Secondary Smorgasbord: How to Survive Halloween Excitement in the Classroom and Still Get Stuff Done


"Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble." 
Shakespeare's MacBeth

Yep, that pretty well sums up my classroom right before a class party. Let's face it- classroom parties are exhausting, even with parents helping.  Halloween is probably the most exhausting of them all, given the need to make party arrangements, orchestrate changing into costumes, and figure out how to capture their attention, before the last hour's festivities begin.  I wish I could bottle their anticipation energy and dole it out as needed throughout the year!  

I'm not sure how 6th grade classes in middle school celebrate Halloween, but our 6th grade is in elementary and Halloween is a big deal, including a parade of all the classes! The little guys are so cute! Anyway, by 6th grade, as parent participation dwindles, I was still usually able to muster a couple stalwart parents or grandparents to help set up the party. Sometimes, I even had parents who would organize the party completely, but that was rare.

Regardless of how you're celebrating Halloween, I'm certain the hardest part is keeping kids focused and motivated to do anything related to a normal classroom day.
Here's my advice:
 If you can't beat them, join them! Make Halloween the theme for the week. 

ELA- Readers' Theatre 

Pull out Poe's "The Raven", Shakespeare's MacBeth (the cauldron scene), a copy of the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving (HERE is an mp3 version with script that could be a listening center or use the script). Grab a copy of The Headless Horseman Rides Tonight: More Poems to Trouble Your Sleep by Jack Prelutsky, along with any other short story or poem you have on hand that has the appropriate fright factor.

It's best to start a couple days ahead, giving students time to practice their parts.

Divide your class according to how many "actors" are needed and present a Halloween Readers' Theatre to visiting dignitaries (any parents daring enough to join you. Actually, that might get them in!)

Social Studies- Use what you've got going with Readers' Theatre.  "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" has a story behind it, as legends often do.  Have students research its beginnings and share their findings. Another option- Where in the world is Transylvania? Again, students do a quick study of the region and the castle that was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula. Have them make a quick travel brochure on the sites and sounds in Transylvania - things to do, if you're not a vampire.

Science- Liquid Density or any experiment with dry ice. Either of these can tie in with those 3 darling witches in "MacBeth"

If you google "liquid density," there are a variety of ways to do this experiment. I've done it with water, food coloring and salt. I love how they have to figure out why the colors separate.  Just to make it more challenging, I use the yellow for most dense and the purple for the least dense. I'm ornery like that. :)

Dry ice- Here's a cool YouTube video of dry ice experiments from Grant Thompson, the King of Random, that I do not recommend doing at school because, frankly, they're dangerous... but really cool! So this is for your entertainment only. Google "dry ice experiments." There are several others you can choose from that would work better in a classroom setting.

Math - Halloween Math: Crack the Code Decimal Practice 

This freebie has students adding, subtracting and ordering decimals to crack the code which, coincidently, is the quote from MacBeth. (Click the link to download your copy- my treat!)

Crack the Code puzzles have saved me on several occasions. I love using them in math centers and on days when I have a guest teacher, because they're so easy.  All I have to do is print and go.  The kids love finding out what the latest quote is and are determined to do the math correctly to meet that end.

This Crack the Code will definitely keep them entertained for your math period on Halloween!

Some final thoughts...
I almost forgot!!  Scary music for transition times- a must!  Here's my playlist:

Dressing for the parade and party- 
Bags of clothes, makeup, masks and acessories are everywhere. It's important to keep organized.  I've always been lucky enough to have at least one teammate, so girls got dressed in one room and the boys in the other. That helps.

Unfortunately, having students gather all their stuff after they've changed and put it back in their clearly labeled bags, and remember to take it all home at the end of the day is an annual challenge.  I could have a garage sale of everything left behind that no one seems to remember owning the next day. Makes me wonder who dresses them in the mornings. If you've got a tip for this one, please leave it in comments!

It's helpful to gather as many mirrors as possible, so makeup can be applied in the classroom. Otherwise, it's like herding butterflies trying to gather them back for the parade!

Best day of the week for Halloween to fall on - Friday!  I know. You have no control over the calendar. But if the post office and banks and government offices can declare MONDAY HOLIDAYS, you'd think we could declare Halloween to be the last FRIDAY in October, regardless of the date. It could work... I'm sure of it! That would give our rooms a whole weekend to get rid of the food-with-a sugar-topping smell. It gives me a headache just thinking about it!

Worst day(s) of the week for Halloween to fall- Mondays, or Tuesdays, or Wednesdays! When it falls on one of those three days, I don't know about you, but I'm constantly peeling kids off the ceiling from sugar overload for the rest of the week. Not even the fun stuff listed above helps battle the sugar highs and lows.

Thursdays can go either way. If your principal or district is savvy enough make Friday a teacher professional development day- SCORE!  That gives your room an extra day to stop smelling like sugar and leftover pizza! If you've got regular classes on Friday, take a mental health day.

No matter whether you still get to celebrate Halloween in the classroom or not, your students will definitely appreciate your classroom connections to this spooky holiday. I'd love to hear what you do, so please share in comments below and enjoy the treats we've provided, as you hop around to the different blogs.