On this page you will get Halloween activity ideas and see some customs around the world. Halloween project ideas can reinforce art skills and concepts. For the history of Halloween and a list of online lessons you can visit this page.
Although there is plenty on the internet about Halloween, this section focuses on art lessons and activities that can be done in the classroom or in the home. Feel free to submit any of your favorite Halloween ideas by clicking on the "Submit a Lesson" link on the side menu.
"I was walking along a road one evening- on one side lay the city, and below me was the fjord. The sun went down- the clouds were stained red, as if with blood. I felt as though the whole of nature was screaming- it seemed as though I could hear a scream. I painted that picture, painting the clouds like real blood. The colors screamed." ~ Edvard Munch
From Dan Cherney:
I just found this news from CNN that sheds some new light on the famous painting THE SCREAM. Possibly a very good history tie-in!
Why the sky was red in Munch's 'The Scream' - "WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- For those who have ever wondered why the sky was a lurid red in "The Scream" -- Edvard Munch's painting of modern angst -- astronomers have an answer. They blame it on a volcanic eruption half a world away."
The most popular themes seem to be athletes, dancers, and computer geek witches. The students create the cones, one large (for the body) and two smaller ones (for the arms). They are also asked to use a minimum of 5 different lines and 5 different shapes. This is one of the few times where I will pull out all of my "junk" (Beads, bangles and bows along with the hot Glue Gun) and let the students go to town. One year I had the students create teacher witches/warlocks and give them to the faculty for decorating their classrooms.
Halloween Drawing - from Linda Woods
Halloween idea for second graders. I gave them black Drawing Paper and white Colored Pencils and we drew a parade of Halloween revelers including all sorts of fancy vehicles for transportation (you might even want to introduce students to the Death Carts of New Mexico and Mexico that are paraded through the towns) ...trick or treating, all in different costumes, overlapping, details, and spooky houses, trees, graveyards in the background. They loved it, it went home, and we are ready to start a new project next week.
Haunted House Silhouette - from Judy Decker
Lesson for third grade (adaptable to other grades). I provided lots of pictures of old Victorian houses for the kids to look at. Students created a background on white paper using the chalk stencil technique. Torn Manila Paper - pastel drawn on edge and rubbed off -- repeat stencil process to fill the page - Many of you have used this, I'm sure. These were done first then set aside. Students worked on a drawing on what would be the back side of a sheet of black Drawing Paper with white Colored Pencils (or white Chalk). Using a ruler - draw a border about one inch all around to create a type of frame for the picture. Draw in a line for the land -- make a path if desired leading up to the house. Draw a haunted house - simplify details. Add a large bare branch tree (using the Y's technique - having branches touch the borders) -- add fences - Jack-o-lanterns - anything they desire. Cut out the negative spaces on the black paper - including the path leading up to the house (we talked a little about one point perspective here). Cut out windows of the house - spaces between branches -- and so forth. I even let students use some X-acto Knife I had (these were very good kids). Once all of the shapes are cut out - It is OK to have floating ghosts - flying bats and such too - just lay them right side down where they go -- dot glue on the drawn side of all shapes and around border (just tiny dots). Lay the Chalk stenciled background on top and gently smooth to be sure everything sticks. Turn over and admire everything cut in silhouette. I did have one student who felt he could not do a Halloween theme - and he did his hamster and hamster wheel - It was one of the best ones! (I think he may have put a spider web in the corner though to make a bit spooky). This may have taken two class periods for all to complete - but certainly not more than that. I had an Edward Hopper painting and Henri Rousseau painting that I used as reference - both had silhouette type look to them (Hopper a house up on a hill - and Rousseau trees - Rousseau was a Carnival theme).
Symmetrical Masks in Complementary Colors - from Judy Decker
While not specifically Halloween, did have the fourth graders at the time do a symmetrical mask drawing/ painting using complimentary colors (for that, we looked at many pictures of masks from many cultures -- from books - pre-computer days for me). This lesson took maybe three class periods. Students had to decide what their main two complimentary colors were going to be - painted with tempera. Small details were colored heavily with Crayons (Example: green eyebrow was red on other sided of face)- while the large shapes - and negative shapes were painted with tempera (opposite sides - mask split down the middle - example one side orange - opposite blue - the background/negative space was reversed)
Monster Mask Faces in Secondary Colors - from Judy Decker
Second graders made cut paper relief monster masks -- learning all about symmetry and secondary colors - and paper sculpture techniques - learning to cut two of everything - these were cut from 9 x 12 (23 x 30.5 cm) and scrap papers and glued to 9 x 12 (23 x 30.5 cm) black Construction Paper to stick out in relief (folded tent like). This was a one day lesson. We got all of these "Halloween related" art projects up in time to do displays around the school.
