Three Ways to Incorporate SEL into Halloween Activities

Bring the the spirit of social and emotional learning to your classroom this year

McGraw-Hill
Oct 25 · 4 min read

While Halloween is a time for costumes, candy, and frightful fun, it is also a chance to build social and emotional skills in young students. As children venture outdoors with their parents and peers for trick-or-treating, they will encounter opportunities to refine their sharing skills, safety knowledge, and manners.

But opportunities for social emotional training this Halloween aren’t limited to just after-school celebrations. We have compiled several fun SEL activities teachers can incorporate into their regular lesson planning that are sure to be a treat for students. Continue reading for our tips to bring spooky SEL into your classroom this holiday.

Feeling and Emotions

Self-awareness — the ability to recognize one’s own emotions and how they influence behavior — is a core competency of SEL, according to CASEL that we’ve outlined in our Seven Guiding Principles. Halloween offers an excellent opportunity for young learners to explore, identify, and develop their understanding of emotions in a fun setting.

Teachers can draw or carve faces onto pumpkins and show the class. Have students identify the emotion associated with each face, and come up the words to describe the represented emotion. Students can also draw faces on their own pumpkins and then share with the class the emotion they chose and why. Have students develop Halloween-related stories about why their pumpkins are “feeling” the way they do. Encourage the class to participate in making the pumpkin feel better if its represented emotion is sad, angry, or scared.

Sharing and Kindness

Research has demonstrated that children who regularly participate in acts of kindness and compassion have higher self-esteem, improved academic performance, and show more empathy. But teaching sharing doesn’t have to be scary this Halloween. There are many ways your class can treat others to festive fun this year.

  1. Organize a Halloween FUNraiser in which students can bring in extra candy to donate to organizations like UNICEF, Boys and Girls Club, and the Ronald McDonald House. Students can also bring in used Halloween costumes that can be donated to Goodwill or The Halloween Helpers.
  2. If your class is having a Halloween party, dedicate a portion of the celebrations to filling and decorating festive care packages to send to soldiers overseas. Have students fill the boxes with candy and write letters to the soldiers about their Halloween costumes and favorite fall activities.
  3. Partner with a local nursing home and organize a Halloween field trip. Students can dress up in their Halloween costumes, but instead of trick-or-treating, they can deliver candy and visit with the residents.

When discussing students’ plans for trick-or-treating, remind them to accept candy and treats from neighbors with gratitude, respect, and patience. Encourage students to be inclusive of other children during trick-or-treat activities, and to abide by their parents rules for safety.

Collaboration

Cooperation and collaboration help nurture relationship skills — another core competency of CASEL’s SEL framework. Halloween provides a great way to integrate collaborative games and activities into classroom celebrations.

  • divide students into teams of three, and give each team a roll of toilet paper. Assign one student to be the mummy, while the other two must work together to wrap the mummy entirely in toilet paper before time is up.
  • Sit students in a circle, and read them an opening line or two from a Halloween themed story. Ex… “Annie, Elizabeth, and Sam were trick-or-treating when they came across a very spooky house. When they approached the front door, it creaked open, and they heard a creepy whisper, ‘Come on in.’” Have each student, one by one, create the next line to the story and share out loud to the class. Students will have to demonstrate active listening skills to complete the story.
  • Transform your classroom into a spooky haunted house where students must work together to find and solve clues in order to “escape.” Clues can easily reflect current learning material, such as multiplication problems, history facts, science trivia, or literature and grammar questions. For even more collaborative fun, have students help you set up the haunted house before the game begins.

Conclusion

Halloween is the perfect time to make social and emotional learning fun for students. We hope you enjoy integrating these games and activities in your classes this year. Happy Halloween!


Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for K-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

McGraw-Hill

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We apply the science of learning to create innovative educational solutions and content to improve outcomes from K-20 and beyond.

Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for K-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

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