Fall is one of my favorite seasons. It is that time of year that is filled with leaves, costumes, food, and cooler weather. It is also when everything becomes pumpkin spice latte flavored. Seriously…overnight. Living in Arizona for almost two decades I have come to realize that full-fledged fall is not in the cards.
That doesn't mean I still don't like to celebrate it the instant that the temperature goes below 100 degrees!. I absolutely love everything fall-related, and there is SO much stuff that happens in fall that can be covered in the classroom. In this post you will find many books, ideas, and resources for how to survive the entire fall season!
Disclosure: Links to the books mentioned in this post are Amazon affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase on Amazon after clicking on a link/photo, I get a reimbursement.
One of my favorite days is Grandparent's Day which is usually early in September. Growing up, I was very close to my grandpa and loved visits to their house. He has since passed on, but I still celebrate and cherish the time we did have. Grandparent's Day is an amazing way for students to learn about the past. There are so many great ways to celebrate this day. If your school has an actual grandparent's day, be sure to know in advance who is coming. Often, not everyone has a grandparent to do activities within the classroom. It's good to plan for this and make small groups of kids with grandparents who are able to make it.
One fun activity to do is have the kids write/draw what they think they will look like when they get older! You can also have students interview the grandparents and have them “present” the grandparent to the rest of the class. With older students, discussing events that they are learning about and talking with someone who has lived through it would be an amazing lesson. For grandparents's day, one of my favorite things to do is get pictures of old appliances, machines, electronics, etc. and have the kids guess what it is! Reading the responses on them were hilarious! A floppy disk was thought to be a battery, fire alarm or game station! This made me feel old!
Another way to make grandparent's feel welcome is to have them pick out a favorite children's book to read to the class. If you would rather have books about grandparent's, read by grandparent's, fear not! Below are some really great ones to incorporate for Grandparent's Day.
One cute series is “How to Babysit A Grandpa” and “How to Babysit a Grandma”. These two books go in the mind of a young kid and what would happen if the roles were reversed and they were the babysitter! This book is pretty short and would be great for younger children.
How to Babysit A Grandpa by Jean Reagan
How to Babysit A Grandma by Jean Reagan
Song and Dance Man by Alfred A. Knopf
Abuela by Arthur Dorros
One of my FAVORITE children’s book authors is Patricia Polacco. Her books touch on some very hard subjects at times, but she always manages to weave in lyrical storytelling. Many of her books are actually about her when she was younger and her grandma. Within each book is a different lesson. Some are about overcoming fear, dealing with racism, family time, and so much more. As I said, many of her books do deal with tough subjects, so these are probably best for older children. These are some of my favorite Patricia Polacco books that are great for grandparent’s day.
When Lightning Comes in A Jar
If you choose to keep Labor Day separate, a great way to have kids celebrate it is of course by discovering what they want to be when they grow up! I absolutely love hearing what kids want to be when they grow up! One year I had each student write on a whiteboard, or you can use mini chalkboards, what they wanted to be when they grew up. Then I created a collage of all the pictures and shared it with the parents.
Having students write about what they want to be is a great way to do a lesson on goals. For older students, they can discuss steps they would take to achieve that goal and why they want to do that specific career. Labor Day is also a way to have students practice letter writing. They can write to community service members to show their appreciation for what they do.
These printables are included in my Second Grade Fall No Prep Unit.
Halloween has always played a big part in my career as a teacher because it's my second favorite holiday. I ran my school's fall festival for three years and would even hand-make invites to the event! I loved planning it and the outcome was always pretty awesome. However, when it came time to plan a party in my own classroom I was stumped! I was a little “Halloweened” out by then and planning stuff for in the classroom was actually a lot harder.
I often taught at schools with a very diverse population. We had many students who didn't celebrate Halloween, or kids who couldn't afford costumes. The schools had an annual Halloween parade and for some years, every student would dress up, while other years, only half could afford a new costume. I didn't want any kiddos to miss out on having fun at a class party, so I did what every person who secretly wishes they were an event planner does, I made a theme! Creating a theme makes the day so much easier to plan for instead of trying to think of a multitude of ideas. Instead of having a hodge podge of different things….focus on a theme!
One year my kids were in love with Harry Potter, despite never reading the books. I threw a Holiday at Hogwarts party in lieu of a Halloween party because I too love HP. The kiddos still had the option to dress up, but this way, those who couldn't wouldn't feel left out. We made wands using wooden dowels and ribbons. I also brought a witch/wizard hat and the kids took turns wearing it while reading Halloween related books to the class. Obviously Harry Potter is still not totally accepted by everyone, so get approval for this prior to doing it.
