I used to love getting all dressed up in costume and going to school on Halloween. We would do a parade around the school and get lots of candy. It was epic. Of course, how focused was I really on Halloween? Not very, but I loved being in costume, pretending to be someone else, my alter ego, will you. Then, things changed. Public schools began succumbing to the over-political correctness of our society and suddenly we couldn’t celebrate holidays or recognize them in any sort of meaningful manner. It is quite sad really. The young children of a colleague of mine came to breakfast looking very sad this morning. I asked them where their costumes were. They said, “We can’t wear costumes to school.” They seemed so disappointed and melancholy. It broke my heart a bit. Luckily though, at the school I work at, we are allowed to wear costumes to classes and meals. I love it. Halloween is definitely one of my favorite holidays because I get to dress up. I was Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and my co-teacher was the Wicked Witch of the West.
I had so much fun being someone I’m not. My students had a blast as well. Despite being in costume, they were very focused in class. While this group of students tends to be more focused and dedicated than other groups I’ve worked with in the past, Halloween is Halloween and I wasn’t expecting the fine committment I saw from them in the classroom today.
Now, being an elementary teacher by training and in my heart, I love celebrating the festive holidays such as Halloween and Groundhog’s Day. So, we mixed things up a bit in the sixth grade today to celebrate the day formally known as Samhain. During Humanities class, the boys participated in the annual Halloween Writing Extravaganza. It’s much like a round-robin writing activity. Each student starts a different story based on a teacher-provided prompt for four minutes. Then, the students pass their story to the person on their left. They read what was previously read and then begin adding to it for four minutes. This continues until everybody has added to each story. As I have many students in my class this year, I broke them into two groups. So, each group of seven worked on writing seven different stories. I was impressed by their focus and dedication throughout the writing activity. They wrote for the entire time, developing the stories. Some students continued after the allotted time to make their story even better. As they wrote, my co-teacher and I observed the boys. They had smiles on their faces as they diligently wrote and added to the macabre masterpieces. Even our most reluctant writers and workers scribbled away throughout the activity, crafting brilliantly horrific stories of ghosts and weirdness. It was awesome.
Then, once each of the stories had been completed, I read them aloud to the class. The students sat in awe, listening to their strange stories of gore and humor. I’ve never heard more laughter from a class than I did today as I read their bizarre stories aloud to them. It was so much fun. When we ran out of time to read all of the stories, you would have thought I had stolen their cell phones. They were so sad to hear me stop reading. They wanted to hear each and every story they crafted. I’m photocopying the stories for the boys to enjoy again and again on their own. My students were so excited, happy, and engaged in Humanities class today, writing. On other days, when we write in class, they aren’t nearly as enthusiastic or scary looking. Perhaps not wearing costumes every day to class is a good thing. Creating engaging and fun writing activities for the students helps them to realize that everyday skills can be fun and phenomenal when their perspective changes. They were all writing in class, just about topics that interested them on this particular day. I capitalized on the novelty of Halloween to engage my students. Doing this kind of activity each and every day would not be beneficial. The luster would fade after awhile. Sometimes, utilizing novelty in the classroom is great, as long as it is not overused.
Here are two samples of their amazing work:
Clearly, my students had fun in Humanities class today as they crafted funny, creative, and slightly scary stories. Mixing things up a bit on fun days like Halloween, engages the students and gets them excited. Trying something new today brought out the writers in all of my students. It was awesome. Even though I was worried that my students would be over excited and unfocused in class today, because I made use of a new and fun activity, they were hooked. I won their focus, effort, and attention today. Yes! Winner, winner, candy for dinner. So, on fun days like Halloween, to help keep our students dedicated and focused on learning and growing, we try new and unique activities like a Halloween Writing Extravaganza or pumpkin dissections. What boy wouldn’t want to write a creepy story or dissect a living organism that has innards the consistency of brains?