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The crumpled pumpkin is the perfect middle school Halloween writing activity. For one thing, it is an exercise in collaborative writing which is a guaranteed way to get even the most reluctant writers to put pencil to paper. It is also great for helping you integrate the spirit of Halloween into your ELA curriculum with little preparation required. By working collaboratively with others, your students will develop more confidence in their writing, and they will have a lot of spooky fun in the process.
To begin, each student is given a different Halloween-inspired story starter. If you don’t have access to a color printer, these work great printed on an orange piece of paper. The orange paper is ideal for making these crumpled pumpkins look pumpkin-like! As for the story starter, I like to use picture prompts, but written prompts can also work. It’s up to you. In any case, if you have 30 students, for example, you will want to have 30 story-starters prepared ahead of time.
Over the course of the activity, each story will have three co-authors. Writer 1 uses the prompt you gave them to start the story, introducing the setting, at least one character, and the plotline. I like to set a timer for 10 minutes for each round of writing, but you can choose your own timing depending on how many students you have in your class.
I recommend that you have students use pen for this activity. While I know that isn’t typical for a first draft, the pages do get a bit wrinkled in the process, so a pen makes things a lot easier to read.
Once Writer 1 is finished, you are ready for the BEST PART. You get to tell your students to crumple up their pages into “pumpkins” and throw them to the front of the classroom! (Just make sure students have added their names before they send their pumpkins flying.)
Depending on what your class is like, you can even get your students to have a “pumpkin fight,” if you want. Or maybe you want to try to keep things a bit more civilized by having a target at the front of the room. Your call!
On your signal, students will then retrieve one of the pumpkins, open it up, and smooth out most of the wrinkles from the paper. Of course, it is important that no one ends up with their own work. If that happens, they should crumple it back up and grab another.
Get your students to look at their new picture prompt and read the story so far. Writer 2 is responsible for continuing the plot. They will further develop the characters and create a conflict in the story. Set the timer here just the same as you did for Writer 1, and make sure your students include their names beside their work.
Now, repeat the pumpkin-throwing and retrieval process one final time. It is Writer 3’s turn!
The role of Writer 3 is to look at the prompt, see what is written so far, and try to bring the story to a close by resolving the conflict. Then, Writer 3 returns the drafted story to its original owner: Writer 1.
The final step of the crumped pumpkin activity is for the original authors to write a good copy of their respective stories on a piece of loose-leaf or printed paper. Writer 1 is given full creative control during the editing process. It is up to them to add any missing details from the narrative and to fix any grammatical errors in the language. Even though it is their story, however, they must include the writing of their collaborators and give them proper credit as co-authors on the final copy.
I hope your students love this Halloween writing activity as much as mine did! Read what a few teachers have had to say about using this activity in their classroom:
Soon enough, you will be putting your Halloween decorations away and preparing for the winter holidays. Click here to learn all about the winter-themed version of this activity: Snowball writing.
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