This is one of my favorite times of year. The leaves burst into flaming colors, and the air has just a hint of chill in it. It is time for sweaters, warm drinks, apples, pumpkins, and Halloween. I love preparing for Halloween: selecting pumpkins – round and fat, tall and thin, white, green, and all shades of orange. I love the goopy-wonderfulness of carving pumpkins, especially to the sound of the squeals of children as wee scoop out piles and piles of pulp and seeds. We separate the seeds, wash them thoroughly, salt them and pop them in the oven until they are roasted perfection. We bake all kinds of pumpkin recipes: breads, puddings, cakes, and cookies. Everything smells like cinnamon and sugar.
Learning along-side children gives me the opportunity to celebrate this season in style. I can decorate to my heart’s content, and if anyone gives me a side-ways glance, I quickly explain, “I’m a teacher.” They smile and nod their heads. But the real reason I celebrate is to experience holidays through the eyes of the children. They still believe in magic, and by being with them, I can capture some of that magic for my own. We hang orange and black chains across the classroom, we make tons and tons of paper pumpkins, we sing Halloween songs, recite Halloween poems, and get into the spirit of Halloween.
One of my favorite books to read aloud is The Witch’s Child by Arthur Yorkins and illustrated by Jos. A. Smith. It is such the right amount of scary with a satisfying ending. The author begins, “Once there lived a witch in the woods… a mean, horrible witch. She was wicked and cruel, and absolutely heartless and her name was Rosina.” As I read aloud, I asked the students to listen closely. In front of them was a sheet with questions which I would ask them to respond to as I read. Periodically I would stop reading and ask them to jot down their answers. Having a place to respond helped the children focus their attention and added to their engagement. After the story was over, the children were brim-full of ideas that they wanted to share. This story certainly grabbed their attention and many of them asked if they could borrow it to read it again, which is just what my teacher ears wanted to hear.
The Witch’s Child Questions to consider:
I made my questions short and to the point and wanted them to flow with the pacing of the story. This was just the right amount of questioning to keep the children engaged without taking away from the action of the story.
1. What are 3 of Rosina’s powers?
3. What did Lina doe when she met Rosalie? What would you have done?
2. What was Rosina’s child made from?
4. What do you think will happen next?
After this story, I taught the children a game I learned when I was a young teacher. It is still fun thirty plus years later! However, it is harder to be the running witch, so I quickly have students take over the role, which they adore.
Old Mother Witch Game
“Old Mother Witch fell in a ditch. Picked up a penny and thought she was rich.” (Sung to the tune of Peas Porridge Hot)
- Players get in a long line, holding onto each other shoulders or waists.
- Old Mother Witch is the first in line.
- Players sing the song over and over again until…
- Old Mother Witch turns around and all children must stop. Old Mother Witch points a finger to one player after another asking, “Are you my child?’.
- The players can say no. But when a player says yes, Old Mother Witch runs after the one who said yes or any other child she can catch.
- When Old Mother Witch catches a child, she puts her in a cooking pot (a chalk outlined circle).
- The children line up again and sing the song until the witch asks her question again.
- Old Mother Witch keeps collecting children, but children who have not been caught can free children from the cooking pot.
- When Old Mother Witch has caught all the children or when she gets too tired, another witch can take her place.
13 Magical Halloween Read Alouds: