Innovative teachers use the holidays to hook children into learning. Elementary teachers can start a lesson with a Halloween riddle…I like to cast spells, and wear a big hat. You might see me at night with a broom and a cat. What am I?

The History Channel has a short video about the Salem Witch Trials that American History teachers can use to spark interest in their lesson about witches. Could the incidents have been sparked by ergot, a disease of the rye crop? 

Another short video about the History of Halloween traces back to the Celtic festival of Samhain or summer’s end which became the Christian tradition of “All Hallows’ Eve,” where spirits lurked about.  The Roman Catholics hoping to dissuade these pagan ways began celebrating All Saints’ Day on November 1. 

After a potato famine, immigrants brought traditions of ghosts, bonfires, lit gourds, and costumes to America. The poor even went door to door to say prayers for the souls of the dead and were given sweet treats. 

Some teachers use science to hook students into learning. An elementary biology lesson on the skeletal system can be illustrated with cut straws. Straw skeletons can be assembled from smaller pieces like a jigsaw puzzle with shorter pieces for the ribs and longer ones for the femurs. 

Kids like to get their hands on gross and gooey gunk. Simple slime recipes contain saline, Elmer’s glue, water, and baking soda. Stirring in glow in the dark paint can add a fun element to this lesson on polymers or add a creepy element to a sleep over.

On a Sick Science YouTube video, they showed an oozing pumpkin using a hydrogen peroxide solution combined with dish soap and yeast to make a jack-o-lantern’s mouth foam out grossness. 

Flying ghosts can be propelled like rockets into the air.  Just decorate a clear plastic cup with black circle eyes and mouth and then launch it like a rocket. 

Ghost stories offer thrills and chills for children. Ask them an essential question. How do writers scare readers? Then have students analyze plot structures noting how writers build suspense with a structure of hint, hint and then reveal. 

Goosebumps is one of the best-selling children’s book series. Author R.L. Stine said, “Why do kids like scary stories so much? Like fictional monsters, many kids sometimes feel like outsiders: different, ugly, out of control, frightened by their angry feelings....” 

The Goosebumps series seems to lure even reluctant readers because they enjoy the challenge of trying not to get creepied out when facing their fears. Trying to control their fear and elude its clutches is scary business. 

If the scary aspect of the holiday isn’t pleasing, then have students do “how to” writing. Instead of writing the traditional “how to” make a peanut and butter jelly sandwich, perhaps students could write “how to” plan the best route for their trick-or-treating adventure. 

After presenting numerous first-hand accounts of houses being haunted by ghosts, perhaps students could write about if they believe in ghosts. Various cultures treat this topic differently.

Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead, Dia De Los Muertos, by building an altar to honor a dead relative. Last year’s Academy Award winning film, Coco, was about Miguel who got trapped in the land of the dead and needed the help of his guitar playing relatives to free him.   

Teachers will welcome their costume clad students tomorrow.  Will they show up as comic book inspired super heroes like Spiderman or Wonder Woman? Will there be Mr. Potato Head or the Incredibles? 

Perhaps they’ll take their costume idea from a literary source such as Harry Potter and be a student of one of the houses at Hogwarts such as Slytherin or Gryffindor.  Inevitably there will be a princess, a pirate, and a pumpkin in the bunch.

Costume clad kids love visiting the pumpkin patch. Picking the perfect pumpkin is made harder when the child has to be able to carry their own pumpkin home. The decision about whether to carve smiley faces or scary ones on the jack-o-lanterns is part of the fun.  

I’m cute and round and orange and black…Carve my face and call me Jack. What am I? Whether sharing riddles, experimenting in science, analyzing literature, wearing costumes or carving pumpkins, students can get hooked into learning with Halloween activities.

 , author of two children’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at

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