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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Daily Assignment # 121: Halloween

As I walk through stores, I am taken aback with all the different Halloween costumes for children, as well as adults.  Some of them are a bit shocking and others are absolutely adorable.  I think of all the costumes I made for my sons.  We had the last minute idea costumes and then there were those that took me weeks to make, such as the E.T. costume.

Students become so excited about the Halloween customs.  For some families, and communities, Halloween is controversial because of the pagan connection, as well as for safety issues, i.e. accepting candy from strangers, walking around in the dark.  Some parents feel the ghosts and monster images are frightening for children. Modern day witches also feel that they are being misrepresented.

I think it is important to give the students background information on Halloween.  They need to understand why they say "trick-or- treat, why candy is given and why they wear costumes.
So, let me share some facts with you:

  • The name Halloween comes from "Hallow's Eve"
  • It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.  
  • In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, "All Saints' Day" incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain.
  • The evening before was known as All Hallow's Eve and later Halloween.   
  • Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating.
  • In medieval times, on All Souls'Day, (10th century Christians organized All Saints' Day to recognize all dead people), people made soul cakes.  Children would go door-to-door begging for the cakes, hence trick-or treating.  For every cake a child collected, they would have to say a prayer for the dead relatives of the person who gave the cake, which helped the dead relatives find their way out of purgatory and into heaven.
  • Jack-o'-lanterns:  As part of the Samhain celebration, Celts would bring home an ember from the communal bonfire at the end of the night.  They carried these embers in hollowed-out turnips, creating a lantern resembling the modern day jack-o'-lantern.  There are also Irish folk tales related to the significance of the jack-o'-lanterns.
  • Another connection, The Days of the Dead, (Los Dias de los Muertos) celebrated in Mexico. This is a day for for families to remember the deceased.  It's a time marked by festivities, including parades of skeletons and ghouls.  Revelers lead amock funeral procession with a live person in the coffin. 
Celebrating Halloween in my classroom evolved over the years.  For many years the student would bring in their costumes, put them on after lunch, parade around the school, including going in an out of classrooms.   We would return back to the classroom, sing Halloween songs, have lots of treats, take the costumes off and send the sugary high and excited children home.   Everyone in the building loved to see the costumes.  It was a common practice which all the teachers would do.  The teachers worked together to get all the timing right, so that everyone one could see everyone else. 
The downside of doing this was that some costumes would tear or rip, leaving a child in tears.  Also, several times, a student would leave a part of their costume in school, or worse yet the whole costume.  The school would close and the parent, sometimes angry, would be in a panic mode trying to replace the costume, while the child is crying, hysterical mode.  Needless to say, we stopped the practice.
 My classroom Halloween celebration, sans costumes, evolved into something that required parent volunteers and a great deal of timing.  However, it was awesome, if I do say so myself.
I set up 5 activity stations around the room.  Each station was manned by a parent.  Each student was given a ticket, which were shaped like a ghost, with the numbers of each station. I divided the class into 5 groups.  One group had the numbers 1,2,3,4,5 on each of their tickets.  The next group's numbers were 2,3,4,5,1.  The next was 3,4,5,1,2.  Next 4,5,1,2,3 and the last group 5,1,2,3,4.  In that way, the students started off in groups at the 5 different stations, which were also numbered 1-5.  
The students then rotated through the stations.  (One of the stations was decorating a brown paper lunch bag, which they put all their activity products in to take home.)  When they completed all 5 stations, they turned their ghost ticket in to sit and watch the cartoon version of "The Headless Horseman."  This gave the adults time to clean-up and for the children to calm down before dismissal.  If they didn't want to watch the movie I had Halloween themed coloring worksheets for them to do.
I'm sure you have lots of ideas for the activities.  Here are a few I used:
  1. Handpainting:   Never do it on their face because they might be allergic and/or they may not want it as part of their Halloween costume later.
  2. Paint and decorate small gourds.
  3. Bats using clothespins, felt and magnet tape:  This is then used to close the brown paper lunch bag and once home they can stick it to the refrigerator.
  4. Folding heavy paper into a small box and filling with popcorn, raisins and peanuts.
  5. Witch cupcakes.  Make chocolate cupcakes ahead of time.  Use green colored frosting for face, black string licorice for hair, corn candy for nose, chocolate chips for eyes, chocolate sugar cones for hat.
  6. Egg carton spiders.
  7. Jack-o'-lantern cookies.  Use orange frosting, corn candy for face.
  8. Feet ghost on black paper.  Trace socked feet with white chalk on black paper, color in with chalk or white crayons, cut-out, string for hanging.
  9. Halloween magnets:  Using foam craft, or wooden shapes, students paint, decorate and glue onto a magnet or a clothespin with a magnet.
  10. Paper plate mask.
  11. Tootsie Pop ghost.
  12. Styrofoam paper cup witch: stick a Popsicle through for arms, polystyrene ball for head, black yarn for hair, green and black paint, black felt for hat, wiggle eyes.
  13. Goop: you know, that slimy stuff.
Make sure the students' names are on everything, including the bag they take everything home in.

This version of a Halloween celebration can be great fun.  These activities do take planning, preparations ahead of time and timing.  If an adult doesn't understand, or know how to do an activity, don't put them at that station.  Also, have extra volunteers to help.  I tried not to be responsible for a station so that I could supervise everything.  This Halloween celebration can get quite expensive, I asked the parents to be responsible for the supplies for their station.  They were more than happy to help.  Each year that you do this it gets easier.  The students loved it.  In fact, former students still say they remembered how much fun it was.

I hope this has given you a new way of thinking about a class Halloween celebration.

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.
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Best Effort,
Linda103




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