As a New England resident, fall is something I’ve always looked forward to. Beautiful leaves, pumpkin carving, hot cider, creative costumes, cozy sweaters, warm fires, crisp mornings and even crisper apples…what’s not to love!
With back-to-school craziness settling down a bit you’re likely getting into a groove with your students and are looking at fun ways to incorporate the season into your classroom! Whether you’re looking forward to making hand turkeys with your elementary aged kids or seeing all your high school students get dressed up for Homecoming there’s a ton to look forward to in school around the fall holidays.
To help inspire your integration of the season into your classroom I’ve asked current National Geographic Learning employees who are former teachers to share a bit about what they enjoyed most during their fall semesters.
Celebrating Halloween in my classroom was always a blast! During my years as a high school math teacher, I loved dressing up and infusing a sense of excitement and creativity into the learning environment. One of my favorite things to do on Halloween was to dress up like Hermione Granger (from Harry Potter) and host a Halloween competition. The competition itself would involve a series of math challenges and Halloween-themed challenges. I decorated my classroom with Harry Potter décor and sorted the students into Hogwarts houses, and we’d tally house points from the challenges.
Participating in Spirit Week during Homecoming as a teacher was always a delightful experience. It allowed me to connect with my students on a different level, showcasing my school spirit and enthusiasm for our community. Dressing up in different themes each day brought an infectious energy to the classroom.
As a high school teacher, I loved the traditions of fall in the classroom. Texas is big on Homecoming with huge mums, dress up days for the week, and high attendance at the local rivalry games. Drumline, banners, school colors, and more. I have numerous photos of me dressed in pjs, 80s gear, princess outfits, and other themed outfits. The kids enjoyed the more over-the-top costumes. And as an English teacher, I loved Halloween. We would share ghost stories and learn what details made a story more spooky and frightful. Then they would try to come up with their own ghostly tale.
We decorated our hallway, had a door decorating contest, and always made a point to dress up to celebrate Halloween! Because I taught in the inner city, trick or treating wasn’t always an option for some of our students, so we brought trick or treating to the school! We organized a large trunk or treat in the parking lot, with help from home and school, and our students got to celebrate the holiday at school.
October was my favorite month as a teacher! I spent my 15 years of education in an Elementary classroom and Oct was packed full of themed weeks, spirit weeks (homecoming, drug-free, Halloween), fire safety, fall décor, door decorating contests, fall parties and more!
Themed weeks were my favorite! One week we’d learn all about bats with fun, engaging activities! The next week would be spiders. The next week would be pumpkin science learning the life cycle, the different types, watch pumpkin contests videos, write and carve a pumpkin for our classroom. For each theme, we’d complete charts, participate in STEM activities, read about them, write about them, incorporate the topic into math and so much more!
For our Fall/Halloween party, we’d have a school wide costume parade. When I first started teaching, every teacher had their own individual costumes, then it became a grade level theme where each grade level would keep their costumes a secret, and my last few years, we changed it to a school-wide costume theme.
I taught in an elementary school across the street from a major University, and most of my students were from other countries because their parents were either students or professors. Halloween was the first big U.S. holiday of the school year, so we went all out! We had a school-wide parade, dressed up in costumes (and our ELL teacher provided them for students who had never celebrated Halloween), and ate themed Halloween treats. Parents were highly encouraged to come to the festivities, and I think they sometimes had more fun than their kids! We not only enjoyed a day of hands-on, theme-based learning, but our classroom community became closer, and my international students often became more outgoing while picking up numerous English phrases during our enjoyable day exploring traditions.
I absolutely loved incorporating the holidays into my math classroom! It’s a fantastic way to keep students engaged and excited about learning. Additionally, I have always enjoyed decorating my classroom for the season, which helped to create a cozy atmosphere. For fall, I would turn my LED lights to orange, play my Halloween Spotify playlist during activities, and have Halloween décor on my desk and around the classroom. My interactive whiteboard was my favorite tool as a teacher. I would always use it to play interactive games. Since Halloween often coincides with homecoming season, I would also tie in football-themed math or a football review game (dressing up like a football player these days always got reactions from my students).
I would use my overhead projector and screen to cast my daily agendas/slides that would match the theme of the holidays. At Christmas time, I would have a fireplace screen with wood-crackling sounds running while the students worked. One year we read a Christmas Carol and did a book-study over the story.
In addition to teaching K-12, I also teach EdTech courses at a university. So, exploring ways I can infuse my lessons with technology to engage and motivate my students is my thing! From using the Makey Makey to make sounds when someone dropped a Valentine into our Valentine box (and, in turn, teaching about circuits) to coding our own holiday light display using Scratch or an Adafruit Circuit Playground Express, I tried to get my students to think creatively about how they could express their thinking. Coding was a wonderful way to model problem solving, and it was fun to see our projects do something in the end!
As a student during the holidays, I have many fond memories. I remember one Halloween when my math teacher organized a scavenger hunt throughout the school. We had to solve math problems to find clues hidden in different locations. It was a blast! That experience inspired me to become a math teacher who loved to make learning math fun, especially during the holiday season.
As a student, I always loved dress up/theme days. It was an excuse to be silly and have fun, “twin” with your best friend. It was exciting to see which teacher would make “fools” of themselves to help us students laugh.
As a student, I lived for parties (and, honestly, I still do to this day)! But I think the most memorable moments during the holidays were the feelings I got from getting closer to my teacher and the other students in my class when we were having fun together. Having a day to celebrate and play brought out different sides to people. I remember listening to books and telling stories. Having that free time to explore, play, and get to know my peers was invaluable.
Whether you’re excited for Halloween, fall cider, homecoming games or all of the above we want to thank you for making learning fun for your students during the fall season! Now it’s your turn to share. How do you celebrate fall in your classroom? Let us know below!