The ABCs of Halloween

Published 5:38 pm Friday, October 31, 2008

On Friday, Chelsea Intermediate School students celebrated Halloween by getting out a dictionary. Each student had to choose a vocabulary word and base their Halloween costume ideas on their words.

The kids passed that vocabulary test with flying colors, and the school celebrated by having a parade, featuring some of the best costumes, in the school’s gym.

Reading coach Kelli Bussey said she brought the idea from the Oxford school system, where she used to teach.

“It gives the kids a different exposure to words,” she said. “We want to encourage our children to have a new interest in words. When they see the costumes, it triggers a natural curiosity.”

Out of the school’s 594 kids, more than 95 percent dressed up, Bussey said.

The kids used different methods to find their words.

“Well, I was looking at the dictionary, and I saw ‘trauma,’ and our words had to be three syllables long so I decided to use ‘traumatized,’ said a bandaged and bruised Aaron Ledbetter, 10. “(Later) I’m just taking this cast off because I can’t really use my arm to get candy.”

Teachers helped some others find their words, as in the case of Allie Smith, who had the word “submerged.”

“My teacher picked it out for me, and I thought it was very interesting and I could do a lot with it,” said the 10-year-old Smith, who made a fake aquarium to wear over her head.

And then there’s fourth-grader Joshua Gregg.

Gregg was looking on the Internet at a “words of the week” feature and saw the word “gregarious,” which means “sociable.” The word stuck out to him when he realized it contained his last name, so he decided to go with it.

For his costume, he made a platform to balance on his shoulders with three Styrofoam heads on it.

Bussey said she picked up some vocabulary words she hadn’t heard of before — for example, she had never really heard the word “squalid” before seeing its personification in 10-year-old Bailey Coyne, who wore dirty clothes and light-socket hair.

Asked if she would keep the costume for trick-or-treating, Coyne said disgustedly, “I am definitely not wearing this tonight.”