Halloween writing can be a snap! Just ask kids to write about carving pumpkins. Soon they’ll be planning and penning the step-by-step process. This writing activity works well for third and fourth grade students. It focuses on good beginnings and endings, word choice, sentence variety, clear sequencing, and use of order words.
Halloween Writing That Matches Student Needs
My fourth graders can write, but their explanatory style is loose. This Halloween writing activity tightens up their explanatory writing techniques:
- Begin with an introduction that grabs the reader’s attention and introduces the topic.
- Use a step-by-step sequence in logical order.
- Include order and direction words.
- Choose specific (wow) words.
- Vary sentence structure.
- Wrap it up with a conclusion.
In the past, I’ve asked my students to draw a picture of the pumpkin they’ll carve and guided their thinking like this:
- Let’s visit a pumpkin patch. Which pumpkin will you choose? Will it be tall and skinny or short and fat? Is it a perfect sphere or oddly shaped? Think about the shape of your pumpkin and draw it on your paper.
- What will the eyes look like? Are they triangles, rectangles, or hexagons? Maybe they’re stars or flowers or little slits. Do the eyes have any extra features like pupils or eyelashes or eyebrows? Draw the eyes on your pumpkin.
- Now for the nose. Think about the shape and size. Will it be big and wide, just a pair of nostrils, or snout-like? Imagine the nose you will carve on your pumpkin and draw it.
- Last we have the mouth. Will your pumpkin be smiling, frowning, sneering, or growling? The mouth will really give your pumpkin a personality. Can you see teeth? Draw your mouth.
This year, maybe I’ll go high tech. Check out this virtual pumpkin carving activity from ABCYa!
To develop the piece, my students will write the steps in order. Click here to download this freebie.
Improving Words and Sentences
I’ve developed a special thesaurus to go with this activity. To warm up, we’ll discuss these expectations for the project:
- Specific nouns – Use the exact name for each person, place, or thing. For example, when you say “French poodle,” your audience can picture what you mean much better than when you just say “dog.”
- Active verbs – Tell your audience exactly what is going on. Instead of saying, “Maurice was in the park,” you could say, “Maurice was dribbling a basketball at the park.”
- Adjectives – These words add a lot! For instance, if you say “tomato,” an image of a round, red vegetable will pop into the audience’s head. But saying “shriveled, rotten tomato” gives a much clearer picture of what you mean.
- Order and direction words – Guide your reader with words that help with sequencing and where on your pumpkin you will carve next.
- Sentence variety – Every sentence in your paragraph must begin with a different word. Using order words will help, but that can be repetitive too. You might be tempted to use the word “I” in every sentence. That would also be repetitive. How will you avoid this? Here are some ideas:
- Write in second person, using imperative sentences or the word “you”: “First, cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin.”
- Begin with the cutting tool: “The knife slowly sliced the pumpkin’s skin to reveal a rounded nasal cavity.”
- Use with your hand: “My hand guided the knife over the surface…”
- Address with the part you’re cutting: “A sneering smile was revealed.”
- Start with a long phrase: “In the middle of the broad forehead, …”
At this point, I give my students a new copy of the planning sheet and have them rewrite the steps using the thesaurus.
Writing Good Beginnings and Endings
How can we get kids to write better beginnings and endings? Just have them try some out! For the beginning, I ask my students to write a question, a surprise statement, dialogue, a sound (onomatopoeia), and one other beginning.
To address the ending, they try a summary, a feeling, a surprise statement, a sound, and one other.
Before they choose, we discuss “framing,” or choosing matching beginnings and endings. This strategy makes their writing even stronger.
Writing, Editing, and Finalizing
Once these steps are done, the paragraph practically writes itself. Kids draft their pieces then move on to editing.
To jazz it up, I give my students a sheet of themed paper for their final piece. Of course, we display each masterpiece with the picture they drew at the beginning of the activity.
Enjoy teaching Halloween writing!