Halloween is sometimes a way for schools to have fun, but without going full Halloween mode. Some schools prefer to have themes which is also a great way for kids to dress up, but has less chance of someone coming to school dressed to the point of gross!
Dress like a book character
Have kiddos dress as their favorite book character. Ask parent volunteers to make or buy items related to books. The ideas are ENDLESS. You can have the kids recreate the book covers from where the character is from. Set up a photo booth type area and take pictures of students dressed as their favorite characters with their books. This could also be a great day to have read aloud's from the kids! Have them read their favorite books to either the class or buddies in a younger classroom! Just make sure to specify clear rules about dress, as you probably don’t want Captain Underpants playing on the playground.
Food and candy is typically a given for Halloween parties or any party for that matter, but with food restrictions, allergies, nutrition, etc. it can be hard to think of food that not only fits the theme but also won’t make the kids have a sugar rush. One year I worked in a school that had no limits, and we had two tables full of junk food. So unless you like your kids getting sick from eating too much, don’t make that mistake!
Here are some ideas for healthier alternatives for a book character day.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish: Goldfish
The Giving Tree: Apples
The Stinky Cheese Man: Cheese and crackers
The Very Hungry Caterpillar: all the different fruits he eats!
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs: meatballs in a crockpot
The Tale of Peter Rabbit/ Bunnicula: carrots
Harry Potter: pretzel sticks as wands
Have students dress in a plain T-shirt that parents don't mind “monsterfying”. Head to the dollar store, craft store, whatever, and stock up on “monster” items! Think fur, feathers, and googly eyes galore. The day of, make there is plenty of glue and parent helpers. They can also make monster masks using simple items such as plates and paint.
A fun activity is to recycle all those empty Kleenex boxes that you have accumulated over the past few months. Have kids create a monster out of the Kleenex box! Use paper scraps for teeth and any other recyclable items. See how creative your kids can get.
One thing about monsters is that everyone has their own vision of what a monster may look like! With Monster Mash-Up you can integrate writing into a fun activity. Give each student a paper and have them write a really detailed description of what their imaginary monster would look like. When they are finished, have them switch with a classmate. The classmate then uses the writer’s description to draw what the monster would look like! You can also switch it around and have them draw the monster first.
Have kids bring orange t-shirts that they can bring to school. Add some fabric markers, felt, glue, and you have yourself a pumpkin shirt decorating party! You can have mini pumpkins for each student, and no need to bring in 20+ volunteers or run around trying to carve all of the pumpkins….just use paint! Even your little learners will love being able to decorate their pumpkins with paint, glitter, and anything else you can think of! Bring a few pumpkins that the kids can share while pulling out the seeds. Bring a crockpot and start roasting those as a treat for later. And for food…orange everything.
There are several other things you can to do to incorporate pumpkins to make the day educational as well!
Measure the pumpkins: have students measure pumpkins using string, paperclips linked together, etc. They can also measure the height with unifex cubes!
Estimation: have students guess how many pumpkin seeds are in one pumpkin.
Graphing: in small groups have students graph about many seeds their pumpkins have.
Writing: there are different things you can have kiddos do to incorporate writing. Have them write a story about a pumpkin coming to life, write a persuasive piece from the pumpkin’s point of view why it shouldn’t be carved, or a how-to piece on how to carve a pumpkin.
Pumpkin code: add two digit problems to solve a code.
If you are looking for some no prep alternatives for a pumpkin party, these pumpkin-themed printables are a part of my Second Grade Fall No Prep Unit.
Sometimes schools choose to not celebrate Halloween at all, although you can try and squeeze in some Halloween fun. Ask your principal first about reading Halloween themed books in lieu of having a party. These are some fun Halloween books for the classroom!
Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda WilliamsThis is a great book to teach kids that being scared or afraid can be to make something that scares them into something more fun. It is also a tale about how scarecrows came to be!
There’s A Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer
There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Bat by Lucille Calandro
The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg
The Bailey School Kids Series
The Berenstain Bears Trick or Treat by Stan and Jan Berenstain
One thing to do in the fall is to create scarecrows! This can pretty much be anytime during the fall season. Having kids make a scarecrow doesn’t have to be a big chore! I have made a simple Scarecrow Craftivity that also includes writing prompts for the fall season! One thing I didn’t always like about craftivities was all the little pieces! I have made this scarecrow craft easy to use and it can involve little to no prep! You can either print the pieces on colored paper or have students color it in!