Crayon Relief Print - from Tammi
Draw a spooky scene or haunted house or whatever on stiff paper (like Poster Board cut into 9x12 [23 x 30.5 cm] ), then trace over pencil lines with White Glue- demonstrate lines which are not too thin/not too thick. Let it dry until next week. Then use thin paper (like printer/copy machine paper) and do crayon rubbings. Good lesson to introduce the concept of relief printing.
The Following Halloween ideas are submitted by Cathy Gaul
Cathy taught at Haddonfield Friends School when she submitted these ideas (Hmmm. Haddonfield was the town where the movie Halloween was supposed to have been located)
1) Haunted Silhouette 4th Grade lesson. Black Silhouette paper cut-out as described above in Haunted House), but they put laminating film on the back and colored with Permanent Markers for the stained glass window effect. They came out great, but are time consuming. I had them draw on the back with chalk and check to see that everything was connected. They used X-acto Knives and did a really nice job.
2) 3-D Skeleton - cut paper
Skeleton for 1st grade. This is a one day project. Students cut shapes and glue to orange paper to make their skeleton pop out. Faces are made with cut paper shapes. Hats are added and decorated with cut paper, feathers and stickers.
3) Digital Portrait Witches and Wizards
The 5th graders turned their digital black and white portraits into wizards, witches etc adding a drawn hat drawn separately (shading, 3-D) and glued on top of the cut out face. They colored their faces with Colored Pencils to give themselves witchy-type of skin. They finished by putting themselves in a scene (foreground, middle, background).
4) Pumpkin Patch (good fall lesson)
This lesson was done with 2nd grade but is adaptable to many grad levels. Students studied the shape and appearance of pumpkins. They created their own pumpkin patch using a variety of sizes to show depth. Overlapping was important. They added surrounding for their pumpkins then colored with crayons to show realistic shading. Pumpkins are more the just orange. This as a good lesson in observational drawing.
5) Wavy Ghosts (no image available)
1st Grade. Ghost is in 3-D relief. They cut a simple ghost shape from a 12x18 (30.5 x 46 cm) white Drawing Paper. On a black piece of paper they first glued down the top of the head and held it until it stuck, 20 or so seconds. Then they put a line of glue on the back of the ghost's neck area. They made sure the ghost head rounded out away from the background by sliding it a bit toward the top of the paper. They did the same thing 2 more times so the ghost was wavy on the background paper. (paper sculpture technique). They used the Construction Paper, Glitter Crayons, etc. to add a spooky background.
These Halloween Ideas were submitted by Lisa
1. Students used Washable Markers to create repeat patterns with a specified maximum number of colors, design images, etc, that could be used for Halloween party goods. Students can fold their paper into boxes and come up with several design solutions.
2. Students made a mock up design for a Halloween Trick or Treat bag.
3. "Halloween Starry Night." Children can use Oil Pastels on dark blue Drawing Paper to make their own Starry Night, but with a Halloween twist. A cut paper silhouette of spooky houses, trees, etc could be glued to the foreground, or the whole thing could be drawn in Oil Pastels.
4. "Vintage" Halloween Paper Mache baskets- This one is slightly crafty, but is based on antique holiday decorations that children enjoy seeing. After looking at reproductions I'd bought, (and photos of real ones, printed out from Ebay) of vintage Halloween Paper Mache pumpkins and cat faces, the students used paper mache over smaller sized balloons to create similar shapes. Cardboard triangles were added for ears on cats (Paper Mache pulp could be used to mold features) A base color was spray painted, and details were hand painted. Green Fabric covered floral wire was used for a handle. They were a big hit last year.
Witches and Warlocks - from Linda Erling-Baker
Lesson for 4th grade - Witches (or Warlocks for the boys) faces and they really like it.
