Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Build a Jack-O-Lantern with Google Slides and Mote

A few years ago I created my "Build a Jack-O-Lantern" activity for Google Slides. It was a giant hit with students as it let them be creative while improving their writing skills and tech skills.

With Fall here once again, I decided to revisit this favorite activity and add a new twist to it. In the years since I first created this project, we now have an amazing new tool in the Chrome Web Extension called Mote.

Mote is a free tool that makes it easy for you and your students to record your voice and add it directly into your slideshow (or document, form, email, and so much more). With Mote we can make this activity even more engaging than ever.

  • You can use Mote to add audio support to the activity by recording directions and embedding them right into the slideshow.
  • Your students can use Mote to record themselves reading aloud the Jack-O-Lantern story they write, and embed their narrated story into their slide.
  • And the students can record themselves making spooky sound effects or speaking for their pumpkin.

I had the pleasure of recording a video with Jon Neale and Sue Tranchina for their pop-up Mote PD series. See below for the short video explaining how your students can do the "Build a Jack-O-Lantern" activity with Google Slides and Mote, as well as detailed written directions.

Tutorial Video (16 minutes)

Or you can listen to the audio-only podcast version here (Subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, or your favorite podcast tool.)

Activity overview

Here are the basics steps for the project...
  • Make a copy of the Google Slides "Build a Jack-O-Lantern" template, found further down in the blog post.
  • The template has a blank pumpkin and several slides full of items to add to your Jack-O-Lantern including eyes, mouths, hats, arms, feet, and more.
  • Copy and paste the items to build your Jack-O-Lantern.
  • If you need different pictures, you can search for more.
  • You can even add or draw your own shapes as needed.
  • When done building, write about your Jack-O-Lantern in the textbox. You can describe it, tell a story about it, or explain who it is.
  • Use the Mote extension to record and embed audio into your slide.
  • When all done you can download a picture of your Jack-O-Lantern and writing to share with others, or share the slideshow itself so others can view your creation and listen to your recorded Mote audio.

Get a copy of the template

This activity is created with Google Slides. To get your own copy of the template simply click the link below.

Your students can click this link to get their own copy, or you can use Google Classroom to push out a copy of the template to each of your students.

What’s in the template

The Google Slide template has multiple parts for the activity. These include:

  • Slide 1 - The title slide
  • Slides 2-5 - A brief set of directions
  • Slide 6 - The blank pumpkin. This is where you will build your Jack-O-Lantern and where you will write about them.

  • Slides 7 through 14 - Items for building your Jack-O-Lantern. These slides contain images that you can copy and paste onto your blank Jack-O-Lantern. The items are grouped on the slides by topic including Eyes, Mouths, Arms, Feet, and Hats.

Building your Jack-O-Lantern

To build your Jack-O-Lantern, simply copy and paste images from the items slides onto your blank pumpkin. You can copy and paste in several ways.

To copy an item:

  • Click on the picture and press “Ctrl” and “C
  • Or click on the picture and click “Edit” then “Copy” in the top menu bar.
  • Or right-click on the picture and choose “Copy” from the pop-up menu.

To paste an item, go to the pumpkin slide and:

  • Press “Ctrl” and “V
  • Or click “Edit” then “Paste” in the top menu bar.
  • Or right-click and choose “Paste” from the pop-up menu.

Once your item has been pasted in you can adjust it in many ways:

  • Drag and drop it to move it around.
  • Press the arrow keys on your keyboard to move it around.
  • Hold down the “Shift” key and press the arrow keys on your keyboard to move it one pixel at a time.
  • Click and drag the blue circle on top of the image to rotate the image if needed.
  • Click “Arrange” in the top menu bar, then “Rotate” and “Flip horizontally” or “Flip vertically” if needed.
  • Click and drag the corners of the image to change its size if desired.
  • Click “Format options” in the top menu bar, and then “Recolor” to adjust the color (works better for lighter colors).

Adding your own images

Although the template provides a large variety of items to use for your Jack-O-Lantern, you may still want to add some more of your own. You can add more images as follows:

  • Click “Insert” in the top menu bar
  • Then choose where you want to get the image from including Upload from computer, Search the web, Drive, Photos, By URL, Camera

Adding other shapes

Since Jack-O-Lanterns often have geometric shapes cut out of them, you can also do this by adding a wide variety of shapes from the "Shapes" menu in Google Slides.

