Weekly Warm-Up: 5 Ways to Bring Halloween to the Classroom

Photo by Kevin Dooley, courtesy flickr. CC-BY-2.0

Photo by Kevin Dooley, courtesy Flickr. CC-BY-2.0

Holidays often mean incredibly excited students. And since you probably can’t beat the Halloween hysteria, why not join it? Here are some great ways to bring the monster mash to your classroom.

1) Discover the origins of Halloween.

Your students may not know that their favorite spooky holiday has roots that are around 2,000 years old. Challenge them to research the Celtic festival of Samhain, the Catholic All Souls’ Day and the Latin American Dia de los Muertos. How are these holidays similar and different from modern-day Halloween in the United States?

Los Angeles radio station KCRW celebrates Halloween and Dia de los Muertos with food-truck catered fundraiser featuring music (of course) and a masquerade ball. Photograph by Gerd Ludwig

Los Angeles radio station KCRW celebrates Halloween and Dia de los Muertos with food-truck catered fundraiser featuring music (of course) and a masquerade ball.
Photograph by Gerd Ludwig, National Geographic

2) Explore historical hoaxes.

Imagine turning on the radio and hearing live coverage of an alien attack on New York City. That’s exactly what happened to listeners in 1938 when H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds was broadcast as a radio drama. Share the frightful tale with your students! The full audio is available on YouTube. Would your students have believed this broadcast? Were listeners then more gullible than listeners now? Why or why not?

You can also discuss the history of the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and other mythical beasts. Do your students think Nessie could be real? What real-life creatures does the sea monster resemble?

cryptid-cartogram

3) Study animals that are spookier than fiction.

Sure, vampires, ghosts, and zombies are scary. But they don’t have anything on nature’s bloodsuckers. Invite your students to learn about some of the world’s creepiest creatures like the Australian funnel-web spider or the vampire bat. What connections can your students draw between the fictional monsters and the actual animals?

Photograph by Bruce Dale, National Geographic

Photograph by Bruce Dale, National Geographic

4) Encourage creative costumes.

Challenge your students to learn about and dress up as historic explorers like Jane Goodall or Amelia Earhart, mythic explorers like Odysseus or Viking warrior women, or pirates. Pirates are always good.

Or, invite students to research an endangered animal and dress up like it to raise awareness. They could even dress up as the ghost of Lonesome George or another extinct species.

5) Go on an educational witch hunt.

Witches frequent the pages of scary stories, but they can also be found in history books. Your students can learn about the Salem Witch Trials with this interactive journey. Then, invite them to read about witch trials in the 21st century. How are Halloween witches different from those called that name in real life?

salem

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: Dia de los Muertos

Nat Geo: 1939: War of the Worlds Scares U.S.

Nat Geo: 564: Loch Ness Monster Sighted

Nat Geo: Media Spotlight: Bloodthirsty

Nat Geo: Media Spotlight: Salem Witch Trials

Nat Geo: Witch Trials in the 21st Century

Nat Geo: The Real Creeps of Halloween

Nat Geo: Halloween History

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