Easy Halloween Tricks & Treats Across the Curriculum
- Grades: PreK–K
As if teaching weren't chaotic and stressful enough, there's holidays to deal with. The first major holiday of the school year is Halloween, and aside from all the projects, parties, and pigging out you'll have to consider, there's also the question of whether you should celebrate at all. First of all, 5-year-olds don't always like spooky things. And second, some parents don't approve of the holiday. What's a stressed-out teacher to do?
How do I deal with it? If my students get scared, I don't tell them it is silly to be scared. During school time, I am their protector. I reassure them that I am strong and will protect them.
Spooky and scary things can be turned into benign and interesting lessons and yet still retain the overall mood of the occasion. Everything I do is as innocent and wholesome as possible. If a parent still doesn't approve, I send their child to a different classroom during selected lessons and give them a special activity to work on. I also recommend to the parent that they keep their child home during the class party.
Unlike other holidays, Halloween is rife with potential content. On the one hand, that could mean a lot more work for you. On the other hand, it could mean more opportunities for teaching relevant topics you usually don't have time for. I use the theme of Halloween in all subject areas across the curriculum for cohesion and structure. And most importantly, I make all my projects and activities really, really easy. Interested in how I accomplish this? Read on!
SUBJECT AREA: SOCIAL STUDIES
SUBJECT: Summer's End, Harvest, Seeds, and Pumpkins
TEACH THIS: Harvest is the end of summer, the beginning of autumn, and the time to gather the crops. A pumpkin garden is called a pumpkin patch. A seed is what makes a pumpkin grow. A pumpkin is a vegetable. It can be any size, from very small to very large.
SUBJECT: Facial Expressions and Emotions
TEACH THIS: A jack-o'-lantern is a pumpkin with a face on it. When people carve faces on jack-o'-lanterns, they show many different emotions. Facial expressions and body language can indicate how you are feeling on the inside.
Ask your students to think of a time they felt happy. Tell them to pretend it is happening right now. How do they feel inside? How do their faces feel? Are they smiling or laughing? Try the same exercise for other emotions.
TEACH THIS: If you disguise yourself, you change the way you look so that people will not recognize you. A disguise can be anything that you wear — a wig, a hat, glasses, mustache and/or beard, coat, etc. — that makes you look different. Or it can make you look like something specific, such as a zombie or a vampire.
Invite a child to put on a simple mask. Can you still identify him? What makes a good disguise?
Why do these people wear disguises?
SUBJECT AREA: SCIENCE
SUBJECT: Nocturnal Animals
TEACH THIS: Many animals are nocturnal, which means that they are awake and active at nighttime instead of in the daytime. Nocturnal animals include bats (like vampire bats!), cats, owls, mice, rats, and spiders.
Hide black cutouts of nocturnal animals around the room. Hang up a plastic glow-in-the-dark moon. Turn off the lights, play some Halloween sound effects, and let the children search for the animals with flashlights.
SUBJECT: Skeletons, Bones, and Blood
TEACH THIS: Everyone has a skeleton of more than 200 bones inside their bodies. Without a skeleton inside us, we would all be blobs. A body is built with bones, just like a house is built with beams. Bones allow us to move, and they act like helmets or armor to protect other parts of our bodies.
Blood is the red liquid inside our bodies. It helps us breathe. We can see blood when we cut ourselves.
TEACH THIS: Ancient people protected dead bodies by wrapping them up before burial. These preserved bodies are called mummies.
Let students mummify Barbie dolls by wrapping them in toilet paper and wetting them with water from a spray bottle.
SUBJECT AREA: MATH
SUBJECT: Measuring, Weighing, Comparing, and Sequencing
TEACH THIS: Get five pumpkins of different heights and widths. Cut two lengths of string for each pumpkin, one for the height and one for the width. Have your students measure the pumpkins by height and width by finding the right size string for each.
Have students weigh pumpkins, either with a scale or by picking them up and deciding which is heaviest.
Have students sequence pumpkins by height, width, and weight.
SUBJECT: Counting, Matching, and Sorting
TEACH THIS: Cut the tops off pumpkins and clean them out, or use fake pumpkins. Number them and have students put the right number of seeds inside each.
TEACH THIS: Have your students sort M&Ms, Skittles, and Starbursts (or any other multi-colored candy) by color.
SUBJECT AREA: READING
SUBJECT: Independent Reading
TEACH THIS: Turn off the lights, put on thunderstorm sound effects, and let the children read Halloween books with flashlights.
TEACH THIS: Ghosts are "white, transparent silhouettes who appear to be human forms" (blurtit.com). Sometimes they float. They might try to scare you, ask for your help, or just glide along as if they don't even notice you.
TEACH THIS: When we talk about witches on Halloween, we are talking about a fictional character, usually mean and ugly, who has magical powers. This kind of character has appeared in such tales as "Sleeping Beauty," "Snow White," and "Hansel and Gretel." The quintessential mean witch is probably the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.
