Halloween is just around the corner, and for teachers that means one thing: Halloween activities in the classroom!
Originally an American phenomenon, Halloween is now an indispensable part of the British school calendar, and in classrooms up and down the country, kids (and their parents) will be expecting you to come up with some cool Halloween crafts and other Halloween-themed ideas for class activities.
Luckily, there are dozens of great ideas for Halloween classroom activities which pupils have been proven to enjoy over the years. The best ideas can be carried out with just a few art supplies, readily available from good educational suppliers.
A browse through an art supplies catalogue can give you lots of ideas for Halloween crafts, but some traditional favourite classroom activities include the following:
Pumpkins and jack o’lanterns are the universal symbol of Halloween, and can provide both an entertaining crafts experience and a starting point for educational discussion.
Older children may enjoy carving and perhaps lighting their own jack o’lanterns, and special shaped cake cutters can add to the fun.
For younger children where this is not recommended, a teacher can carve their own lantern in front of the class. Entertaining discussion topics can include the history and cultivation of pumpkins, and the history and symbolism of the jack o’lantern itself.
Where appropriate, the traditional “spooky” elements of Halloween give ample opportunities for children to get creative with hands-on crafts.
Skeletons are a particularly good subject for Halloween-themed classroom decorations, especially with the addition of some black paper and glow-in-the-dark card from educational supplies vendors.
As well as being great fun, skeletons also provide a great introduction to teach children human anatomy, the names of bones etc. Older children are often stimulated by learning about skeleton imagery in other cultures, such as the calavera dolls of the Mexican Day of the Dead, or famous pirate symbols like the Jolly Roger.
Other spooky favourites for Halloween include dressing up or making masks to tie in with the usual Halloween staples of monsters, ghosts, and witches. Younger children will love dressing up; this need not involve elaborate costumes, as even simple activities can occupy the class, with face painting and witch hats made from card proving to be perennial winners.
For older children, making and decorating spooky gargoyle masks for the wall can be a great way to engage their creative talents, while enterprising teachers can spin this into longer sessions involving art history, looking at Renaissance masks and pictures of real gargoyles.
Witches in particular can make for a fascinating lesson or even a series of lessons. Younger classes can enjoy making their own green witches out of modelling clay, and mixing up washable poster paints to make different coloured magic potions – two easy, low-supervision activities making use of easily obtained educational supplies. Older children have also responded well to more serious witch-related themes, providing an introduction to topics like Shakespeare’s Macbeth or the history of the Salem witch trials.
Halloween provides all kinds of food-related fun for the classroom. Pumpkin pie is always a great seasonal treat for cookery and food technology classes (as well as an excellent way to use up any leftovers from carving jack o’lanterns!), and children of all ages will enjoy making and decorating Halloween-themed biscuits and cakes. Orange, green and black food colouring can turn even simple cupcake recipes into special Halloween treats, while children can be encouraged to create their own cake or biscuit decorations in the form of skeletons, bats and cobwebs made from coloured icing.
The most important aspect of any Halloween classroom activity is for everyone to have fun. Very young children can often be frightened by some of the most familiar imagery associated with Halloween, while older children can become bored with the more juvenile aspects of the occasion. By coming up with fun and stimulating Halloween activities pitched at the right level for your class, you can make sure your pupils have an entertaining and educational time.
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Ruth Fisher is a ex-school teacher turned blogger who loves to share her top teaching and parenting tips.