Quick Fall Projects: Clever Ways to Celebrate and Learn
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Halloween is my all-time favorite holiday, smack in the middle of my favorite fall season. After the hectic rush to learn procedures at the beginning of the year, fall is the perfect time to slow down for a few extras. I always want our activities to be meaningful and foster some kind of learning. Here are quick and easy activities that can fit into your fabulous fall fun.
Each October my independent writing or journal time becomes very pumpkin intense. Each day my students answer a short investigation question about pumpkins, such as what the lines on the pumpkin are for. The month-long study culminates with actual pumpkins that we first estimate and then count the number of seeds. This year I printed investigation questions inside a pumpkin form to give students a mini pumpkin journal to use.
Several years ago I stumbled on Math Faces at an SDE conference. Math Faces are the brainchild of teacher Kristin DeWit. Students create an animal or person based on a set of directions. Which direction to follow is determined by correctly answering a question. There are pre-made mathematics content books, but there is also a blank book that allows the teacher to create the questions for any content area. I like using the spider, black cat, and aliens for Halloween-time learning.
For a fun activity, my students create monsters. I’ve done this in different ways over the years, with the activity being as simple as drawing a monster and filling in descriptive sentence prompts, to full-fledged 3-D creations and developed essays rich with descriptive language. This year my students used their own ideas to practice simple writing by finishing given prompts. They loved the activity and happily revised and published their illustrated writing so their monster could create a scary display. They all practiced reading as they read each other’s work. Not artsy? Check out Printable’s selection of monster-themed prints including body parts for monsters and a monster glyph!
Character Book Reports
Many schools, including my uniform-clad elementary, do not allow for costumes to celebrate Halloween. Here's how I circumvent this issue and keep costumes appropriate as well. After focusing on the idea of “character” in class, students write a short book report. Each student is required to create a paper bag character that is decorated to look like a character from the book. Presentations are made on Halloween, and students are allowed to dress like the character they made as well. If you still can’t get around the costume rules, have students decorate a pie pumpkin as the character of choice. They are less than $2 for students who can’t afford expensive projects and can be really elaborate or quite simple, depending on your requirement.
For young students, understanding the meaning of time, such as years, is tricky, even for the best math students. I create gridded responses on gravestones that bear fun names like Fran Ken Stein or Ima Dead. Students are challenged to find how old the person was when they died. You could simplify the lesson for younger students by making even 100 year segments or simply asking them to create a birth year and death year with four digits.
When possible, I like to teach my body objectives in October. We have fun investigating body systems with fun activities like putting internal organ cutouts on life-sized body tracings and growing cultures from our cheek cells. It’s the perfect time to talk about nutrition and how candy is not actually a food group. One of my culminating activities for the skeleton is creating portions of the body from different pasta shells. Older students can make detailed sections of the hand, foot, or backbone, while younger students can identify ball and socket joints with pasta shells and fettuccini appendages. I’d like to take credit for this idea, but I’ve adapted it from an old issue of Family Fun that I found at the thrift store! (One word of advice: store leftovers in plastic bins with lids to avoid mice habitats as part of the lesson. I learned this the hard way!)
I took a simple pumpkin Printable and copied it on orange paper. Then students helped me create different categories for our glyph, using all things related to Halloween and fall. When our glyphs were finished students had to write a paragraph explaining what different parts of their pumpkin represented. The result was a cute display with meaningful expository writing.
I love Halloween and the entire fall season, but I have to focus class time on meeting objectives. These quick and simple additions make it easy to celebrate while learning and stay away from holiday topics that might offend some parents or students. Check out even more low-cost October ideas from fellow blogger Allie Magnuson and the Mad Scientist Spooktacular project from Lindsey Petlak. Bring these ideas to your class this season and enjoy the engaged smiles of happy students!
What are your best fall-themed plans? Remember to add me to your RSS Feed to get the latest blog posts and teacher tips!