School, Costumes, and Halloween

Here in the US, Halloween is nearly upon us. My students have been excited about their costumes and the whole event for weeks — ever since they remembered that Halloween is in October!

This has meant, predictably, that it has been increasingly difficult to get my students to focus this week — something that I completely understand, because Halloween is a really exciting holiday for kids.

Last year, my school did several Halloween events — we had a costume parade, a small party in our classroom, and I also did a lengthy Halloween logic puzzle on the day of Halloween where my students had to use deductive reasoning to figure out who had “stolen” our candy.

This year, Halloween falls on a Friday and on a day when my district has a half day. So, as a staff, we made the tough decision to not have the kids wear their costumes to school, because we won’t have time to do any of the events that we did last year because of the crazy schedule we have here on Fridays.

This doesn’t mean that we aren’t doing any holiday events. Tomorrow afternoon, my students are involved in a Halloween concert, where they will be singing spooky songs for the younger students. They will get to dress up for this event, but most likely not in the costumes that they have been preparing for the actual holiday. Then on Halloween, there will be a PTO (parent-teacher organization) event that the students can come to for a small fee — which will involve, of course, a costume contest. I am traveling this weekend, however, so I unfortunately have to miss that event. I do plan to do the sprawling logic puzzle again this year, but it will be missing some its magic, I think, if my students aren’t in their Halloween finery.

I am feeling a little disheartened that I won’t get to see my students’ costumes this year. While I am not a huge fan of Halloween, it does seem like a great opportunity to see my students in a different light and to get to be a part of something that they are so jazzed up about. I dressed up with them last year, and it was one of the best days of the entire year. I remember, in particular, having a great conversation about gender stereotypes and Halloween costumes. It was an opportunity for students who didn’t have costumes to spend some time making them at school, which absolutely delighted them.

I sometimes worry that as schools become hyper-focused on test scores, standards, and achievement, some of the events that lead to happy memories and good times are being pushed to the wayside. My students will only get so many times to revel in the pure joy of being children at Halloween and I wonder how many of them will get to have a Halloween celebration or have the chance to attend the event here at school. Kids do need to be kids sometimes!

That said, I’m certainly not advocating for “cute” curriculum, for spending huge chunks of time doing holiday-related stuff, but I do think it’s important for students to have a space to think about and participate in these traditions in an educational environment. I plan to spend the month of December, as I did last year, doing a “Holiday and Traditions” unit, where my students will learn about what holidays and traditions really are, why we have them, and how widely they vary around the world.

What do you think? Should holidays come to school?


A Happening Halloween

Halloween in my classroom was a great success! On Wednesday afternoon, I made a very big deal about how my students would get to indulge in the bucket of candy on my desk during our Halloween festivities. Then, on Wednesday, I told my students after our morning meeting that they certainly deserved some chocolate to get us through the morning. I brought the bucket over to the rug and put it down on the floor. Hands instantly shot inside, but they soon realized that the candy had vanished!

And so began our spooky Halloween mystery. I gave each one of my students a logic puzzle grid that had four suspects and four different candies. My students’ mission was to find out which suspect liked which candy, since the person whose favorite candy was Hershey Kisses had surely stolen our stash. To earn their clues, my students completed different Halloween tasks — pumpkin math activities, graphing using coordinates to reveal a picture, decoding a Halloween riddle, and writing about how to carve the greatest Jack-O-Lantern ever. After completing each task, my students got a new clue, which required them to use their reasoning skills to eliminate person-candy combinations. They were so surprised when they learned that our class secretary had taken our candy! I was really pleased with how enthralled my students were in the task (they grilled my principal on his motives out at recess) and the quality of the work that they put in on the Halloween tasks. I know how exciting Halloween can be for 2nd graders, so it was nice to be able to channel that excitement into some meaningful and fun learning.

What did you do in your classroom for Halloween? Have you ever had any classroom nightmares on that day?

(I left my materials from our field trip to Mexico at school on Friday, so I will have to write about my field trips in my next entry. I hope the wait will be worth it!)

I Haven’t Been “Scared” Away!

I am not sure who is more excited about Halloween — me or my students! Unfortunately, planning for Halloween (and a Red Sox World Series) has eaten up so much of my time that I have to postpone a quality blog entry until the weekend. I have devised a day-long logic puzzle for Thursday that will begin when the students find a bowl of candy that was supposed to be for our party has mysteriously vanished. I will also¬†disclose something here that is top-secret information in my classroom — I am dressing up as Jane Goodall for Halloween! Hopefully, my students will remember who she is from our gender and science lesson.

So, be on the lookout this weekend for a post about my Halloween festivities and about my second country “field trip” to Mexico.