October is a great month, but as teachers we know we need great October teaching ideas to reduce the challenges that come with teaching during the month. I have some great ideas to help you survive and thrive during the last few weeks of October in the classroom.
October Teaching Idea #1: Keep it normal.
Keep things as normal as possible. If you’re feeling like you need to have a party, remember that many students will be dressing up on their own as well as going out to Trick-or-Treat. You can still make it feel special without running yourself ragged and amping up students’ energy. Dressing up and playing a game or having a special activity may be all you need to ensure that students feel like they are celebrating.
One easy classroom game for October is what I call “Hide”. It’s so simple and kids LOVE IT! Pick a student to go outside the door. This student will be the detective. Then, pick a student from your room to hide in the classroom, out of sight. This is the “missing” student. Under my desk is a favorite spot as it’s rare kids get to be there, and I can stand in front of the gap below to keep their identity a secret.
Have the remaining students switch seats…like scramble themselves. They need to be in view and no hoods. Have the “detective” come back in. The detective has 3 guesses to figure out who’s missing. If the detective struggles, have the hiding student under the desk make a silly sound or say hello to the detective (using a silly voice). When 3 tries are up, or the detective picks correctly, select another detective to step outside and a different missing student. My students can’t get enough of this game, and…the best thing…it’s calming!!!
October Teaching Idea #2: Have fun with the students.
Your school may have dress up day. If so, dive on it. Play and have fun with it. Let students see you enjoying the season. As a teaching grade level team, we try to wear thematic costumes. Kids love seeing their teachers dress up. One costume we love as a sixth grade staff is to dress up as cave people. Since we teacher about the early humans, it’s perfect. Even though wearing a bone through my head is uncomfortable, it’s worth the giggles and connections I make with students.
Tip #3: Add seasonal practice/review activities.
Select seasonal ways to teach curriculum. Even older kids love a Halloween-themed activity. Here’s a great blog post on teaching paragraph writing using ZOMBIES! Using seasonal activities can be a way to introduce a new idea, something for early finishers, or a calming activity during those high-energy moments. Check out these seasonal and fun color by code grammar activities and color by number math activities.
Adding engaging activities to introduce or review content is a great ways to keep students focused and learning during high-energy days and weeks.
Kids love the no prep color-by-number grammar pages, which are also perfect for bulletin boards! Use the differentiated coloring pages for morning work, centers, partner work, or for whole class review.
Tip #4: Candles work magic.
Bring in battery operated candles to set the mood of the classroom. This simple effort goes a long way in making the day feel special.
Tip #5: Let students experience the fun of writing.
Using the days leading up to Halloween for students to write a spooky story. This is a great time to review the elements of plot, which we’ve done work with in September. You can have students partner up to write a story or go it alone. Allowing students to have fun while writing is a win-win situation. It’s worth the effort, and kids love reading their stories aloud to each other when they’re done. I enjoy having 4 or 5 reading corners in the classroom. Students move around listening to each other’s stories, then they can choose to take the author seat when it’s time.
Tip #6: Do something challenging and strange.
As a middle school teacher, I read aloud Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”. This really pushes my sixth graders because there’s a lot of unfamiliar words and ideas there. I front load some specific vocabulary, but I do not belabor it. I describe what the poem is about and then challenge the students to see if they can spot the meaning. I also focus on MOOD. And boy does the poem deliver in that category!
I don’t stop and explain everything because l’ll lose momentum and my students. I also don’t assess this activity. I use it as an example and as background for future reference. Remember, not everything needs to be assessed. It’s just as important for students to have an experience, and Halloween is the perfect time for it.
Next, I LOVE showing the film version of the poem. Full disclosure: there is reference to and images of alcohol in this video, but students clearly see the narrator’s devastation. Find it here. Watch it first. Discuss the video.
THEN, I show The Simpson’s version. This short 4 minute video is a perfect way to end the period, and some students will understand the poem better after viewing it.
Teaching Idea #7: Add in mystery.
Mystery goes hand-in-hand with the mood of October. Read a mystery with the students. It can be shorter, like a short story or a mystery needing to be solved, or you can target a mystery novel as a read aloud for the month. If you choose short mysteries, it’s fun for students to try to solve them.
Favorite Short Story Ideas:
Anything on Dracula, Bigfoot, Yeti, Mummies, pyramids, aliens, etc.
Here are four great reading passages on Dracula, mummies, and vampire bats. You’ll find everything you need for high-interest content and close reading practice.
I’ve always loved The Westing Game. It’s a great mystery with all the elements. It’s an older book, but still fun and relevant. (just Google the title)
Here’s a link to 8 Scary Books for Middle Schoolers
The most important thing you can do is to plan ahead. Create fun, engaging activities for students and I guarantee that you’ll all enjoy this time of year.
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