Five October Ideas for the Classroom

October has always been an interesting month. You're beginning to understand how our students and classrooms work, more behavior might pop up, and we're right in the middle of curriculum with parent-teacher conferences right around the corner. I love October, Halloween is coming and the excitement of fall. I don't even like pumpkin spice lattes but somehow seeing them just makes everything seem all is right.

I figured I'd share five of my favorite October (simple) ideas that center around Halloween that are fairly low prep and easy to do. The key is that you've got to make them work for you and they DON'T require that you have to dress up.

Goosebumps, Books and TV Show
Scary stories are the best. Make sure you introduce your students to R.L. Stine and his lively collections of scary stories. Monsters, mayhem, and unexpected endings are what it's all about. You might want to preface your students that the stories could be intense...but not clown-in-the-sewer-intense.

Mix and match the books by using recess and/or lunch time and show the students the 90's Goosebumps TV show. All the episodes match up with the books and they're under 30 minutes long. Netflix has the entire catalog available  but you might be able to find some on YouTube too.

Flashlight Reading with Sounds
Turn off the lights, grab a flashlight, turn on some monster music, and let the kids read. Flashlight reading isn't anything new, but adding the touch of spooky music is just what the Dr. Evil ordered. We love listening to music when we read and the perfect soundtrack enhances book reading immediately.

Check out YouTube, Amazon Music, Pandora, or where ever you grab your songs from. Just change up read-to-self time to match the mood. You might need to prep students to bring in flashlights, but if that's not possible just grab some lamps. It's easy and effective.

Study Bats 
If you want to focus on real-life, you probably need to go with BATS. These cross categorical mammals work well in ELA and science. From studying the types and species to understanding how they live, there's something for everyone (and at all ages).

We know the importance of bats in our ecosystems so think about challenging your students to design and create a bat house, which you can find here.

Or encourage your students to make life-size cut-outs of bat species.  They'll be amazed when they see the difference between a ghost bat and a flying fox. Your students can hang the bats from the ceiling or post them all over the walls.

Build A Bat Cave
See the full post here.

The Haunted Manipulative Math House
The simple idea is for your students to create a haunted house. Set out all the math manipulatives you have from unifix cubes, geometry shapes, ten sticks, basically whatever you have.  Then let them build a haunted house.  If you need to set a time limit, do so-- but step back and let them see what they can create (this is the STEM portion). Once they're finished, allow students to share their creations. Come up with a list of items they must be able to answer (who lives there, what's in the house, how is it haunted, etc.).

For some classes this is plenty but if you want to add more math skills assign each manipulative a number (example: each unified cube is worth 3 or $3) and have the students find the totals. You can assign each type of manipulative a different price or make them all the same. There's really no set rule because you can tie this into many different skills. It may take you (the teacher) a few minutes to decide how you want it to work, but it's worth it.

Dealing with Zombies
It is my personal opinion that a zombie invasion is a teachable moment.
Why, you ask? Here's why...
-It takes probable problem solving. How would students really react and what are their options?
-Mapping skills
-Survival skills. No seriously, what would they do without electricity or the internet?
-Are they team players? When the invasion happens who will they help?
-It requires research, but not the book kind. They have to study surroundings, locations, and geography-- books aren't nearly as important.
-A zombie invasion requires students to use their own particular skills (not reading fluency).

See it here.

Teachers can create a zombie invasion environment and see how students react, work together, and problem solve. It's team building but you've replaced trust falls with a well placed apocalyptic virus. Surviving a zombie outbreak is basically project based learning on the run, which is a resource I've created for students to do independently or as a group. It's a mix of tasks, problems, and story telling for students to work through.

Looking for more..

If you teach special education (like I do) then you definitely want to read why project based learning should be in every classroom. PBL gives kids (at all levels) opportunities to find what they're great at when it comes to how they learn and take in information. It's also the perfect way to pull in those reluctant learners.

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