All Hallow’s Eve is upon us, and the school is bubbling with excitement! Our students can’t wait to costume themselves as mummies, fairies, skeletons, princesses, superheroes, cartoon characters, and more–and I’m sure tomorrow we’ll all be feeling the effects of a late night and too many treats. 🙂

To get us in the mood for this fun and spooky night, many of our students enjoyed some Halloween fun in the library last week!

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In kindergarten, we started by reading the book Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell:

image from indiebound.org

In this book, a little girl visits an apple and pumpkin farm, where she picks a basket of red, shiny apples and the perfect orange pumpkin–then enjoys making a jack-o’-lantern and passing out apples to trick-or-treaters on Halloween!

This book is a wonderful read-aloud for young kids, with simple text, colorful pictures, and a story that many kids will relate to.

But it was especially perfect to read with our kindergarteners, because last Thursday, they took a field trip to a real apple and pumpkin farm! All four of our kindergarten classes visited Jaemor Farms in Alto, Georgia, and they came back laden with paper sacks full of apples, tiny pumpkins, and other Halloween treats. 🙂

The next book we read was Lucille Colandro’s There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves:

image from indiebound.org

This book follows the same pattern and melody as the song “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” but instead of swallowing animals, the old lady in this book swallows leaves, a giant pumpkin, a pole, a rope, some clothes, and a mouthful of hay. 

The last line of each verse is different, too. Instead of saying “perhaps she’ll die,” each verse ends with the line “perhaps she’ll sneeze”–and sneeze she does at the end of the book!

The result? All the things she swallows come together to form a scarecrow!

Of course we sang this book together instead of just reading it, and the kids loved fake-sneezing at the end of every verse.

Kindergarten kiddos finished this lesson by decorating virtual pumpkins on the SMARTBoard. Here are a few of their wacky creations:

Mrs. Fielding’s class pumpkin
Ms. McGlon’s class pumpkin
Mrs. Ellett’s class pumpkin

As you can see, the pink glasses and the mustache were very popular pumpkin decorations!

Want to decorate your own virtual pumpkin? Click here!

(Mrs. Young’s class faced technical difficulties with my SMARTBoard and didn’t get to do their pumpkin in the library, but I shared the link with her so they could do it in their classroom later. :))

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1st grade students just started learning how to identify whether a text is fiction/narrative or nonfiction/informational, so we practiced this skill with books about pumpkins!

First, we read the nonfiction book Big Orange Pumpkins by Judith Stamper:

image from paperbackswap.com

This simple informational chapter book describes the life cycle of a pumpkin, tells about pumpkin celebrations, and suggests ways you can enjoy eating a pumpkin and its seeds.

The text is perfect for 1st or 2nd graders to understand, the full-color photos are bright and clear, and the book includes a table of contents, index, glossary, and many other text features that students will notice in other informational books.

The second book we read was Five Little Pumpkins by Iris Van Rynbach:

image from indiebound.org

Students were very familiar with this fun fall favorite, and I could tell because many of them said it along with me as I read!

The students also noticed that this book had illustrations instead of photographs, and that it was clearly a made-up story from the author’s imagination because pumpkins can’t talk or move around on their own.

After we read both books, we played a game on the SMARTBoard to categorize our noticings about the two books:

these swirling vortexes suck in the correct answers and spit out the incorrect ones!

This activity was fun for Halloween and a great way to review the differences between fiction and nonfiction with students. Not only that, but now that they’ve been “trained” on nonfiction, our 1st grade students now have the privilege of checking out books from the nonfiction section of the library. 

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Second grade has also been studying nonfiction and informational texts, so last week in the library we used two informational books and an interactive activity to learn about Halloween and the Day of the Dead.

We started by sharing what we already knew about the two holidays. Students had plenty of things to share about Halloween, but they knew more about modern customs than they did about the holiday’s history–and very few students were familiar with Day of the Dead.

