It’s probably fair to say that costumes and candy are the two main priorities for the kids that come to our annual Halloween party in Hibarigaoka. The latter comes at the end of the party and my job is basically to just fill the gap that comes between showing off ones costume on arrival and grabbing a load of candy.
This was the seventh year in a row that I have done these parties with my friend and colleague Lai-Keun and usually I’ve warmed up for Halloween with a few themed lessons on my regular days beforehand. However, this year I was fresh into it all on the back of a week-long holiday in Izu (Shizuoka-ken).
My very un-Halloween Fantastic Mr Fox piggy-back costume was very popular with some kids who couldn’t resist touching the legs. Of course I still pretended they were my real legs and screamed ouch whenever someone squeezed or hit them. It’s fair to say that it was very sweaty wearing it whilst trying to entertain a load of kids with some party games!
Much is often made of Japan’s declining birth rate and I can’t say I’ve really thought about it that much but there was a noticeable lack of both young kids and boys at this years party. There was just one boy in the first class (10:30 – 12:00) and a few in the second group (13:00 – 14:30) which is a bit of a worry as I want it to be a more balanced boy-girl mix with the next generation of kids coming to enjoy such festive fun for a few years at least. The heavy rain on the day did keep a few people away so maybe that is to blame for the absence of this age and gender type!
Both lessons pretty much followed the same running order starting with a short quick entrance drill (hello, what’s your name?) and then it was straight into the games commencing with balloon race (using a cone to carry a balloon across the room as fast as possible – silly but fun!) quickly followed by throwing hoops on witches hats.
It was time for some calming activities after that and the usual introduction of the lexical items followed via a range of traditional kids activities like slap, hide and reveal, hunt the flashcards and yes/no stations. It’s almost annoying for me that this kind of thing is sometimes more popular than the more so-called fun activities but I guess it’s what they are most familiar with.
In regular lessons it’s often better to leave the students wanting more of something than overdoing it. Such a popular activity can then be used as a reward for completing the less interesting stuff in following weeks like bookwork or phonics practice for example. However, that theory goes out the window at Halloween for me so with that in mind I prolonged the race to feed the pumpkin with a little tweak here and there. Spoons were used first and then chopsticks with a bonus filler activity of just throwing them into the tin.
Next up was bowling which is always quite popular but the problem for me is that only one person can do it at any one time which can mean quite a long wait between throws for the kids who can get a bit bored. The most successful activity this year was magnetic fishing which I’ve used in many themed lessons before but never at Halloween.
I wasn’t expecting to even bother with a break but the management seemed keen for us to have one which was fair enough as they’d spent money on the snacks and drinks. That came about 50 minutes into the lesson and after that we joined forces with the other group for the craft activity which was some kind of spider on a stick construction.
Time flew by as always and we finished with a raffle, group photo, best costume presentation prize and traditional finale hit the piñata. In the second class the piñata took a right battering and only just about made it to the end.
Click on the years below to see my ‘Spook-tacular Halloween’ blog entry for each one…