This theme stemmed from my children again. They have always loved to be outside, in the snow. Snow days are so much fun for them. Therefore, I adopted this theme one week when we had a snow day on a Monday. My classroom was a little hyper from the snow day on Tuesday, so I used their enthusiasm to enhance their learning. This theme is one that lends itself well to those long winter weeks. It gets the kids outside and burns off some energy, all while still learning all the things they need to learn. I can adapt most activities to an indoor activity, however there is one problem, I can’t solve, and that is snow. I have grown up and lived in the Midwest all of my life. I am almost always guaranteed snow this time of year, however, this year it seems to be lacking. The other thing that can ruin this theme, is if the weather is so cold outside that the kids aren’t allowed to go outside. Like I said though, most of the activities can be tweaked to be worked in the classroom as well.
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LES- I do a language Experience Story that lets the students talk about their favorite winter activities, but I have students tell me their students in a story fashion, about a penguin. This way they can be creative and try and and adapt their stories through a penguins eyes.
S- We talk about the letter S, we do an S hunt in the classroom searching for things that begin with the letter S. I have them do Snowflake S sheets, and trace the word snow. We also drag our feet to make S’s in the snow outside. Makes S’s out of Snow dough. Another great way is to read a story like the snowy day, and have them make snow hands if they hear any words that they think begin with the letter S.
“The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats: This book is extremely special to me because it is one that I remember reading when I was in first grade. I also love it because all the kids can usually relate to this little boy, going out and playing in the snow. This books also lends itself well to helping to create some wonderful learning activities.
The Snow Bears by Jann Brett: This books is a nice addition to a snow unit, because it is a snowy twist on the three bears. I also love Jann Brett books because they have hidden images in the edges of the pages. She also has an amazing website jannbrett.com, it gives information about her, the author, but it also gives activities and amazing manipulatives you can use with your units for free.
Welcome to the Ice House by Laura Regan: This book has amazing illustrations too. It also is told as a rhyme, which the kids love of course. The best part about this book is that it talks about a bunch of different animals who live in the snow up north and is nonfiction. I liked using this book for my science unit. We talked about animals who live in the snow, and we talk about different adaptations that those animals have to have in order to live in the snow.
Snow, Snow: Snow Snow Come again, we want a new best friend. Roll three balls nice and high, and grab some coal for they eyes. Snow Snow nice and white, you made a friend just right, button mouth and carrot nose, two stick arms and watch him pose.
(I made this song up: and as I sang the song I had them do the actions as if they were building the snow man. Then as they learned the words they sang and did the actions too.)
Snow men at Night: I do not have this book on my list, because I saved it for my snow man unit, but “Snowmen at Night” by: Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner is a great book that goes well with this song. Then I would have them make paper snowmen for an art project, or go outside at recess and have them build a real one. Make sure if you go outside to make a real snowmen, you include all the important parts, carrot nose, coal eyes, buttons for the mouth, a scarf for the neck, and sticks for the arms. Take lots of pictures and post them on a communications bulletin board so that the parents can see the fun interaction kids ar e having with their environment.
Snow Ball:(tune:Row, Row, Row your boat) Snow snow snow so white, floating to the ground. pick it up and pat it tight and make it nice and round. Throw throw throw your ball, at a target now, Then you start it all again, a snowball fight with friends.
For this song I like to include a paper snowball fight. I have newspaper, tissue paper, or other paper. (The softer the better) And we have an indoor snowball fight with paper snowballs. Other wise there is such a thing as indoors plush snowballs, which also prove to be a lot of fun.
The Snowy Day Paint picture: (Need: Dark Blue Paper, white paint, old clean toothbrushes,paint smocks, scissors and white paper) For this particular project I like to read the book during literacy or circle time. Then I like to talk about the jobs of an author and an illustrator. I explain that an author writes the words of a story, and the illustrator, draws the pictures. Then I open up the book again, and say look at the back ground, at the snow, how do you think the illustrator drew or painted that? I explain that the illustrator used a process called splatter painting. I get out all the old toothbrushes I can find and blue paper. Make sure they wear paint smocks, this is a messy project. Then I show them how to flick the tooth brushes so that the white paint splatters the blue paper. After everyone has finished their painting portion. You have to let it dry. While it is drying, I have them cut out hills from the white paper to glue on. If you have too young of students to do this on their own. I would just draw some wavey lines on a piece of white paper and let them practice cutting on the lines (fine motor). Once the paint is dried, I let them glue on their hills. If you have someone who is extremely artistic, you could let them make a snow man out of left over white paper, or a pile of snowballs. Otherwise, the artwork is finished. I label the bulletin board for this project, a snowy day in preschool. The kids love telling their parents all about getting to use a toothbrush to paint.
