Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Best of the Classroom!

Back on my very old blog I did one of my favorite posts on what I love about Halloween as a teacher. Christmas might be my favorite holiday of all time, but there is seriously something about the month of October within the classroom walls.

So, I bring you the best of Halloween in my classroom...

Pumpkin Math:

Made by yours truly and sold on TPT for $2.50
One of my pride and joys is the first product I made for my Teachers Pay Teachers store...and actually, my first personally created lesson straight out of student teaching.  PUMPKIN MATH!  My students become elated (as do I) over it every single year.  My kids get into their groups and each group gets a pumpkin.  They get to estimate the weight, volume (using cups of guts), and circumference of their pumpkins.  We carve pumpkins using dice and then go back to see how close the estimations were. I invite parents to help us carve and students donate the pumpkins.  Our room stinks of pumpkin the rest of the day, but it is well worth it.  I try to take the seeds home and roast them for the kids to try the next day, since many of them have never had this chance.  

Haunted House Expressive Writing:

Also made by yours truly on TPT for $5.00
Possibly even higher on my favorites list than Pumpkin Math, is the Haunted House Expressive Writing Unit.  I started using it in my classroom several years ago.  I was tired of reading my students lackluster writing and wanted to figure out a way to get them to become more descriptive.  Thus, was born this unit after finding a cool idea online that included sound effects.

They are allowed to make it gory and scary OR funny if they'd like.  I play Halloween movie songs and creepy sound effects to help them get inspired while they are writing.  We play around with the 5-senses to figure out ways to make our audience feel like they are right there with us in that haunted house.  The kids work on trying to use descriptive words for sounds since they can't draw pictures.

Last year, we even had ourselves a writing contest!  I decided to choose the top 10 stories and pass them off to one of the 8th grade classes.  They read and voted for the top 5.  You wouldn't believe how hard the kids worked to make their writing entertaining for those older kids.  They grew leaps and bounds just in those couple weeks.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark:

from Barnes and Noble
You know the variety.  Many of you who are children of the 80s or 90s know these books quite well.  I used to read them cover to cover as a kid and couldn't get enough of them.

When I am done with our regular read-aloud, all during the month of October, I read stories each day from the Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz.  Several years ago I struck gold and found the 3-book treasury from Barnes and Noble.  I especially love to read the stories that give me a chance to jump out at them. It is better if I get them to scream loudly...but these days are sadly gone as my students seem to incredibly desensitized due to being allowed to see all the scary movies in theaters   I'll refrain from getting on a soap box about this one.  

One story in particular (actually there are about 2-3 like it in the books) where the ghost or ghoul is asking for something that the protagonist has stolen and at the end the ghost screams to give it back or something…anyway, I hide a fake bloody finger in the book as I read. Then, when I get to the part where the ghost screams loudly I throw it across the room and scare the living daylights out of the kids. ha ha ha ha It works every time...or at least it used to.

For the next week following Halloween, my kids beg me to continue reading out of it. But I tell them it is an October only special. After that, the kids are found checking this book out of my library time and time again.

House on Hackman's Hill and Wait Till Helen Comes:

Both images are from

Not only do I thoroughly enjoy reading the Scary Stories, but I read one of these two books (I switch back and forth every year) as our daily read-aloud.  Both are tried and true in the classroom to freak out students.  Although, I've noticed they are less and less scared each year....which takes all the fun away for me.  But both stories are still great reads that put us in the mood for the Halloween season.  

House on Hackman's HIll by Joan Lowery Nixon is a fantastically creepy story and I prefer it over the other.  There are several scenes where Anubis, the half man half jackal ancient Egyptian god, jumps out or does something ferociously scary, like scratching and sniffling at a door. These are the parts I love to overdramatize to get the kids riled up.

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn is one of those ghost stories where you know something bad is coming.  Even though it has a couple spine-tingling moments, it doesn't really have any of my favorite spots to jump out on.  Meh.  But no bother, it is still worth the creeps it gives some of my students.  

Halloween Picture Books:

I love to pull out my three favorite picture books as well, two of which I discovered as a student teacher and have stuck by since.  I have tried to read others and I always go back to these three.

Hallo-Weiner is by Dav Pilkey has a really nice theme to it as well as his hint of humor.  I can't resist doing a funny little German old lady voice for his mom.  The kids laugh and enjoy this one year after year.  

Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini is one of my all-time favorite picture books.  My copy has fallen apart twice and has been glued back together with glue.  My favorite part?  Doing the mean witchy voice, even though it hurts my throat every time.  Oh, and the very last'll have to read it for yourself to see if the witch gets her Piggie Pie.  

The real photographs in Pumpkin Circle by George Levenson are gorgeous, colorful, and so detailed. I love reading this to students before we carve our pumpkins during Pumpkin Math.  It gets oohs and ahhs every time.

Garfield's Halloween Adventure:

You can even get yourself a vintage VHS copy on Amazon!
Even though we aren't allowed to show movies in class anymore, I still wanted to include this one in my Best of Halloween!  Garfield's Halloween Adventure is a favorite of mine from when I was a kid.  It used to scare the bejeesus out of my little brother and I.  The same scene that frightened us always gets my students too.  Can you say pirates rising out of the floor and then scaring Garfield in his hiding spot?...those of you who have seen it know what I mean!

This cartoon is never shown on T.V. any more, so I just love sharing it with them.  Since I can't show it in class this year, I'll just have to watch it at home by myself.  Candy, candy, candy, candy!

So, what are your Best of Halloween picks?  Do you love celebrating this in the classroom more than any other holiday?