Halloween is my favorite holiday, probably because as a first- and second-grade teacher I still LOVE playing dress-up for a day! Each year I choose a different character from a children’s book to be for Halloween. I secretly prepare students for my costume (they never know ahead of time what I will be) by reading the story that accompanies it some time in the weeks leading up to Halloween. When the big day rolls around my students are beyond excited to see one of their favorite books come to life in their own classroom!
The best part about bringing a book to life for my students is being able to continue the learning experience beyond just a one-time read, so check out some of my ideas for reading extension activities for each book and costume. Most of all, I hope you find some ghoulish inspiration for your own costume this year. If you have also dressed up as a children’s book character I’d love to hear about it too! Leave a comment below and tweet us at @scholasticteach with a picture using the hashtag #topteaching to share your costume idea with others.
Here are some storybook costumes I have done in the past:
Laura Numeroff’s story collection of cute animals and sweet treats has always been my favorite! Since I teach a multi-age class, my students loop with me for two years, giving me the opportunity for a double dose of Halloween fun with two of my favorite children’s books, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and If You Give a Moose a Muffin. The first year I read the students the original story If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. For my costume I went to Goodwill and bought a pair of denim overalls. I wore brown boots, gloves, and a turtleneck, and topped the whole ensemble off with a brown hat to which I added little felt mouse ears. I stuck a felt nose and whiskers to my face and carried around a giant cookie I had made out of butcher paper and stuffed with wadded up newspaper. To complete the look you must also carry the book!
The second year I read the students Numeroff’s second book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin. I bought a moose hat online for about ten dollars, and then just wore brown over the rest of my body. The key to this costume was making a muffin, so I turned a lampshade over to make the paper liner. The muffin top itself was made out of tan colored stockings that I bought and stuffed with quilt batting. I swirled the stuffed stockings in a spiral to make the muffin top and tied them to the lampshade. Finally I added pictures of giant blueberries and a sign that said, “If you give a moose a muffin . . . ” to carry along with my copy of the book (in Spanish for my bilingual classroom). I must say that the kids were so excited that I carried my costume theme over two years. They all wanted to guess if I’d be the pig with a pancake or the dog with a doughnut the next year!
To connect my costume and the story to students’ learning, I created a writing activity for my class. Students were given space to illustrate their ideas and writing lines to complete the prompt: "If you give me a Halloween treat I will ask for . . . " They came up with some great ideas and were able to show me how much they learned about cause and effect from Numeroff’s classic stories.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that almost every teacher out there wishes they could be Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus series, so one year Ms. Olker, the paraprofessional in my classroom, and I dressed up as Ms. Frizzle and her trusty bus. We got a plain dress from Goodwill and covered it in felt insects, just like the Frizz herself always accessorizes her outfits to her teaching topic. Ms. Olker was a great sport and even colored her hair bright orange for the day. She looked great!
And for my costume, who better to accompany Ms. Frizzle than the magic school bus itself! I got an old copy paper box from school and painted it all yellow. Black paper plates with bottle caps were attached to the side for wheels, and I used black electrical tape all over the rest of the bus to make the automotive details. The most important addition was a picture of each of The Magic School Bus students in each of the bus’ windows. All I had to do was cut a hole to wear the bus around my waist and carry a steering wheel. I took it a step further by hiding my MP3 player and speakers inside the box to play The Magic School Bus theme song everywhere I went. This costume was a total hit!
Throughout the entire school year we read The Magic School Bus books and watch the episodes that match our science lessons. The students are so in love with this entertaining and informative series that they spent the next seven months of school talking about our costume and the day Ms. Frizzle and The Magic School Bus really came to Cotton Creek! If you haven’t read these books with your class or watched the videos, you need to check them out!
In honor of the 25th anniversary of the show’s release Scholastic put together a great list of The Magic School Bus activities and resources for the classroom. Scholastic even has a site dedicated to the series with links to all the books and episodes, online games and activities for kids, resources for parents and teachers, and a thematic index to help you find ways to incorporate The Magic School Bus into all of your teaching topics. Visit the site, and blast off with your class on The Magic School Bus.
My students always love reading the story Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry Allard and James Marshall. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t threatened a crazy class or two with my disappearance and replacement by a sub as scary as Ms. Viola Swamp. Last year Mrs. Ramirez, the paraprofessional in my class, and I decided to bring the story to life for our own kiddos. We read them the story Miss Nelson is Missing the day before Halloween. On Halloween we both came to school dressed normally, but while the students were in their music class, we changed clothes. Mrs. Ramirez, the amazing paraprofessional and friend that she is, went to pick the students up from music class dressed head to toe as the horrifying Viola Swamp. The students recognized her instantly and began asking where Miss Nelson/Nehring had gone! Mrs. Ramirez gave them each a writing paper to make their own stories about where they thought I was. While the students were diligently writing I snuck back into the classroom dressed as none other than Miss Nelson, carrying around a missing teacher poster.
This may have been my favorite storybook costume yet! Mrs. Ramirez pulled off her Ms. Viola Swamp look with a black dress and shoes complete with crazy green-striped witch socks and makeup done to perfection. I found a bright pink dress, blonde wig, and white tights to make myself Miss Nelson. The secret key to transforming into the sweet teacher herself lies in the excessive use of pink cheek blush!
I am not the only teacher at my school who gets into the Halloween spirit by dressing up as a favorite children’s book character. Mrs. Johnson, a second grade teacher, has become famous in our building for her spot on impressions of none other than Junie B. Jones. Somehow Mrs. Johnson has eluded the camera for many years and I cannot locate a photo, but suffice it to say a big purple bow on your head with messy hair, a patterned shirt under a pair of too-short overalls, and some crazy socks bunched unevenly around your ankles can really complete the look! Mrs. Johnson uses Junie B. Jones books as read-alouds for her second graders, so they love seeing her come to life each year.
Don't forget to share your own Halloween costume idea in the comment section below and tweet us at @scholasticteach with a picture of you in the costume using the hashtag #topteaching!