First I do a short discussion about facial symmetry and then on the proportions of the face. For example eyes halfway between the crown and chin etc. Then explain how bright colors make things appear nearer (the tip of your nose...) and cool colors further away (eye sockets, under the chin...) We do this on black 12 x 18" (30.5 x 46 cm) Construction Paper with brightly colored Chalk or Pastels. Then I do a demo or layering, blending etc.
Witches Sandwich - from Roberta Dunkle
For younger students. Give each child a very long sheet of paper - tell them to build their sandwich very tall (stacked between two pieces of bread) or very long (like a sub) and fill it with the worst things they can think of or funny things (school appropriate of course) They can draw, collage and create 3-D stuff to hang out of it. Bats, eyeballs, snakes, toad stools, frogs etc. interspersed with real food items. Then when the whole thing is complete we punched holes into the sandwich and wove pink earthworms in and out of it. The kids absolutely loved these and had such fun.
Ideas submitted by Anne in Illinois
Grade 3 - I use Edvard Munch's "The Scream" this time of year with my 3rd graders. It's a great time to discuss expressions and expressionism and to imaging what the figure is screaming about. We draw long, tall screamers on a 24" x 12" (61 x 30.5 cm) Tru-Ray Construction Paper and paint with Fluorescent Tempera Paint and
black Tempera Paint. We later look at them in the Black Light. The entire project is a favorite.
Grade 4 - In the past I have had 4th graders tear a witch profile out of Tissue paper after crumpling it. It makes for a wonderful, lumpy, warty profile. We used scraps to complete it.
Grade 2 - I used a project from Arts and Activities called "Howling Houses" with 2nd graders. The houses aren't just haunted---they have come alive along with bushes, trees, etc. I limited their palettes to black, white, yellow, green and orange and we painted on gray construction paper. I am sorry.
Grade 1 - After learning the primary colors, we used to make a blotto using red, yellow and blue. The following week, we cut out the blotto and used scraps to create blotto monsters.
Halloween Ideas from Samantha Wilmoth
Grade 4 classroom teacher (ideas adaptable): In my classroom, I usually tend to have a few Jehovah Witness' each year, so I tend to focus on the Harvest origins of the celebration though I do bring in the remembrance of ancestors as well. We brainstorm as to why this is a time of year when our thoughts do tend to go to the past... the year just gone by... the success of the harvest... things left to do in traditional ways to insure preparedness for the winter ahead. So one of the things I have done in the past is to create a pumpkin patch using brown paper grocery bags stuffed with newspapers... turn the bags inside out, then stuff with crumpled newspaper (saving some of course to set the pumpkins on to paint them).
Have a few pumpkins for the students to refer to. Paint them in various shades of orange, using brown and black and green & white to shade them and draw the lines in. Use rubber bands to twist off the tops, then take another brown paper bag and paint it with streaks of green top and bottom... cut the bag in half and twist one half for the vine and cut leaves out of the other half where the printing does not show through. Slip the vine through the rubber band on the twisted top of the pumpkin and then attach the leaves using glue (and clear tape till the glue dries) Staples discretely applied work in a pinch from time to time, too. Then I give the kids a writing assignment... They can either write about "What I have harvested this year" (a character counts assignment) "Remembering My Ancestors" or other prompts that relate to our theme for the year. We even do Pumpkin Math... recipes ( then we double and triple them for multiplication application). Shopping for pumpkins... how much does one cost at a stand near you? How much would it take to buy for each group... for each class member? Pumpkin division... I toast pumpkin seeds - then we do various division problems using the seeds on paper plates as manipulatives. The students write all kinds of word problems using pumpkins meaningfully as the theme. I have my students write a lot of word problems throughout the year. It is my theory that if a student can write a meaningful word problem, then they can solve them, too. And of course... dear Charlie Brown and Linus... story writing and artwork... "What DOES the Great Pumpkin really do and what does it look like?"
Favorites from Jan Hillmer
A few of my favorites - ghost drawing - white crayon heavily on white paper, then paint overall with dark cool colors. This could also be a house in moon shadow .
I sometimes show the kids how to draw simplified bones - like the dog bones in cartoons. Then I ask them to write their name in bones. Sometimes kids make rubberized bones, bending to create the curve in the letter, but mostly they get the curve using a few bone shapes. They love doing this.
