Saturday, 15 October 2011 17:45

Halloween Monsters (Teaching Tip #45)

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Every year on Halloween my school holds a big parade in which the younger students march around the playground in their costumes as the older students, staff, and parents cheer them on. The parade begins right after lunch, and there is usually just over an hour remaining in the school day when my students and I return to the classroom. Because the kids are so excited about Halloween, they usually have a difficult time concentrating on academic work as this day winds to a close.

A few years ago I discovered a simple, engaging Halloween art project that fit perfectly into this late afternoon time slot, Halloween Monsters. If you’re looking for a way to channel student energy on Halloween, you may be interested in this activity. I found this art idea in a teacher resource book, but I haven’t yet been able to locate the title. It is important to me to credit others for their work, so I will continue to look, and I will update this Teaching Tip if and when I find it.

Students work in teams of four to create their Halloween monsters. One student creates their monster’s head, the second makes the body and tail, the third designs the legs, and the fourth makes the arms. With this activity there is a catch. The members of each group work independently and silently, without knowing what the rest of the team is doing. (Because the kids are all working quietly, the silence in the room offers a nice break from the excitement of the parade.)

The children create their monster parts out of construction paper. I just spread out our class supply of construction paper on the rug, and the students take what they need. I ask my students to tear the construction paper with their hands and not use scissors. This approach results in monsters that have a cool, raw, primitive look to them. The kids are free to use their glue sticks to add various facial and body features.

I assign the body parts for each group by taking an index card and cutting it into four strips, one for each body part. To add drama and suspense to the activity, I call each group to the front of the room for the ceremonial selection of body parts. Once the kids select their respective body parts, they are to keep their choice a secret, grab their construction paper and glue, and then hide themselves in an area of the room away from the rest of their group.

Once the kids have completed their various responsibilities, the groups re-unite and attach the body parts to create a cohesive monster. It is awesome to see how great these monsters look, given the fact that they were created without any type of advance planning or communication. Of course, the kids then name their monsters.

At the end of the period, each group presents its monster to the class. I then put the monsters up on a classroom wall so the kids can enjoy looking at them for the next few months.

Since no communication is allowed among group members during the design of the body parts, it would be inaccurate to say that this activity promotes teamwork. Rather, it leads to increased team bonding because when the groups put their monsters together, there is always the realization that everyone’s creative efforts were needed to make such cool-looking monsters come to life.

In closing, creating Halloween monsters is a great way to spend part of an afternoon because the children have opportunities to use their imaginations and bond with their classmates, without the need for numerous supplies or an extensive clean-up.

New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.