Vocabulary words join costumes for Halloween this year

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Students walk through the Kingsland Elementary School hallway showing their costumes, and vocabulary words, to other students in costume.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Kingsland Elementary School students were challenged to come up with a power word to relate to their costumes during the Halloween celebration last week.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

“Wicked.”  “Transform.”  “Stretchy.”

And that’s what Kingsland’s kids wanted to be for Halloween.

The annual holiday is often “a highly distractible school day,” noted Kingsland Elementary School Principal Scott Klavetter. This year, though, students were invited to wear their Halloween costumes throughout the school day, but the celebration concluded with a vocabulary parade at the end of the school day. 

“Our goal is to celebrate Halloween with students while maintaining a focus on academics,” Klavetter said. “This activity ties what students are learning about in their language arts classes into their Halloween costumes they are excited about, which we hope will make learning relevant for students.”

Each grade level did other fun activities to celebrate Halloween throughout the school day since “our elementary students are always fired up to share with everyone what they are going to be for Halloween and hear what costumes their friends have chosen.” Kingsland has done costume parades in the past to let students share their costumes, but the vocabulary component came as a result of the district’s Action 100 reading program, which includes what are called “power words” at each reading level throughout the program. 

“These words include various blends and patterns learned at that individual reading level, and students study these words throughout their work in that particular reading level,” Klavetter said.  “This activity was introduced to students at the beginning of October, and as they began thinking with their families about what they wanted to be for Halloween, we challenged them to think about a word from their list of power words that might relate to their costume.”

For example, a student who planned to be Superman for Halloween might choose the word “transform” because Clark Kent transforms into Superman, noted Klavetter. On the other hand, a student planning to be a ghost might choose the word “terrifying.” 

Classroom teachers introduced the activity and discussed several examples such as this with students before sending written instructions home for them to share and discuss with their families.  Along with instructions for the activity, a list of grade level-specific words was sent home with students at the beginning of October, which included power words from the reading level corresponding to the students’ grade level. 

When students arrived to school on Halloween in their costume, they spent part of their language arts class time on Halloween day creating vocabulary posters depicting the word they chose to describe their costume and its relationship.  At the end of the school day, students carried their posters while parading through the building to share both their costumes and their posters. 

“Like many other elementary schools, we have done costume parades in the past to let students share their costumes.  This approach just ties the activity into our curriculum and provides an opportunity for learning at the same time,” Klavetter said.

Students in kindergarten through six grade were invited to participate, and with a wide range of costumes from which to choose – a witch who’s “wicked,” Superman transforming from Clark Kent into a superhero, and ElastiGirl from “The Incredibles” becoming “stretchy” to save her family and the world – they had plenty of inspiration for growing their vocabularies. 

Older students who chose not to wear Halloween costumes to school were encouraged to help a younger student with his or her vocabulary poster. 

“Most students were likely more intent on selecting a specific costume rather than a specific power word, so in some cases, they may need to think outside the box a bit to identify and explain how one of their power words can be related to their costume,” Klavetter said.

He observed that it’s the teaching staff that’s made the Halloween vocabulary parade possible. 

“All the credit goes to our amazing teachers for this one.  We have several teachers who have often found unique ways to integrate holiday celebration days into their curriculum while including families and community members.  The Halloween vocabulary parade is a result of some of our teachers taking that approach to the next level and proposing a schoolwide activity with a similar intent,” Klavetter said. 

“The idea was originally hatched from brainstorming sessions on how we might continue promoting reading engagement among students, which has been a huge focus with our Action 100 reading program,” he said. “We are always reflecting on our current practices as well as looking for new ideas we might try to reach students.  Our teachers have put a great deal of work into this new activity.  Watching the whole thing come together for the first time on Halloween day was a lot of fun.”