The Ugly Truth About Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner and kids are focused on costumes, candy and creepy creatures–it’s enough to make you batty before Halloween even arrives! It’s tempting to use Halloween coloring pages and other fluffy activities to keep students calm and help maintain your sanity, but don’t succumb to the pressure. Here are 5 secrets for creating engaging, academic Halloween activities:
1. Select an interesting topic: Most students love bats so I created Going Batty: A Stellaluna and Nonfiction Bat Unit. This comprehensive book study centers around our reading and writing strategy animals. It engages all learners while teaching research-based, standards-aligned decoding, comprehension and writing strategies within the context of authentic text. Students retell, compare and contrast characters, determine cause and effect, use text evidence to analyze character traits, make text connections, ask and answer questions using text and participate in shared bat research2. Decorate classroom: I turned Hazel’s Reading Roost, my guided reading area, into Hazel’s Reading Roost Visits the Bat Cave. I added a large bat from Party City and spider webbing for a creepy effect.

I added magnets to these 3-D bats, Beware, and Stay Out signs, all inexpensive treasures from Target’s Dollar section. I also found this adorable bat doormat at Target.

3. Incorporate dramatic play: Act out key vocabulary terms and the important events in the story to build comprehension and increase active engagement. Here are my students acting out a few Stellaluna vocabulary terms included in the book study.vocabulary 1

Bat Vocabulary

4. Integrate art: During our bat research, students ask questions, and use text features to find answers and record answers on this adorable bat foldable.  After they finish writing, they color, cut and fold bats and I hang them up in our Bat Cave. In this unit, students also create foldable KWL bats and write reports on a large bat template. Students also decorate and cut out both and I hang them from the ceiling with fishing wire, giving the bats a flying effect.

ask and answer questions

Bat question

5. Add food: Bring in food items or make a theme-based snack. Stellaluna eats mangoes, so I brought in one for students to touch and smell. I passed out small pieces for students to try; many had never tasted a mango before.


During the unit, I randomly hand out these chocolate eyeballs for on-task behavior, organized desks or any other positive behavior that I spot.

I've Got My Eye On You

At the end of the bat unit, students read a recipe and follow directions to make Bat Snacks, one of their absolute favorite activities.

Bat snack_600_2

Love these ideas? Download our complete Going Batty Unit, our FREE Bat KWL foldable and FREE Bat Name Tags, all guaranteed to keep students actively engaged in learning during the Halloween season.


The Classroom Party Everyone Will Talk About



Does the thought of a classroom party make you cringe? Recruiting parent volunteers, planning engaging activities, asking for donations, keeping students calm….it’s a lot to juggle. Here are 6 tips to create easy, stress-free parties that everyone will rave about:

1. Plan organized centers: Depending on your class size, pick 4 to 5 center activities for students to complete. Students will rotate through these activities just as they would for reading and math centers. These activities should be structured, (somewhat) academic, and take the same time to complete. For my Bat Bash, students read directions to complete a bat craft, conduct pumpkin science experiments, decorate a bat cookie, and sort and graph bone candy. I use center icons to label each center and students move in the same direction as they do during regular centers. This adds necessary structure and routine to an unstructured time.

Organized centers

Make sure necessary materials are provided at each center (i.e., glue sticks, scissors, napkins, etc.). Post center directions as well. Be sure to review and  practice center procedures and expectations before parents get there.

2.  Recruit parent volunteers and donations: For years, I sent home a letter to parents asking them to volunteer and/or donate for the classroom party and without fail, parents would all sign up for the same items, sprinkles and napkins. I had to send additional letters for items that I was missing and keep track of all of those pesky RSVP forms. What a headache! Now I use Sign-Up Genius, a FREE electronic sign-up system. You build a custom sign up, send email invites to your selected group and your group members sign up when convenient. Sign-Up Genius notifies you via email when someone signs up; you can customize reminders so that members receive them via email or text.

Sign-up Genius

I use Sign-Up Genius to coordinate weekly parent volunteers, request classroom donations and plan all of my school events.

3. Buy decorations: Inexpensive, cute holiday decorations can be found everywhere! I especially love Target’s dollar section and The Dollar Tree as they both have a wide selection. Be sure to get there early–many items sell out quickly (I’ve learned the hard way).

Dollar store decorations

4. Provide center bags: Provide center bags to hold student work as they rotate through centers or party activities. When students complete their work, they put right into bag which prevents ‘missing’ projects and materials. I label each bag and include pencils and extra activities for early finishers so students won’t feel the need to rove the room or get off-task after they are finished.

Bat bash bag

5. Organize Bingo prizes: Most teachers include Bingo as a party activity and include prizes at the end for all players. However, this can be a major headache as students usually take a long time to pick prizes. Select 4 or 5 prizes and organize them into individual, labeled containers so students can easily see the options, making selection a breeze. I include visuals on the labels as well.

Bingo prizes


 6. Provide treat bags: At the end of the party, I had out small theme-based treat bags with candy and a homework pass. I also hand out treat bags for the parent volunteers and they love this gesture. I found these bat bags at The Dollar Tree.

treat bags

Have any great party tips? Please share them below.


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