Original publish date: 10/11/2019
Admit it. Who doesn't love it? And even if you don't, how can anyone resist the pure bliss it brings schoolkids just talking about it? Well, it's no secret that most people love Halloween, even if it is a completely foreign custom, and its popularity is evident in shop window displays in late October.
I, personally, have always been a fan of a bit of Halloween fun around this time of year. For quite some time, I've been finding ways to sneak little bits in my classroom. Maybe a web here and there? A few bats hanging around my board? A little song and dance, or a colour-by-numbers? A video about the origins, and some or other vocabulary task? I've done it all. But when you've been in the same school for some time, things tend to escalate before you even realize it!
However, I completely understand concerns about missing out on the regular curriculum for a holiday that is probably irrelevant to anyone outside the English-speaking or Celtic community!
Plus, for us EFL teachers in Greece, there's also the problem of which classes to do it with. There's no way we have every single class on our schedule on one particular day. So, what I've done over the years to walk the middle line is this: I have tried to find a way to celebrate in a big enough way that got my students excited and small enough to be contained in one or two teaching hours. How?
Well, my answer to such questions is always the same. Follow the recipe: one part excitement, one part work, one part homework. That is: 1) give them something exciting but self-contained, e.g. a song - focus your lesson around it, 2) prepare some kind of worksheet that can go with it and involves some kind of language work, and 3) assign something a bit more integrative as homework, e.g. something involving some research or writing. In my experience, this has always been the best way to make the most of any special occasion in a short time without anyone feeling disappointed! What you can let blow up and have everyone be a part of is... anticipation!
So this year, I trusted in that awesome gang from Australia, Bounce Patrol to get me through it. The song I chose was The Halloween Stomp. I particularly liked it because it is bouncy and energetic and I knew my students would enormously enjoy dancing to its beat. Also, it would be a great opportunity to learn some movement verbs! I took them to the school's multi-purpose assembly hall where we would have space and ... the wiggling, jiggling and hopping began!
Now all I had to do was find my easy but fancy crafts! Walk in the park, I tell you. Well, if you want to be 100% organized, you should try everything at home first, but....
Pinterest always manages to solve this kind of problem. An inexhaustible source of brilliant ideas, it led me to these awesome spider webs made with glue, salt and some color, and these double-awesome spider webs made with sticks and yarn. Quick and easy to make, even for cute little hands, they were perfect. I bought some cheap spiders to add to the charm and got everything ready in no time!
The problem of early finishers, which is always there and can seriously spoil the fun, was
easily solved with this technique: a haunted house colouring page printed on ten separate A4 pages which were then held together with tape to create the complete image. This was on a desk in a corner of the room along with a pencil case full of markers and a basket full of crayons. Whoever finished their craft early could go to that table, pick a corner and start colouring in.
All this worked perfectly and combined with preparing the materials and decorating the room over the previous couple of days, it gave everyone the celebratory sense we were looking for! The final touch was completing some easy and fun interactive activities at home, which I gathered on a page in e-class* so it would be easy for everyone to find.
Halloween was over, it took two teaching hours to celebrate, everyone had their little souvenir and was already thinking about next year's holiday!
Note*: E-class is only accessible to students by registration, but you can find tons of free activities on the web with a quick search! For example, try LiveWorksheets, ESLPrintables or TeachersPayTeachers.