Teacher Feature: Seasonal Writing Activities – Halloween Edition
As a language arts teacher, it is just as important to me to help children develop into proficient, passionate writers as it is to help them cultivate their love of reading. Reading and writing go hand in hand. I work hard to make writing meaningful and fun for my students – connecting it to mentor texts, participating in writing contests, providing opportunities for students to share with an audience, and incorporating holiday writing activities.
I am in a school in which the large majority of students celebrate holidays. If you are in a school in which students are of a religious denomination that cannot celebrate holidays, the following ideas can be tweaked to have a more seasonal focus.
Halloween – There is something about The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg that just feels like Halloween to me. This book has 14 haunting black and white drawings that are only accompanied with captions. I have used the portfolio edition of this book (large posters of the illustrations) in my writing club before to inspire the students to create stories about the characters and setting in each picture. On the Chris Van Allsburg website there is a place to submit the students’ Harris Burdick stories along with writing tips for students, teacher advice for using the book in the classroom and inspiration stories from students to use as models.
This year, my students are entering a writing contest sponsored by an area newspaper. Margaret Peterson Haddix, author of The Shadow Children series, wrote a Halloween story starter for the paper and invited children ages 8-14 to finish it. Even if you cannot enter the contest due to your location, I think that this would be a fun story starter to use in your classroom. To start the lesson, I printed off copies of the story starter and provided writing tips for each student. We read the story and writing tips together. Then, each student drew a Halloween-inspired web using the information we already knew about the setting and the characters. (our prior lessons on characterization helped immensely) Finally, the students were able to add their own ideas to the web and start writing. The results ranged from hilarious, to suspenseful, to downright scary! To add to the writing atmosphere, you could bring in “magical” writing spider and bat rings, play spooky music and pass around Halloween themed candy.
My students and I love words. As an extension to the story prompt activity, put up a large piece of black or orange chart paper somewhere in your room. At the top of the paper, put “Frighteningly Good Words” and some cut-out spiders, ghosts and skeletons. As the students write, have them look for words that help establish the scary or spooky tone they are going for (ex. creepy, ghoulish, etc.) If a student finds a word, he or she can write it on a sentence strip and post it on the chart paper. This can lead-in to a great lesson on establishing setting or a tone and will also provide a word-bank to other students.
I would love to hear about seasonal writing activities that you do in your classroom! I am always looking for new ideas to help engage my young writers.