Halloween is always my favourite time of year, and it’s even better when I get to see all of the students joining in on it. There was so much happening that I had to work after-hours in order to keep up (especially one night before an Open Day because my room looked like an Amazon warehouse that was hit by a tornado with all the boxes and random items everywhere), but it was so much fun!

Halloween Baking and Pumpkin Carving

Top: A carved pumpkin (inspired by anime cats);
Bottom Right: A cookie in the shape of a witch’s broom;
Middle and Bottom Left: Students cutting out cookies (and dealing with sticky dough). All pictures are my own.

On the morning of 25 October, my students were able to participate in an event that some of them had initially created: baking Halloween cookies for the Halloween Party. The school canteen helped to provide everything that we needed, including all of the ingredients for their cookie dough (as per the recipe that my students had decided upon) and already prepared dough (for other students to work with while the others were making dough).

The day before the baking event, our school manager surprised us with a delivery of pumpkins (including one very large pumpkin). Since we had them, we added a station for carving them with the assistance of another teacher. They were used in our other project, the Haunted Hallway (see below), as decorations with small electric candles inside of them.

Along with our MYP students in Grades 6, 7, and 9, we were also visited by a few interested students from the other school that we (currently) share a building with. Everyone who participated really seemed to enjoy themselves, and it was so wonderful to see everyone working together, learning some new skills or experiencing something they may not have done before, and just enjoying themselves. (Plus, the kids were all super cute in their aprons and goofy hats.)

This is definitely something that I’d like to try to do again next year (especially the pumpkin carving part because all of them were so good).

Haunted Hallway

Bottom: The hallway looked like a mess, but it was so cool to see it designed;
Top Right: A skeleton watches over everyone from the lockers;
Top Left: A cute bat and some candy with an eyeball. All pictures are my own.

One of the biggest challenges to this year’s Halloween events (and one of the most fun to do) was the Haunted Hallway. A large, mixed group of students from Grades 7 and 9 worked together to create a haunted experience for our PYP (Early Years to Grade 5) classmates. For weeks they worked on different parts of the hallway, ranging from decorations to ideas for how to scare the children; everyone came in a costume (sort of) or wore only black so that they wouldn’t stand out too much in the totally dark Hallway of Horrors.

For the scary part, we turned off all of the lights to make something like a haunted house. The students had been preparing different ways to scare the students. Starting with Early Years, the students had to adjust the ‘scare factor’ in order to make sure that the students weren’t too scared to come back to school. They did so well with considering the age of the students going through the Haunted Hallway and how scary to be (but when Grades 4 and 5 came through, they went all out with a terrifying entry story, popping balloons, and blood-curdling screams).

The feedback they got from teachers and students alike was phenomenal. Everyone was pleasantly surprised with it, and I was so happy because nearly everything in the hallway was a student-creation (and those that weren’t were student-concepts that were given life through teacher-advice).

There was so much teamwork and so much consideration for all students; I was so happy to see how brilliant turned out to be and how enthusiastic they were.

One of the things that gets on my nerves is that we often don’t consider disabilities. This is something that I’m actually really happy with in my current school. As a person with learning disabilities (audio processing disorder, ADHD, and dyslexia) who is also a teacher, it’s nice to be in an environment where my voice is (frequently) heard. However, the community at large still has a lot to learn about people with physical disabilities.

Which is why I love this series by Mark Brown of the Game Maker’s Toolkit. Partnering with or interviewing people who are actually impacted by this, he’s been working on a series of designing video games to be better for people with different disabilities. But these are ideas that can be incorporated everywhere, so it’s definitely a channel that I just love (especially because they have so many videos that just fit a lot of teachable moments and make me wonder how to incorporate them in class).

How do I make students more aware of designing their projects for people with hearing-related disabilities? How do I make sure they pay attention to colours that might impact people with colourblindness or low vision? These are questions that I often wonder as a teacher. Am I designing my classroom in functional ways to meet student needs? Are my assessments accessible for all of the students? How can I scaffold them to make them more accessible, either for students who also have learning disabilities or to make sure that they’re easy to understand and have explicit instructions?

I love these videos, though. They make me think a lot about what I teach and how I teach, and I’m definitely looking forward to designing for individuals for cognitive disabilities.

One of the things that I really want to get my students to be able to do, especially when I start working with them on Community Projects, is to get them to be able to write their own units on topics that they care about. One of the people that I credit with this is someone who I follow on Twitter: Prisonculture. They’re super involved in projects related to education, prison reform, shifting views on crime and violence, and many more. I’ve seen a lot of unit plans or educational plans come from their related projects, but I recently saw one that was made for Survived and Punished, a group that aims to help stop the criminalisation of survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Now, I’m not planning to bring that exact unit plan into my classroom (because the target audience for it isn’t meant to be for students of my age range), but it made me think: What if they took topics that they really cared about and were pushed to create a lesson about them? What if they became the teacher, even for one lesson? For students who will be doing Community Projects (Grade 8 next year, possibly Grade 9 this year to prepare them for next year’s Personal Projects), I feel like this would be a really good component to their work because it will force them to present it in an engaging way (and also, maybe hopefully, teach them what it’s like to be on my side of the equation).

One of the things that I really want to get my students to be able to do, especially when I start working with them on Community Projects, is to get them to be able to write their own units on topics that they care about. One of the people that I credit with this is someone who I follow on Twitter: Prisonculture. They’re super involved in projects related to education, prison reform, shifting views on crime and violence, and many more. I’ve seen a lot of unit plans or educational plans come from their related projects, but I recently saw one that was made for Survived and Punished, a group that aims to help stop the criminalisation of survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Now, I’m not planning to bring that exact unit plan into my classroom (because the target audience for it isn’t meant to be for students of my age range), but it made me think: What if they took topics that they really cared about and were pushed to create a lesson about them? What if they became the teacher, even for one lesson? For students who will be doing Community Projects (Grade 8 next year, possibly Grade 9 this year to prepare them for next year’s Personal Projects), I feel like this would be a really good component to their work because it will force them to present it in an engaging way (and also, maybe hopefully, teach them what it’s like to be on my side of the equation).

Also, more than with a presentation, they might find that it is much more enjoyable and interactive, finding ways for them to exhibit what they know while trying to be inclusive of learners who may be unfamiliar with it. For my students who are very proficient in English but also get annoyed by language learners in their classes, it might be a helpful way to teach them patience and empathy while also helping them to understand the work that their English-learning peers are working to both understand language and content; hopefully, it’d work as a bridge to make them more become more understanding and less frustrated, especially if they worked with multiple teachers in order to learn strategies for students who have different needs (language, learning difficulties and disabilities, etc).

Plus, it might open more avenues to explicitly including the IB learner profile attributes that we’re supposed to be mentioning as we teach our curriculum: caring, open-minded, and risk-taking.