  • Click "Insert" then "Shape" then choose the shape you want.
  • Drag to create the shape.
  • Rotate and resize as needed.
  • Color with the "Fill color" tool.

Drawing your own shapes

If you want, you can also draw your own shapes to be as creative as you want. You can do this by using the "Polyline" tool in Google Slides.

  • Click "Insert" then "Line" then "Polyline".
  • Click endpoints to create the shape.
  • Color with the "Fill color" tool.

Writing about your Jack-O-Lantern

When you are done creating your Jack-O-Lantern, now you will want to write about it. You can type in the textbox to the right of your Jack-O-Lantern to enter your own writing. This could include:

  • A description of your Jack-O-Lantern.
  • A story about your Jack-O-Lantern.
  • An explanation of who your Jack-O-Lantern is and/or what he or she does.
  • Be sure to include your name at the bottom of your writing.

Adding audio with the Mote extension

Another fun option for this activity is to add audio to your slide! An excellent tool to use for this is the Mote extension for Chrome.

  • If you do not have Mote already, you can install Mote from the Chrome Web Store here: Mote extension link
  • With Mote you can record your voice and then add the audio to Google Slides, Google Docs, Google Forms, Gmail messages, and much more.
  • The free version of Mote allows you to record up to 30 seconds per recording.

For this "Build a Jack-O-Lantern" activity, teachers and students could use Mote in several ways:

  • You can use Mote to add audio support to the activity by recording directions and embedding them right into the slideshow.
  • Your students can use Mote to record themselves reading aloud the Jack-O-Lantern story they write, and add their narrated story onto their slide.
  • And the students can record themselves making spooky sound effects or speaking for their pumpkin.

Here's how this works:

  • With the Mote extension installed, click on the Mote icon at the top of your Google Slides screen.

  • This will open the Mote recording window
  • You can move the window around if needed.
  • Click on the big Mote icon in the pop-up window to begin recording.
  • While recording if you need to pause you can click the pause button, or you can click the "X" button to cancel this recording and start over.
  • When you are done recording, click the big check mark button to finish.
  • If you want to preview your recording, you can now click the play button.
  • If you are happy with the recording, click the "Insert" button to add it to your slide.

  • Your recorded audio will now be added to the slide as a purple speaker icon.
  • You can click and drag the audio icon around the slide as needed.
  • To play the audio, hover on top of the audio icon, and then click on the play button that appears below it.
  • Anyone with access to your slideshow will be able to play the audio even if they do not have Mote installed themselves.

Sharing or downloading your Jack-O-Lantern

When you are completely done, you can share your slideshow with others.

  • One option is to click the "Share" button in the top right corner, and then give people "View" rights. 
  • You can also share your slides by publishing them by clicking "File" then "Publish to the web" then "Publish" to get the link.

By sharing your slideshow with others they will be able to see the Jack-O-Lantern you created, read your story, and listen to any audio recordings you made and added to the slides.

Click to open the published version of my Google Slides Pirate Pumpkin and listen to my Mote audio recordings - Google Slide link

You could also download a picture of your Jack-O-Lantern. Keep in mind, this will just be a download picture of your Jack-O-Lantern and will not include any audio. To do this:

  • Make sure you are on the slide that has your completed Jack-O-Lantern and your writing.
  • Click “File” in the top menu bar.
  • Choose “Download as” from the drop-down menu.
  • Choose “PNG image” from the sub-menu.
  • This will download an image of just the slide you are on and not any of the rest of the slideshow.

You can now share your image in several ways:

  • Email it to someone.
  • Turn it in through Google Classroom.
  • Post it on your class website.
  • Share it through social media.
  • Combine it with others to make a new slideshow with everyone’s creations.


The “Build a Jack-O-Lantern” Google Slides activity can be a great way to let kids be creative and to improve their writing at the same time. One of the great things about creativity, is you never know what students will come up with. Feel free to email me images of your students’ creations. I would love to see what they make and will be glad to share some examples here to inspire others.

For more Halloween activities, I also have the following projects:

And for more projects using Google tools be sure to check out my "Control Alt Achieve" book which contains this project and many more ready-to-use, creative activities for your students.

Post by Eric Curts
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