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October 6, 2010 Student Planned Parties By Brent Vasicek
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    I was strolling through the hardware store yesterday and saw Christmas items slowly invading the Seasonal Item aisle. Seriously!? As annoying as the sight of premature holiday items can be, it did serve as a reminder that I needed to start the wheels in motion for a Halloween celebration in my classroom. My students do all the planning, and they often require extra time as they are just beginning to develop the skills of organization and budgeting.


    I used to utilize room parents to run my 45 minute classroom parties. Sometimes this is a great idea, and sometimes it is chaos. An experienced and well prepared group of parents can manage the class and think of every last supply item. Unfortunately, sometimes these ultra-organized parents like to go a bit crazy in an attempt to outdo the parties being planned for neighboring classrooms. On the other side of the coin, you might have a group of parents that do not know how to manage a class or even bother to show up on time themselves. Either way, it can create stress for a teacher.  So, me being the guy who never lets a teachable moment pass by, I decided to start letting the students plan their own party.

    At the beginning of October I have students sign up for a committee for the Halloween or Christmas party. The students may either be on the (1) Food / Beverage Committee or the (2) Games / Prizes Committee.  When the committees initially form, they have big dreams. Eventually, the topics of time budget and money budget are introduced. The students then have to scale back their plans significantly.

    I remind the students that they must think of everything. If they forget the cups or the plates, then I do not bail them out (this isn't Wall Street, my friends). Usually the Halloween party has quite a few wrinkles as items are forgotten and games get chaotic; however, a post-party debrief session tends to iron out the wrinkles. By the time the Christmas party rolls around, things run smoothly.

    This is a great learning opportunity for the students and rarely do they complain that a game wasn't fun enough. After all, the only people to blame for a lame game are themselves. Not only do they gain party planning experience, but it is a real world application of the life skills that I teach (e.g., responsibility, organization, resourcefulness). They also gain an appreciation for the art of getting their classmates' attention and giving effective directions, which we all know is not easy on some days.

    Below are a few of my favorite Halloween ideas.Skeleton creek

    Skeleton Creek Read-Aloud — This is a unique book in that it has real online video to watch as the main characters try to solve the mystery.  The students can barely wait for me to read the book, and they truly look forward to each video. I would be cautious about doing this with 3rd graders, however, as some of the videos can really be creepy. Fifth graders love this!  Consider some of these Spooky Book Lists for other Halloween Read-Aloud ideas.

    Halloween Hangman â€” This is a fun Halloween version of hangman that works great with an interactive whiteboard.

    Dry Ice — I usually buy some dry ice from the local grocery store and have the vapors spewing out the doors when the students enter in the morning. This builds great anticipation for some dry ice experiments that we do during science class. Sublimation, phases of matter, temperature, and other physical properties of matter can be easily taught with this ultra-cold frozen carbon dioxide. Steve Spangler is the king of these experiments. If you are being 212 about the whole deal (see former post), try making root beer using some root beer extract and dry ice. It is delicious.

    100_3528Photo Editor — For a computer lab lesson I show the students how to use the photo editor on the school's computers. I simply take their first day of school photos and demonstrate how changing the colors, adjusting the contrast, and playing with a few of the special effects (like "negative") can make a normal picture look a tad scary.

    Scary Maze — This is a site for those of you who have fallen victim to your prankster friends. There are scary images that pop up on the screen as you are intently concentrating on a task such as completing a complicated maze. I do not recommend this for elementary students, but if you have some middle schoolers or high schoolers that like a good scare, you might think about having them try this scary maze or other videos.

    What sort of great Halloween party ideas and lessons do you have?

    Freddy's coming for you,

    Director Vasicek



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