Not-So-Scary Storybook October
Put a literary twist on the season of bats, ghosts, and pumpkins
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Invite students to get the most from seasonal books with reading response journals. Give students each a 9" x 12" piece of construction paper and about a dozen sheets of 6" x 9" lined paper. Show them how to fold the construction paper in half to make front and back booklet covers, insert the lined paper, and staple together along the fold. Each child can title his or her booklet (e.g. "Halloween Reading Journal"), then decorate the cover.
Encourage students to record their reactions and ideas after each independent reading session. You might also host special Halloween reading time. Ask students to bring in small flashlights, and set the mood with a recording of a thunderstorm at low volume. Light candles or a Jack-o'-Lantern, and have children read by the glow of their flashlights. Later, ask students to write in their journals about how the spooky environment enriched their reading experiences.
Great October Reads
Mysterious characters and seasonal critters are a must when students are choosing a great seasonal read. Encourage independent reading by providing a suitable list of recommended titles. Then ask each student to select a book with a favorite creepy character, a fall theme, or one that focuses on seasonal creatures such as bats, owls, or spiders. When students have chosen, have each complete the Not-So-Scary Storybook October Reproducible (PDF), naming a favorite book and why he or she would recommend it to a classmate. After students have decorated and cut out their pumpkins, display on a seasonal bulletin board. Extend the activity by having children discuss their choices in small groups.
Story Setting Read-Aloud
Focus on setting as an important story element by selecting a favorite read-aloud passage that describes a place. For example, the third chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Scholastic, 1999) describes the gloomy, sea-battered, storm-shattered shack where Harry and the Dursleys stay. As you read, have students close their eyes and listen carefully for descriptive words and phrases. Afterwards, prompt them to recall some of the language the author used and list their responses on chart paper. Then ask each child, guided by the chart, to draw his or her own picture of the same scene and a few sentences describing the drawing. When completed, use the pictures to prompt a discussion of how each listener interprets the scene differently.
A Dark and Stormy Night
Challenge students to create their own suspenseful settings, inspired by the vivid descriptions in many tales of the season. Begin by having students suggest word categories, such as time of day and year, weather, place, sound, and smell. Use chalk to write the categories each on a black cloud-shaped piece of construction paper. Add a yellow paper lightning bolt to each cloud, then glue the clouds to separate columns on bulletin board paper. Ask students to brainstorm a list of words for each category. Then have them use the words to write descriptive paragraphs that begin "It was a dark and stormy night."
Character Treat Bags
Unleash students' creativity with character bags made of paper lunch sacks. Have children each select a favorite seasonal book character, then use construction paper, crayons, markers, paint, and collage materials to transform one side of the bag into that character's portrait. Have students describe the characteristics and the behavior of their chosen literary figure on lined paper, stapling it to the backs of the bags. Invite students to present their characters to the class by providing clues from the character studies they've written. Can students guess each character's identity before it is revealed? Display the bags for a storybook party, and later place treats inside each bag.
Invite students to write their own tales of the season in cooperative groups. Begin by asking students to name some of the characters, settings, and problems in the stories they've read. List each idea on a chart divided into "Characters," "Settings," and "Problems." Cut apart the ideas in each category so that each one is on a separate strip, then put the strips into a paper bag. Have each group draw a strip out of each of the three bags, then combine the random elements they've selected to write a story. When reading their stories aloud, encourage groups to add sound effects and props to create a Halloween Reader's Theater.