Celebrating fall holidays with older students requires a balancing act – like so much of teaching.
As a teacher, you want students to enjoy the seasons. They are, after all, still kids.
As a teacher, you want to cover your lesson plans too. Hence, the balance.
During fall holidays – Halloween and Thanksgiving – I’ve found two tricks to help with classroom management.
Acknowledge student excitement.
Students love fall holidays, and I do too. Use that emotion to your advantage. Have students write about the changing environment. Take them outside to experience glorious fall, and work their vocabulary.
Analyze their excitement with a speech. What makes fall special? Many students realize that their reasons change over time. At one point, they liked Thanksgiving because holidays with gifts were next. As they become more mature, they enjoy the family and traditions of Thanksgiving more.
Read a few spooky stories; reading Edgar Allan Poe is a part of my October curriculum.
Follow school rules.
Many schools that I’ve worked in do not allow older students to dress in costume for Halloween. (Is this the exception to the rule?) School districts I’ve worked in have the cutoff at 5th grade, and starting in 6th grade, students don’t dress up. The costumes become, uh, inappropriate. Schools I’ve worked at have a blanket rule: no costumes.
That doesn’t stop students from trying, though. They’ll wear headbands with little witch hats. Their outfits will be the costume. Ask ahead of time what the line is. Can girls wear sashes; boys wear vests? Follow the rule consistently. Explain to students that yes, they are having fun, but they still need to follow the rules.
Lots of rules exist in a few years for these students – at college or on a job – that they may not favor. Part of our job as secondary educators? Explaining this part of life to our students.
While students may feel too old to experience the fun of Halloween and Thanksgiving, I have found that they are indeed excited. Older students still want to participate, and they don’t always express their frustrations in the most positive ways. (I think we all knew that).
Those are my two tips surrounding fall holidays to keep the secondary classroom focused. I have given candy before, or quirky notes sending happy feelings. Each idea depends on individual classroom’s atmospheres. How have you best celebrated fall holidays with older students?