Posted in Education, Halloween, Teaching, Writing

Making the Most of Festive Holidays in the Classroom

When I was in school, it was totally acceptable to celebrate Christmas and the other slightly religious holidays.  Doing so certainly didn’t mess us up or confuse us as students.  While we didn’t celebrate every religious holiday, we did at least discuss most of the major ones.  Now, in the crazy, politically overly correct world in which we live, teachers aren’t allowed to celebrate religious holidays.  Instead of having the students participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange, we have to call it a Secret Snowflake Gift Exchange.  It’s just ridiculous, in my opinion.  I’m sure many people out there would disagree with me, but I do feel as though we’ve gone a little overboard, as a society, on the whole PC thing.  Anyway, before I digress too much from the beaten path, things in the classroom are much different now than they once were.  Despite that, as an elementary teacher, I’ve always enjoyed finding creative and unique ways to celebrate the holidays without crossing too many lines.  Yesterday being my third favorite holiday to celebrate in the classroom, I did a little Trick-or-Treating of my own.

So, to celebrate Halloween in Humanities class, I wanted to do something special and different.  A few years ago I tried having the students create a class Twitter story right on my professional Twitter Feed.  It was pretty amazing and the boys seemed to really enjoy it.  But, I didn’t want to do something that short again.  I wanted this year’s Humanities Halloween to be even bigger and better.

Yesterday in Humanities class the students participated in a Group Write activity in which each student was involved in writing a part of 10 different Halloween themed stories.  Each student started the activity with a different writing prompt with which I provided them.  They spent three minutes beginning the story.  Then, each student passed his story onto the next student to their left in a circular fashion.  I gave the students time to read what was written before the timer began again.  Then the students added to this new story for three more minutes.  To be sure the students would be able to effectively complete this activity, I started the class with a discussion on how to complete a group write story.  I explained the importance of reading what is already written and then adding to and developing upon it when you write.  The boys seemed to understand this.

While the boys wrote, I had some Halloween sound effects music playing.  They seemed to enjoy the inspiration.  Throughout the activity, the boys were giggling as they were writing and reading each other’s stories.  Some of the boys exchanged words while they read each other’s pieces: “My name’s in this story,” “Oh my goodness,” and “This is really funny.”  It was awesome.  They seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly throughout the activity.  I was so excited.  At the end of the activity, each student received back the story he had started with and had a chance to read it.  Much laughter and shocked comments ensued.  It was quite a spectacle to enjoy.

As I glanced at each story while collecting them, I could plainly see how much fun they did indeed have.  They added crazy, random, gruesome, and humorous bits to each other’s stories.  At the end of the class day, I chose one story at random to read aloud to the class.  I couldn’t stop laughing the entire time I was reading it.  They really had gone over the top.  They had included tiny vignettes of each other and our time together in the sixth grade in their pieces.  They were so amazing.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the stories that began with, You probably won’t believe this story, but it’s true: “Cliiiiiiick!  Creeek!  I see a ghost!  I am very  scared!  Who would do this to anyone??  AHHHH! as the refreshing coffee drips from my face.  And the ghost died.  It was the deadliest word.  That was it.  That killed the ghost.  If you say the word, you will die.  A person said that word and he died.  Even a baby died too…”  So great.

I was thinking that it might be a fun activity to revisit these stories in a few weeks and assign one to each of them to bring through the writing process.  Perhaps they could craft these masterpieces into amazing works of fiction.  They might really be engaged in an activity like this.  I’ll keep this idea on the back burner for now.

So, while it didn’t take much planning, the students were engaged in a different type of writing activity that allowed them to utilize many of our Habits of Learning and celebrate a great holiday.  Sometimes breaking free from the confines of the routine and having a little fun on special days can be a nice break.  I know my students enjoyed this activity and will never forget it.  On the way out of the classroom, they couldn’t stop talking about the stories they had written.  It was awesome!

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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