Our first read-aloud was Halloween Is… by Gail Gibbons:

image from indiebound.org

I love Gail Gibbons’ nonfiction books because they are so beautifully illustrated and kid-friendly! This book is particularly fascinating because it tells about how many of the Halloween practices we have today–costumes, masks, jack-o’-lanterns, and trick-or-treating–originated in old stories, customs, and beliefs.

Next, we read Bob Barner’s book The Day of the Dead:

image from indiebound.org

This rhyming book is filled with vibrant illustrations and tells about Day of the Dead customs in bilingual English and Spanish text. (My Spanish is very limited, so I only read the English parts–but in the future I’d love to invite one of our Spanish-speaking parents to help me share this book with kids!) An author’s note at the end of the book provides more information.

We wrapped up this lesson with a fun interactive sorting activity from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture that lets students categorize symbols of the two holidays:

Want to learn more about these two holidays? Click the picture to try this activity yourself!

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In 4th grade, we had a great time learning about how to write our own scary stories!

I used Nancy Loewen’s book Share a Scare: Writing Your Own Scary Story to model for students how an effective scary story is written:

image from indiebound.org

This book is a how-to book that uses a model story, “The Scary-Go-Round,” to demonstrate how writers use mysterious or gloomy settings to set the mood, foreshadowing and vivid description to build suspense, and cliffhanger endings to put readers on the edge of their seats and leave them wanting more.

Students loved the spooky tale in this book, and they did a great job pointing out what made the story so scary!

We finished this lesson by writing our own collaborative class stories using Storybird, a fantastic online storytelling site that lets students combine their own words with high-quality artist-submitted illustrations to create awesome digital storybooks!

Want to read our 4th graders’ Storybirds? Here they are!

“The Most Popular Girl at Monster High” by Mrs. Kraus’s class
“Why Everyone Hates the Hancock Family” by Mrs. Barrett’s class
“The Creepy Adventures of Creepella and Lucy” by Ms. Carrithers’ class

Since we wrote these together as a class, I had students take turns choosing pictures and supplying words for the story, and by the end of the lesson, everyone had the chance to contribute to their story.

4th graders were my guinea pigs since I had never used Storybird with students before, but now that I’ve got the hang of it, I can’t wait to try this engaging tool with other students.

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5th grade has also done some creative storytelling that combines the spookiness of Halloween with their excitement about the upcoming election.

So just how did we manage to connect Halloween and Election Day?

Well, it turns out the White House is reported to be one of the most haunted homes in America!

Rumor has it that the Obamas’ housemates include the spirits of Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and many others.

(One of our 5th grade bloggers, Camille, was so fascinated by this that she shared some information about the White House ghosts in her last blog post!)

To explore the spooky sightings at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we visited a variety of web resources including this video:

…a couple of informational articles:

…and an interactive slideshow from the whitehousehistory.org website:

Want to learn more? Click the image to visit the site yourself!

Once we had learned all about the spooks in the White House, we talked about what makes a good scary story. In Mrs. Wilcox’s class, we read Share a Scare to see an example of how to write our own spooky narratives. (Mrs. Thompson’s class was interrupted with a fire drill, so we didn’t get to read the book, but we did have a quick conversation about scary story elements.)

Armed with knowledge about the haunted white house and ideas about how to craft their narratives, students worked this week on writing their own scary White House stories.

First, we reviewed some of the elements our stories would need to include:

this stayed on the SMARTBoard as a checklist/anchor chart for students to refer to as they wrote their stories

Since these stories were written in just one class period–about 20-25 minutes of total writing time–we condensed the writing process considerably. Students planned in their heads rather than prewriting on paper, and their rough drafts were also their final drafts, with very little editing or revision except for changes they may have made as they wrote.

Want to read some of our 5th graders’ spooky White House stories? Visit this link and prepare to be scared!

(Link will be up soon–I am still uploading stories–so please stay tuned! :))

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