by Helen Beyne
While most students associate Halloween with candy and costumes, it is a holiday full of cultural traditions. Similar holidays are celebrated throughout the world this time of year. Each variation on Halloween has its own rich history and cultural traditions.
Halloween is the perfect time to have students scare up a spooky story, learn about the origins of All Hallows’ Eve, or read the chilling works of Edgar Allan Poe. Below is a list of suggested topics and activities to “thrill” your students.
1. The History of Halloween
Where did our modern-day Halloween traditions come from? You can get the facts by visiting the History Channel’s mini-site, which explores the origins of our traditions through videos, infographics, and images.
2. Spooky Stories
Halloween provides an opportunity for students to practice creative writing, which is an important part of English Language Arts curriculum. Have students practice writing mysteries or epitaphs. If your students are having trouble thinking up an idea for a story, have them check out Scholastic’s writing prompts. When students have completed their mysteries or epitaphs, encourage them to use PowToon to create presentations and make their writing come to life.
3. Edgar Allan Poe
Halloween is a great time to introduce students to the inventor of the modern detective story, Edgar Allan Poe, whose haunting tales and poetry have made him one of the most famous macabre writers. There are a number of interactive resources available that feature some of Poe’s well-known works. You can use Flocabulary’s educational rap, “Pit and the Pendulum,” to review the plot of Poe’s story in an engaging way. If you are teaching “The Raven,” TeachersFirst offers an interactive version of the poem, which reviews key vocabulary and literary devices.
4. Things That Go Bump in the Night
October is a good time to work nocturnal animals, such as bats, into your curriculum. Scholastic has rounded up seven science activities that allow students to explore the bat’s anatomy and learn about its habitat. Students can also explore fun facts about vampire bats on National Geographic Kids.
5. Salem Witch Trials
Have your students explore a time in American history when innocent men and women were accused of practicing witchcraft and hysteria spread throughout the village of Salem. Have them learn about the history of the Salem Witch Trials by exploring Discovery’s interactive adventure, which chronicles the infamous series of hearings and prosecutions.
6. Día de los Muertos
As an alternative to discussing Halloween, teach students about el Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, a tradition observed in Mexico and throughout Latin America that celebrates those who are no longer with us. Check out National Geographic’s site to learn more about this lively celebration and the cultural traditions associated with it.
Helen Beyne is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development. She has years of experience in creating innovative curriculum materials in reading, ESL, science, and social studies. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.