Painting Snow: (need: liquid food coloring, clear ketchup bottles, warm water) This project is a ton of fun, but can not be saved, so make sure you have a camera. You are not going to want parents or others to miss out on the beautiful artwork your students create. First fill the ketchup bottles with warm water, add about 7-8 squirts of food coloring, and carefully put the covers on the ketchup bottles. I make sure to have at least enough bottles for every student to have one, which means there might be multiples of the same color. I have them get all their snow gear on, and we head outside to the snow. Then I pick a spot, and let them begin drawing on the snow. You use the ketchup bottles to squirt water and create colored art on the snow. If you want to bring this project inside, I fill the sensory table with snow, and let them wear paint smocks, roll up those sleeves, and start squirting at the snow. Again make sure you take pictures, because there are going to be lots of giggles, and beautiful artwork to share.
Gross Motor Activities:
Shuffeling letters: This activity involves kids, snow gear, and snow. I like to do this activity after reading, “The Snowy Day”. In the book, the little boy drags his feet in the snow and notices a pattern, and I explain we are going to go drag our feet in the snow and see what we can create. Then we get our snow gear on and go outside. Once outside, I encourage them to try and shuffle the first letter in their name, or a number or if they don’t know those a simple shape, like a circle, square, or triangle. The kids get outside are practicing their letters, numbers or shapes, and getting exercise. With this activity I like to encourage them to try shuffling and S in the snow, because S start the word snow. I also talk briefly about how shuffle starts with s, but has a different sound. After each student has had enough, and only you can be the judge of how long that might be, you can try making tracks in the snow with other objects, like the stick did in the story. Maybe bring a few extra items outside with you like, fly swatters, pointers, sticks, rakes, etc. Have fun! If you have a class that can handle it, again you are the only one who can guess that, maybe have them find something in the classroom that might work before hand, and then let them experiment and see what happens with their items.
Throwing Snowballs: (Target, snowballs, kids) There are two versions of this activity. First is taking chalk outside and drawing a snowman target on the side of the school building, if the school will allow it. I would make multiples if possible so that each child or group of children can have individual targets, otherwise you might end up with a snowball fight among the students. Before we start, I set the ground rules, you must ONLY THROW AT THE TARGET! I repeat this many times, if I see someone, not throwing at the target, I make them sit out for a short while. This is usually punishment enough. After I think they have learned their lesson, I let them return. Then we practice rolling snowballs in our hands. I say snow can be like play dough, and can be made into many fun things, or it can be too fluffy and not sticky enough, and then our snowballs won’t turn out. If you want to do this activity inside, then I would use paper snowballs, or those plush snowballs we talked about before. Then I made a Snowman target with a whole in the middle, I hung it on a bulletin board and watched as they tried to throw their snowballs at the snowman’s tummy. After I did this a few times, I found that if you get those try fold boards and draw the snow men on that and then cut a few holes on that, it can make for a much more sturdy and a much more interactive game, because then you are trying to get it through the hole, not just at the target.
Building a Snowman or Fort as a class: This can be a great deep thinking challenge, and a great communications lesson as well as gross motor. You may have a class know it all who has built plenty of snow forts, or snowmen in their time here on earth, and therefore may be great leaders for your group, while the others learn to listen and work together. You might have all kids who have never built a snowman, then I encourage them to think back to books they’ve read, or shows they’ve seen, and say how do you think they made the snow fort or the snowman? Keep in mind, I let them be creative and experiment, I ask questions while they are making things, and ask questions that may stir on a more in depth idea that they wouldn’t have thought about on their own. If you notice that maybe you have too many leaders, or too many children at one area and too much commotion, that’s ok. I use that as a time to start teams, and encourage them by see who can build the biggest or the strongest, or the most creative fort or snowman. