Handling Halloween High Spirits

Even if your school forgoes Halloween celebrations or costumes, I know from my own classroom experience that many children come to school on Halloween (and the days before Halloween) keyed up and counting down the minutes until they “trick or treat.” With some careful planning, you and your class can have a happy and productive week despite the added excitement some of your students may bring to school.

Here are some ideas to help you channel that extra energy:

Plan a calming Morning Meeting. You can set a calming tone for this day by planning a peaceful, engaging, and soothing Morning Meeting. This is not the day to do the “1, 2, 3, 4” greeting or a rousing round of “Go Bananas!” Instead, choose a greeting, a sharing topic, and an activity that are engaging, but calm. Try one of these:

  • For greeting, try a sign language greeting, or challenge students to greet each other silently around the circle with the kindest or friendliest facial expression they can make.
  • For sharing, focus on an academic topic, rather than on students’ plans for the holiday. (This will not only set a tone for the day—it will also help take care of students who don’t celebrate Halloween.)
  • For an activity, consider a math game that really requires some concentration, like “Pica, Fermé, Nada,” or a quiet game like “Magic Box.”
  • In your morning message, focus on intriguing academic topics you’ve got planned for the day, for instance: “Today we will read the next chapter in The Trumpet of the Swan. What are some ways you think Louis can earn money to pay for the window his father broke?” or “Today we will use our hand lenses to observe differences in soils. What do you think you might see?”

Keep expectations high, but appropriate, and pace the day accordingly. Appreciate the extra energy your students may have and anticipate that they are going to need some ways to expend some of that energy. Although students will benefit from periods of calm, it is unrealistic to expect them to be quiet all day. They will also need time to talk and move.

So, plan for partner chats during whole group lessons. Alternate active periods (like math and science time) with more quiet periods (like reading or writing). And plan for some energizers that will help students take breaks and move without getting them too revved up. For example, you could play “Mirrors” where students silently mirror or copy your movements, or sing a peaceful song like “Deep and Wide,” gradually dropping some of the words, so that by the end everyone is quietly humming.

Plan lessons that will be really engaging. You know those lessons where students are so into what they’re doing that the time flies by? This is a really good day for one of those! Think about what has really grabbed your class so far—is it the stories they have been working on at writing time? Do they enjoy careful observation at science time? Are they really engaged when they have a chance to represent their learning in a visual way? Do they love doing research? Plan lessons that are sure to captivate them.

Choose an engaging read-aloud. Choose a beautiful picture book or a calm but moving story to read aloud. (One that works for students of many ages is The Man Who Walked Between The Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein.) If you are in the middle of a chapter book, read a little extra. If you have not been reading one lately, now is a great time to start—choose one with an inspiring, thought-provoking, or mysterious first chapter or two.

End on a peaceful note. Plan to send the children off in a calm, safe and orderly way at the end of the day. Set aside time for a closing circle. You might have students reflect on key learnings by doing a one-word share around the circle. Or, ask them to make a wish for what they will learn or do next, cup the wish in their hands, and silently send it skyward.

I wish you and your students a calm and happy Halloween week.

Tags: Celebrations and Holidays