The Season of Snow...and Learning

Winter-themed language arts lessons that will keep pupils reading and writing.

By Dawn Dodson



The winter season brings about changes in weather, activities, and routines. School activities, as well as curriculum, move forward with the season. This provides an opportune time to use the winter weather as a focus for classroom lessons and activities. Specifically in the language arts classroom, the winter season provides an inspirational spotlight for lessons and activities that include reading, writing, and speaking skills. From writing workshops to presenting literature, language learners can use the surrounding environment to personalize studies and acquire new information. The following are three language arts lessons and activities that are centered around the winter season.

Winter Reading List

Summer reading lists are popular and abundant. In the summer months, reading contests and incentives are offered through schools, libraries, and book stores. But during the winter, when weather keeps everyone indoors, reading incentives are sparse. Creating a classroom or school-wide winter reading list is a motivational strategy to keep readers exploring and discussing literature throughout the colder months. Constructing a classroom winter reading list can begin with an independent reading log. As an introduction, facilitate a whole-class conversation about how readers choose their literature. This discussion can include reader’s purpose, judging level of difficulty, specific genre study, or personal interest. With these thoughts in mind, pupils can jot down a list of books they have read, are currently reading, or want to read. Using their lists, they can review each book they read and share their reviews with the rest of the class, highlighting setting, characters, and an audience recommendation. Each book reviewed can be added to the class list. Offer incentives for each pupil who reads a reviewed/recommended book from the class list. Perhaps they can receive a tally mark for each book read from the class list.  The pupil with the most tallies at the end of the season will receive a prize.

A possible modification to this activity is that the teacher creates a list of books for pupils to read and review. The list can cover content for an upcoming unit of study, a specific author, or highlight a certain genre. Struggling and/or reluctant readers may work in groups to evaluate their books and present their reviews.

Seasonal Writing

The attributes of the winter season provide many opportunities for creating and producing writing. Begin by reading a mentor text aloud. Be sure it is focused on the season, a book such as Barbara Seuling’s Winter Lullaby, would work well. After they hear the book read, have pupils reflect on the book and/or answer questions in a writing journal. Have them keep an ongoing list with reflections or projects on each winter book they read. Writing from a seasonal list of ideas, pupils can create poetry, creative short stories, or narrative tales. These can be the subject of a writer’s workshop, or a class-wide writing project where pupils are assigned writings to complete and publish. For example, a project might include a winter-shape poem, a narrative, or a nonfiction essay outlining instructions on how to do a winter activity, like skiing.

Snowshoe Summaries

Snowshoe summaries are traditional summaries. Why the cute name? In my classroom, during the winter months my pupils are required to read several pieces of literature about a specific topic. Length and genres vary, and each literary work must be accounted for along the way. The final product is an annotated bibliography and a class presentation. Each year the topic changes and so do the literature requirements. In order to keep pupils on track and help them manage their time, after each work of literature is read, pupils write a summary that outlines three to five key points. The amount of work required may seem overwhelming. So, just like a snowshoe distributes the weight of a person so he/she doesn’t sink in the snow, these snowshoe summaries help my readers stay on track over the course of their study to ensure they, don’t sink from the workload. From reading a book off of a class list, to writing a poem generated from a read aloud, winter provides ideas and inspiration to keep pupils learning and practicing literacy skills all season long.

Common Core ELA Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.1 Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • CCSS. ELA-Literacy.RL.6.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
  • CCSS. ELA-Writing.6.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
  • CCSS. ELA-Writing.6.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

More Winter Themed Lessons:

Winter Celebrations

Pupils learn about and share information about winter holidays celebrated around the world. Writing, researching, and presenting are all skills they will be required to use.  

Making the Holidays Special

This is a creative resource where pupils study, learn, and reflect on cultural holiday traditions portrayed on television. Using their knowledge, pupils develop their own mock television specials highlighting their learning.

Winter Expressions

Writers create a winter-themed poem. Using the shape of a winter object that is related to the poem, pupils create a shape poem as their final draft.

Language Arts Guide

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Dawn Dodson