If you are looking for another way to incorporate writing into fall, writing haikus is a great way to teach parts of speech and have kids focus on writing using their senses. Check out my Fall Haiku Display pack. Easily create a beautiful fall display using any of the templates included.To read more about this unit, check out this post!
Centers are another fun and educational way to incorporate some fun during this season! A multitude of concepts can be taught and practiced during Halloween!
Practicing synonyms and antonyms doesn’t have to be boring, but can be fun, and tasty. (Although I don’t encourage eating the center). Candy Corn Synonyms and Antonyms is a fun little center that can be done individually or in small groups. This is also a great way to enhance a kid’s vocabulary!
Writing can be a hard concept for kids to grasp, and sentences are either too long or too short. Help them identify the difference between a complete and incomplete sentence with Cauldron Complete Or Incomplete Sentences. To set up this center, all you need to do is glue the two included cauldrons to file folders. Then, using the sentence strips, they organize them by complete and incomplete. For added practice, they can turn the incomplete sentences into complete sentences using the printable.
Math is not to be neglected on Halloween, as there are TONS of ways to include certain concepts with Halloween. Adding two-digit numbers is a big concept for students to tackle in second grade! Spider Spinners is meant to be used individually or in small groups(up to 8). To play the game, all you have to do is have students insert the tip of their pencil into a paperclip. They spin the spinner two times to make an equation and then solve it. The variety of numbers allows for students to practice adding doubles, regrouping, and more!
After a massive sugar rush and teachers drinking a keg of caffeine to get through Halloween, we now are in the month of thanks!
I love the holidays. Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Fourth of July…etc. However, I never fully got into Thanksgiving as much as I did the other holidays. All politics/history aside, I think Thanksgiving never really struck my fancy because I struggled with all the elements involved in it.
My past has been filled with big Thanksgiving dinners and those are always nice, yet as I got older the question “When are you hosting Thanksgiving” started to arise. No thank you! If I host Thanksgiving everyone will get microwaved bacon, toast, and maybe some non-burnt cookies…if they are lucky! Needless to say, I can't cook. Trust me, I try. Another thing that ruffles my turkey feathers about Thanksgiving is the thankful posts that flood social media over the course of the month. I personally think you should be thankful…year round!
Nowadays teachers should be aware of how they want to address holidays such as Thanksgiving. I recall my kindergarten class dressing up like pilgrims and Native Americans. Times have changed immensely and I think that unless you are going to educate students on the REAL Thanksgiving, then stick with alternatives…such as turkeys!
Turkey’s are pretty much the symbol of Thanksgiving and turkey crafts are bound to be made in younger grades. As seen in the previous picture, I was never good at tracing my hand to make a turkey so I created something that will have kids making a turkey with ease! My Turkey Writing craft comes with everything you need to make a turkey, as well as writing prompts and an acrostic writing page.
The month of November can be pretty crazy in all honesty! It’s smack dab in the middle of Halloween and Christmas, the two holidays kids usually lose their smackers for! Keep it simple during November for yourself! If you are looking for a way to incorporate Thanksgiving into the classroom with little prep, then check out my Thanksgiving Mini Unit. All the printables included are also in my Second Grade Fall No Prep Unit.
All you have to do is print! You can also easily make Thanksgiving educational with fun centers.
One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is the pie! I don’t have a particular favorite ( I like them all), but pies are also a great way to involve learning. One day, prior to Thanksgiving, I was craving pie. Rather than give in to my cravings, I created Parts of Speech Pie….much better for a diet. To play, students match the pie pieces to the plate with the correct part of speech.
If you are looking to also have math incorporated during Thanksgiving, look no feather…further.
Turkey Time is a quick center that gives students the practice they need to master telling time. To play the simply match the analog clock with the correct digital time! This is a super easy center to put together and will have your kids understand time…in no time!
I LOVE spinner games! They are so easy to make, all you need is a pencil and paperclip! Turkey Spinner is a center that can be used for either addition of multiplication practice! It includes numbers 0 to 12 and comes with 54 different spinners for endless equations!
Of course, reading Thanksgiving themed books is another great way to celebrate Thanksgiving in the younger classrooms. These are just some of my favorites!
Arthur’s Thanksgiving by Marc Brown
Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving
by James Dean and Kimberly Dean
10 Fat Turkey’s by Tony Johnston and Rich Deas
Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dave Pilkey
Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne
If you made it through this entire post, you will now have TONS of books, ideas, and resources to get you through the ENTIRE fall season. During these crazy months, it can be hard to prep for all of these holidays. I have bundled all of my fall resources into one fall-tastic bundle that will save you lots of prep time! It includes over 90 no prep printables for fall, 18 centers, and three writing crafts
Happy fall y’all!