Friday, October 30, 2015

Making Spooky Graham Houses

To celebrate Halloween this year, students got to make and decorate Spooky Houses using chocolate graham crackers and a variety of gross, creepy Halloween candy.  We did this during math time, to incorporate counting, shapes, positional words and general strategy & problem solving. 

Here was my example:
I had a good time making this. Thanks, Ms. Ingram, for the Oreo eyeball!

Let me start off with the fact that this could not have been done without parent volunteers! We had six parents come in, in addition to myself and Mrs. Dean. (Sorry to those not pictured with their child. It was hard to get pictures while also helping!)

At Christmas time, I always do gingerbread houses with my students, but those are a bit more structured.  We use milk cartons as the base and I help kiddos create the houses the day before so they have a chance to harden.  There's less freedom in the design.  I wanted these houses to be a bit more of a puzzle for the kids, so they could have the chance to design the houses as they saw fit to be as scary as possible! But trying to put them together freely like this would be impossible without at least one parent per table.  I pre-cut the graham crackers in either a tall, skinny template or a short, wide template, depending on what the kids told me they preferred.  I used this picture as a guide for the short, wide houses and altered slightly for the tall ones:

For the tall ones, I just cut the ends higher up, flipped the sides (same measurement as above) so they'd be tall and skinny and used half a graham cracker each for the roof.  I forgot to show this picture as we were working on them, though (sorry!) so kids kind of put them together however.  I think that worked out better! The variety and creativity was neat to see.  Students chose which color frosting they wanted to use as the glue: red, orange, or black.

Once the pieces were put together, students were able to buy items from the decoration store.  Each student had 100 pennies to spend. 20 of these were loose, plastic pennies and 80 were paper pennies, in strips of 10.  I included this part of the activity because K kiddos are meant to be able to count a collection of up to ten pennies, and I wanted them to count, but in retrospect... this part was a disaster.  It took too long for students to wait in line and spend the pennies, and plastic pennies + frosting do not make a good mix.  So I had to alter this in the midst of creating.

We ended up having a "Flash Sale!" where everything was on sale for 5 cents, but even that didn't get out the decorations fast enough.  I changed it again to say what I was coming around with and how much it cost (e.g., "If you'd like a scoop of dirt to go around the base of your house, it costs 20 cents," or "Gummy worms, 30 cents").  Things we had enough of for each child ended up being free, and the items that had a higher demand cost money.  Basically what I'm saying here is, if you do this activity, rethink how you distribute the decorations.  You could have them count out a certain amount of each decoration, but then everyone has the same decorations so there's less variety. 

Once students finished adding decorations, I gave everyone a non-edible stretchy skeleton to practice positional words.  I asked students to "put the skeleton above the house," "put the skeleton behind the house," etc.  They seemed to have the most trouble with behind

All in all, it was a fun day! I had one student say at the end of the day "I wish we had done math tubs today." Mrs. Dean replied, "Instead of these fun houses???" Mrs. Buzzell commented that kids just like routine. At least they enjoy math tubs!  Hopefully they didn't eat the houses all at once. They were full of sugar!

The downside to not using the milk cartons was that, unfortunately, many of the houses fell apart when placed in bags to take home. I still think I'd allow the freedom in design next year, but I may make the houses in two days with frosting 'glue' instead of how we assembled them this year.  

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