Monday, 9 September 2013

Halloween Celebrations in your Classroom

Halloween is an annual celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31st.  It is a mixture of celebration and superstition.  The name "Halloween" comes from "All Hallows' Evening" which is the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows or Saints.  Pope Gregory III designated the first of November as a time to honour all saints and martyrs.  Prior to that, it was an ancient Celtic festival "Samhain" during which bonfires would be lit and costumes worn to ward off roaming ghosts.  It was believed that on this night of the year, spirits and the dead can ross over into the world of the living.  These spirits could take someone into the underworld with them.  In order to avoid such things, people dressed up so as not to be recognized by the spirits.

Today, Halloween activities include trick-or-treating for candy, holding and attending costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, bobbing for apples, and playing pranks on people to scare them.  Visiting haunted attractions and telling scary stories are also very popular. 

Happy Halloween greetings at
Why not dress up your lesson plans with PNG images of pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns.  Have a Halloween party and decorate your classroom!

Here are some fun Halloween party ideas for your class:

Halloween Memory Game

Get some Halloween related items and place them on a tray.  You should have about 15-25 small items from your local dollar store.  Things like plastic spiders, eyeballs, skulls, pumpkins, mice, ghosts, etc. are good choices.  If you have a large class, think about having several trays with students working in groups.  Cover the trays with a cloth.

Remove the cloth to reveal the items on the tray and tell students that they are to try to memorize as many items as they can within 45 - 60 seconds.  When the time is up, place the cloth back onto the tray.  Students will now write down as many items from the tray as they can remember.  The student or group that remembers the most items correctly is the winner.  You can change up this game by playing in rounds, or changing or adding items to the tray.

Scary Story Time

The object of this literacy game is to begin with a scary idea and to build upon it.  This game/assignment may involve the entire class, a small group, or be used as a writing assignment for individual study.

The teacher will have idea cards to begin a story.  Students will repeat the beginning phrase and add their idea to continue the story.  Each student will take their turn and be given an allotted amount of time to continue telling the story - 30-60 seconds works best.  The next student will repeat the last line and try to move the story in another direction.  You can add atmosphere to your class by turning off the lights and have the student talking hold a flashlight under their chin.

This idea is also great for individual writing assignments.  The teacher may provide several phrases as beginning lines to write a creative story.  Stories may be shared in the classroom.

Story beginning phrase ideas:  (Adjust as age-appropriate for your classroom.)

It was a dark and stormy night when...
When the lightning lit up the night sky, I could see...
The witch laughed and in a squeaky voice said...
Peeking in through the window was...
My worst fears were coming true.  Right behind me....
Out of the dark woods crawled...
The motionless figure laying on the ground suddenly...
The dogs ran in fear, for right behind them...

Bake Sugar Cookie Dough - Halloween Fingers

2 cups all purpose flower
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract  (use the real stuff, not the artificial)
Blanched, skinless whole almonds
Red food colouring
Powdered sugar

Mix flower, baking powder and salt.  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Gradually add the flower mixture.  Wrap dough in plastic and either freeze or place in fridge until firm (about 40 minutes).

Roll dough into finger-sized logs about 3 inches long.  Make three perpendicular lines with a knife's edge on the middle of the fingers to represent knuckle lines.  Press a whole almond onto the tip of the "finger" to look like a fingernail.  The pointed end of the almond should point away from the finger.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

If desired, mix a little powdered sugar and water to make a thin icing.  Colour the icing with red food dye and "paint" each fingernail red.

These Halloween "finger" cookies make a fun addition to any classroom Halloween party.

Optional:  I've seen green food dye added to the dough mixture.  A light hint of green and you can call these cookies "witch's fingers"!  Enjoy.