My favorite thing to do is to borrow a life-size skeleton from the science teacher and have the kids sketch from that. Then we do a simplified full body version. The culminating task is to have the kids draw the skeletons doing something - playing soccer, dancing, doing gymnastics. These are eerily cute. I did not get complaints from my Jehovah Witness families.
Sock Ghosts and Monsters - from Mary Ann Kohl
Young children can trace around socks then turn them into all sorts of scary ghosts. Use overlapping. Fill the page with ghosts of different facial expressions. For variation - try monsters. Any drawing medium can be used. Even students up to grade 6 may enjoy making tube sock monsters.
Halloween Tongue Twisters - from Lia
One thing I have done that is quick and fun with elementary age students Grade 1 and up is read a book I have with Halloween Tongue Twisters and then we all draw one (I have them printed out and cut into strips) illustrating the book with our own drawings. Sometimes I don't show the pictures until they do theirs... Sometimes I have them create their own tongue twisters... Usually I have some kind of visual challenge in this as well... creating a focal point... combining images... attention to details... etc. The book I use is called Creepy Crawly Critters and other Halloween Tongue Twisters. It is Grade 1 reading level - Written by Nola Buck.
Torn Paper Faces - from Deborah
For grades K through 2. This idea is from a November 2000 Arts and Activities article by Yvonne Greene titled "Funny Faces". The idea may be used at Halloween, but is not Halloween art per se. In a nutshell: Show pictures of mask examples from variety of cultures, discuss symmetry and how emotions such as happy, sad, angry, silly, surprised, etc. might be expressed. Use 2 contrasting 9x12 (23 x 30.5 cm) construction Drawing Paper per child. Fold one piece in half (either way) and tear out a face shape. Glue to contrasting paper. (Demonstrate, then monitor so that children don't tear off too much) Tear other paper scraps to form features, hair, cheeks, hat, earrings, etc. if desired, and glue. Have gadget print stations set up and demonstrate when several children are ready to print. Students should use gadgets to print selectively to add definition to their faces. (Author notes that students should be supervised during this process as free license to print will result in their covering the entire surface of the paper. She also notes that children should have had experienced exploratory gadget printing without limitations in order to print selectively in this project.) The samples pictured in the articles use only black paint for the printmaking, which would make set-up easier, but I imagine if one wished it would be as successful with various other colors. I plan to try this with 1st and 2nd grades. I have an hour with them, so I will do both parts of the lesson in one session. If you have less time it would probably take 2 sessions.
Monstrous/Fantasy Self Portraits - from Stephanie Corder
Stephanie did this with 5th Grade - adaptable to any grade level. (This is a fun twist to Susan of Long Island's 2nd grade self portraits - combined with drawing the back side of the head lesson). Click image for larger view.
1. Start by having students draw the backs of each others heads, and then have them draw what they think the back of their own heads and shoulders look like.
2. Using a black and white printout of a photo of themselves have them "transform" their faces with oil pastels into any creature they might like to be, fantasy or spooky. (Alternate idea - Use "Goo" software to distort the faces - or manipulate them in Photoshop)
3. Cut out the drawing of the back of the head and shoulders, and glue it onto a separate piece of construction paper, taking care to keep it on one side.
4. Use another piece of construction Drawing Paper to make a mirror shape and glue a circular piece of tin foil on it. Then, have the students cut out their transformed images, and glue them onto their "mirrors". Lastly, glue the mirrors onto the construction paper with the drawings.
5. Voila! You have a Monstrous / Fantasy Transformation!
Abstract Jacks - Focus Down Jack-o-Lanterns - from Stephanie Corder
Objectives & Standards:
To explore the symbolic properties of jack o’ lanterns by abstracting them with cropping and rendering them on oversized paper to force viewers to follow visual "clues" in order to figure out what they are looking at; i.e. what is orange and yellow with jagged teeth..?
Show examples of Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers, talk about what makes them "Abstract", and explain that we’re going to be doing the same thing with Jack o’ lanterns.
Have students create at least three different Jack o’ lantern designs and together choose the most interesting one.
Demonstrate how to make the inside of the carving look three dimensional with angling.
Show them how to crop in around the design so none of the space around the pumpkin is visible.
Once their design is complete, they can enlarge it onto their final paper.
Render with students choice of chalk or oil pastels.
Matisse's Room with a Spooky View - from Stephanie Corder
Stephanie used this lesson with 6th Grade - adaptable for many levels.
