Sunday, October 22, 2017

Managing the Halloween Candy Problem

One problem I always have around Halloween (and other major holidays involving candy) is students sneaking candy into the classroom. Since I have a science classroom, students know eating food and candy in class is a safety concern, especially on lab days. Not only that, but they drive me crazy with the sticky tables and wrappers they leave behind. It’s an annoying battle I waged every year until I found a solution.

Have you ever heard of the saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”? In a way that’s what I do. (Although I make sure not to plan any labs on or near Halloween so there aren’t any safety concerns.) My students are allowed to bring candy to class on and around Halloween IF they give me a piece of their candy before class. Once class begins they aren’t allowed to share their candy with anyone else. This reduces the off-task behavior associated with students begging each other for candy and under-the-table candy passes. I let students know that if I find any candy messes or catch candy sharing the candy privileges are off. The students take care of their candy sharing before learning time and, when it comes to the wrappers and messes, they cleanup after each other.

With this little trick, the students are happy they get their candy and I’m happy I don’t have to monitor the students for something so silly. My classroom remains a positive learning environment where students want to be. I’m always amazed at how well this works. It reduces my stress, gets me some nice candy to snack on, and builds up my student reward candy stash.

Another way I manage the holiday candy problem is to include it in a lesson. Around Halloween I always teach physical science to my seventh graders. In that unit we learn about heterogeneous and homogeneous mixtures. Learning about mixtures is the perfect time to incorporate candy into a lesson, so I made a candy sorting activity. Students sort various candies into piles of heterogeneous mixtures and homogeneous mixtures. They discuss what makes a candy heterogeneous or homogeneous, and they debate when a candy is particularly difficult to classify. Using candy as part of the lesson increases their interest and understanding of mixtures. Depending on the timing and layout of my unit, I use the Candy Mixtures Activity as an introduction, a practice, or a review of the two types of mixtures.

One more easy way I’ve included candy as part of a lesson is to teach qualitative and quantitative observations. Each student gets one piece of candy. They then use all of their senses to write as many observations as possible and classify their observations as qualitative or quantitative.

Happy Halloween! I hope these tricks help you manage your students’ treats.

If you’re interested in the Mixtures Activity, take a look below. It comes with many ideas of how to use it successfully in your classroom and has both a Halloween version and a version you can use all year long.

Heterogeneous and Homogeneous Mixtures Candy Activity