
Next, print, laminate, and trim bone shaped word cards. You can load these with anything from word families, real vs. nonsense words, and spelling words to weekly vocabulary. (I typically always do short and long o words as I like the connection with bOnEs.) Place these bones “in” your graveyard.
During centers, students get to visit the boneyard to do their word work for the day. Students quietly creep into your spooky scene and select a bone to bring back to their workstation. I use this as a sentence writing station focused on LONG O words, but you can change this up to meet your needs (vocabulary, vowel teams, spelling words). **NOTE – I like to really go for it . . . I dim the classroom lights in this area, quietly play spooky sounds from a strategically placed speaker, and I’ve even incorporated a fog machine. All of this is not necessary, but it adds to the overall engaging flavor. Feel free to alter the level of “spooky” to fit your crew and your overall style.
When students finish each sentence sentence, they return the bone to the grave yard and select a new word. This process continues until their activity sheet is completed or time is called.
Want to try this super engaging center with your students this Halloween season? I put my short/vowel version up for grabs as a FREEBIE. I also tossed in an editable set of bones so you can alter this to fit your specific academic needs (make 6-10 pages of word filled bones depending on your group size). CLICK HERE to snag this awesome activity. Oh, and up your game and get yourself a headstone or two from Oriental Trading . . . they sell the sizzle for sure!
TAKIN’ A BITE OUT OF LONG VOWELS
Speaking of long vowels, bit to bite has oodles of spooky flavor hidden in it with one simple connection — VAMPIRES. And, all you need to pull off an amazing themed phonics CENTER is a class set of white or colored plastic fangs. Thanks to Oriental Trading, I was able to snag a class set for me as well as my ENTIRE grade level for next to nothing.
Begin by making a small group set of the short vowel cards. Some of the words will need to create real words when a bossy e is added and some will need to fail at this task miserably. Each kid will also need an activity sheet with a real vs. nonsense column on it.
This game can be used for just about anything. Simply change the sorting task — word families, greater than/less than, ABC order, fact families, parts of speech, etc. I provided a long vowel version for you today as well as two generic sorting templates (two column and three column). CLICK HERE to snag this stellar freebie.
What about the fangs you ask? Well, you have two choices. You can provide the fangs up front and let them wear them while they work or you can have them EARN fangs with a completed paper. Um . . . I always go with the latter now. My first year runnin’ with this activity (year two in the biz), I gave them the fangs right away. I played an oral sorting game (short vs. long). They did marvelously and engagement was higher than high. However, I had to throw all of the papers away after the activity. Why you ask. Well, those stupid fangs started to make the kids drool. Seriously people. I’m not talking about a little spit here either. I’m talking PUDDLES from nearly every kid in the room. Needless to say, papers were ruined (I sure as heck wasn’t going to touch them) and it almost made my mother helper for the day puke in the process. All in all, I strongly caution against this move, but it’s your call 😛
On a final note, I also was able to find some awesome writing instruments to use with this activity (CLICK HERE). It’s gong to be the perfect “hook” the kids need to stay focused during Halloween week. Not only are they pens (OMGOSH . . . we get to use PENS), but they have spooky fangs on top. #winning
MY LIFE AS A PUMPKIN
Writing engagement always goes up when you incorporate REAL photos of the kiddos into the process. Knowing this simple fact and then stumbling across this pumpkin photo booth prop set, I knew I had a winner. I haven’t rolled with this one yet, but here’s my thinking. Use this handy-dandy item from Oriental Trading to have the kids pose in a fall scene. I am going to offer up a few other items to spice it up — sunglasses, feather boa, shield, mustache, witch nose, etc. During a Fun Friday, I will pull the kids to take pictures in my “photo booth” area. (I’m just going to hang a dark sheet and put some Halloween decorations around it.) Over the weekend, I will print them out in color and trim tightly around the edges. The following week, the kids will receive their photo and a fun creative writing task . . . My Life As a Pumpkin.
Brainstorming ideas up front and recording them on the white board will definitely help generate some solid creativity. What is it like waiting to get picked? Did you run away from the patch? Tell about a spooky night in the pumpkin patch. What if you were the last pumpkin waiting to be picked? I think using a little story board will be helpful here too.
I am feeling the pay it forward bug today, so I am going to offer up this one too. CLICK HERE to snag the writing template and storyboard. I will follow this up with my super fun ADJECTIVE PUMPKINS activity. We all know a little pumpkin goes a long way this time of year.
Alright, so there you have it. A post dedicated to adding some spooky flavor to your centers this month with a little inexpensive help from our friends at Oriental Trading. Remember the old motto, “If you can’t beat ’em . . . join ’em.” Here’s to surviving the Halloween season and fightin’ to keep those standards firmly in place all the way through the holiday!