SUBJECT: Pumpkins, Skeletons, and Creepy and Nocturnal Animals
TEACH THIS: In a famous book by Mary Shelley, a scientist tried to create a man, but ended up creating a monster. People often mistakenly call this monster Frankenstein, but actually, Frankenstein was the name of the scientist. The monster was simply called The Monster.
Some friendlier characters: Casper the Friendly Ghost, Glinda the Good Witch, & Cookie Monster
SUBJECT AREA: ART/CUT-AND-PASTE
TEACH THIS: Make a pumpkin, shirt, and pants pattern. Have the children cut them out and put them together with paper fasteners. They can decorate the faces to make a jack-o'-happy, jack-o'-sad, jack-o'-angry, jack-o'-scared, jack-o'-surprised, or whatever emotion they want.
TEACH THIS: Have your students make a spider with their handprint facing both ways. Remember, only four fingers on each side! You can also include silver glitter.
TEACH THIS: Provide a skeleton pattern, with bones for your students to cut out and put together with paper fasteners. Optionally, let them put glow-in-the-dark application on their skeletons.
TEACH THIS: Let your students draw ghosts on white paper using invisible ink. Then switch UV lights on and off to make the ghosts appear and disappear.
You can either use a ready-made invisible ink pen, or use lemon juice for the ink. Heat will make the ghosts appear just as well, but then they will not be able to disappear again.
TEACH THIS: Follow these directions to make a zipper witch:
- Make a pattern for the hat, head, nose, dress, and shoes.
- Have the kids cut out the shapes and glue everything together except the shoes. They should glue the shoes on to the zipper, and then glue the zipper (long or short) to the back of the witch for the legs. Reinforce with staples.
- Use yarn for the hair, and marker for the eyes and mouth.
- Tape on a twig with yarn for the broom.
TEACH THIS: Have your students create their own creatures.
SUBJECT AREA: LANGUAGE ARTS
SUBJECT: Disguises and Vocabulary
TEACH THIS: Print out the following rhyme, leaving enough space at the bottom of the page for a picture:
Knock, knock, sounds like more
Trick-or-treaters at my door.
I open the door and what do I see?
____ ____ smiling at me!
Have each child decide what disguise their trick-or-treater(s) will be wearing. That will go in the second blank. How does this disguise describe them? That will go in the first blank.
Alternatively, you can come up with the vocabulary as a class, and let each student pick one. I've done this activity both ways.
SUBJECT: Disguises and Writing
TEACH THIS: Make a ghost on two pages. On the first page, write:
Ghost, ghost, tell me do
Who is hiding under you?
On the second page, write:
who wants to be seen dressed as ______
Have the children fill in the blanks and draw themselves under the ghost.
SUBJECT: Pumpkins and Writing
TEACH THIS: Download the "Little Orange House" story, courtesy of Toddler Village. Have the kids watch you make the house as you read the story. Then help them make their own houses, glue them onto black construction paper, and write the words Little Orange House either on the house itself or on a piece of light-colored paper glued to the black paper.
SUBJECT AREA: MUSIC
SUBJECT: Skeletons and the Human Body
To listen to the music and to see the playlist, press the play button.
SUBJECT: Everything Halloween
SUBJECT AREA: PARTY TIME!
TEACH THIS: It's okay to just have fun sometimes.
For fun, I make a witch's brew and potion. I add the ingredients to cauldrons in front of the class, and when it's all prepared they get a cup of brew and a vial of potion. The potion is not to drink! To drink, I make "vampire blood" juice, with Hawaiian Punch and 7-Up.
1 cup ladybugs (red jellybeans)
1 cup slippery snails (Cheerios)
1 cup fingernails (Bugles)
1 cup colored spiders (M&Ms)
1 cup dragon wings (Fritos)
1 cup beetles (Milk Duds)
1 cup seaweed (chow mein noodles)
1 cup vampire's teeth (candy corn)
1 cup cat's eyes (peanut M&Ms)
1 cup turkey bones (thin pretzel sticks)
1 cup muskrat eyes (chocolate chips)
1 cup goblin bellybuttons (mini marshmallows)
2 drops green slime (green food coloring)
3 drops juice from an evil curse (blue food coloring)
4 dead fish eyes (4 drops cooking oil)
3 drops bile from the liver of a bat killed at midnight (yellow food coloring)
3 drops catsup (red food coloring)
2 snake eyes (2 drops cooking oil)
2 drops rattlesnake poison (yellow food coloring)
Slowly stir the brew to swirl the colors.
Add a teaspoon of Bromo-Seltzer. It will fizz and bubble for a minute and turn the mixture black.
I bet lots of you out there have tons of great ideas for fun and easy Halloween projects and activities. I'm all ears!
Treat yourself to a boo-tiful weekend!