From Stephanie: I used Linda Wood's idea of Room with a View as a jumping off point for this project.
1. Have the students paint a picture of a spooky view, cemeteries, haunted houses, bats flying around etc.
2. With construction paper make a window frame over the view.
3. Glue the view onto a piece of poster board.
4. With construction paper or other paper scraps, create furnishings for the room, with a "spooky" twist i.e. spider webs, skeletons anything they think is scary.
5. Assemble the "room"
Note from Judy: Tie in "Spooky" art - maybe American Gothic could even be a spooky alien portrait on the wall or could be a spooky view outside the window.
Note from Stephanie: Something else I'm doing as a kind of filler is illuminated Halloween/Autumn poetry.
Halloween Dress-up from Ricardo Rimirez
Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Mimi and Drew Carey
When the principal gave the OK for staff members to dress up for Halloween, Ricardo and his co-worker Lillian had fun playing the part of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Two other staff members were Mimi and Drew Carey.
High School ideas from Dana
I teach high school, and we are about to begin a Halloween project. I bought yards of felt from Dick Blick, and we are going to make wall hangings. I have scoured the internet and found a few examples of different styles of pumpkins faces and styles, plus some Christmas, and they are going to do a Halloween or Christmas (I like to give them choices, even if it is early, I plan cross stitch on Monk's Cloth for Christmas) scene on the felt.
I am going to give them all a piece of Black Felt maybe 12x16" (30.5 x 40.6 cm) or so, and just fold down the top to make a seam, then slip a wooden down through the seam, like a curtain. They will then design their own scene of pumpkins, trees, leaves, ghosts, what-ever and use a little glue to put it down. My kids all love to sew and do crafts, so I am going to have them blanket stitch around everything with embroidery floss to add contrast. We also have some fabric that they can add details with.
Sometime in the next few days I also intend to do some research on Halloween, and tell them about the history and what all of the symbolism means.
I think next week I also have a few that are going to bring their own pumpkins to carve here at school and have a contest. In the Spring I was lucky enough to find a bunch of the kid-proof carving kits for less than a dollar a piece on clearance. See the Digital pumpkin tutorial .
High School pumpkin decorating from Grace Hall
This is a service project. One of the next projects my students will do is pumpkin decorating. We donate most of them to Key Club who sends them to hospitals and nursing homes in the community. I always give students the option of painting or carving, though my favorites usually turn out to be carved. Most students opt for the least messy process, but it's always the most creative students in the class who don't mind getting messy anyway.
Days of the Dead - Los Dias de los Muertos
Days of the Dead is a great alternative to "Halloween projects". Here are just a few links:
"Day of the Dead" (Archive - DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS) Find out about this Mexican celebration
"Day of the Dead"- History (in Arizona), photographs, multimedia presentations. You can even send your own skeleton postcards. Why do you suppose "Day of the Dead" is important in Arizona? Also see their Day of the Dead food.
History of Halloween: This one is "kid safe" - you will like the music too. Written by Jerry Wilson and resources given: References: Charles Panati, Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, 1987; and Dr. Joseph Gahagan, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Personal letter, 1997
History Channel: Special Presentation: History of Halloween - "Trick or treating, costume parties, bowls of candy by the door. It's how we celebrate Halloween. But where do these customs come from? On October 31, when pint-sized ghouls and goblins knock on doors, they're actually carrying on a tradition that goes back thousands of years to the Celtic tribes of northern Europe. For centuries this night has celebrated mystery and chaos, a time between summer winter, a time between life and death."
Halloween: Myths, Monsters and Devils This site gives you more than you will need -- actually debates some of the statements made in the above links. Students won't take time to read this -- I will be linking it for your information only. Enjoy the music -- glean from this want you want. Scroll all the way down to see the "Don't Drink and Fly" Witch.
From Ellen: The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury is a great book that relates the history and customs of celebrating Halloween from all over the world. A mysterious figure takes a group of boys on a journey back through time to learn about the origins of Halloween.
See a more extensive list of Halloween lessons on this page. A search on Halloween Art Lesson Plan yields many more possibilities - try narrowing your search to elementary and middle school, too.
Amazon Art Prints
Scary Story Challenge! See if your students can write some scary/Halloween tales to go with these popular art prints from Shorewood. Work interdisciplinary with language arts. Submit stories to Incredible Art Department at the bottom of this page.