Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow on Groundhog Day to announce 6 more weeks of winter. Keeping his prediction alive and well, the chill in the air brings a myriad of opportunities for winter inspired activities and lessons.
Delighting the senses in a winter wonderland
Exploring the senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing) is a great way to extend learning and bring a winter wonderland to life in the classroom.
Scent is a very strong sense that we often tie to memory. I always like to ask my students what smells remind them of winter. As we explore stories, such as The Mitten, I might pass around a sprig of evergreen or pine needles. I have also used classroom safe scented wax to fill the classroom with a subtle scent. Some of my favorite scents to tie to classroom learning during the winter months are: peppermint, cinnamon, roasted pecans or pralines, brown sugar, vanilla, spearmint, cedar, and cranberries with a hint of cloves. I am always careful to use subtle amounts of one scent at a time so as not to aggravate or overstimulate students’ senses.
Playing in the snow, real or artificial, is a great sensory activity. With real snow, students can bundle up and head outside to record the temperature. They can also collect small amounts of snow and watch as it melts indoors. This can spark a conversation or an exploration of the forms/states of water and how snow plays a role in this cycle. Many of my classrooms have not been in regions that had much snow. When this was the case, we enjoyed creating artificial snow, which there are many ways to do.
Some of my favorite snow recipes
- Artificial Snow Recipe #1: Put a small amount of ice cubes inside two plastic zip loc bags, and give students the chance to crush it with small rubber mallets. This is a great kinesthetic activity for releasing students' tension, too.
- Artificial Snow Recipe #2: Measure and pour a tablespoon of baking soda into a small dish. Next, add 1-2 oz. of water. Students will enjoy watching the baking soda fluff up and expand into “snow.”
- Artificial Snow Recipe #3: For snowflakes, I have used soap flakes or a equal mixture of salt and baby powder. These snowflakes can then be used to dust on a picture for decoration or mixed with glitter and watered down glue to create a winter paint.
Snowmen activities across the curriculum
One of my favorite ways to celebrate and explore the winter season is to share a playful variety of snowman activities.
- Literary snowmen: As a class, we read the engaging picture book, Snowmen At Night by Caralyn Buehner. This story brings the magical world of snowmen to light using hypnotizing rhythm and rhyme. After finishing, my class loved creating their own imaginative tales of what their snowmen did at night. These stories can be simple journal entries or full writing process projects where the students' finished product features an artistically rendered paper snowman on the cover.
- Building Snowmen: The snowman shape presents numerous opportunities to expand upon mathematics and language arts. One of my favorite activities is to have students create the three snowballs needed to create a snowman by using provided diameters. Then within the three increasingly large circles, students fill in various examples of degrees of comparison (positive, comparative, superlative).
More Winter Lessons:
Using a variety of art materials and either 6x6 or 8x8 inches paper squares students create a decorative scene depicting a favorite winter memory. Complete the activity in class or as a home connection project. If you opt for the latter, send home instructions and a blank square for students to decorate with their families.
After being introduced to shape poems, students brainstorm winter shapes that will inspire a personal poem for the season. Also included are links to sample shape poems.
Here is a whimsical mix of winter-themed activities, including ideas for decorating the classroom together, observing and recording the weather, celebrating the season, and investigating arctic animals. Kids will enjoy taking pictures in front of a snow scene that the class collaborates to paint. A fun variation is to let them dress up in snow gear for the picture.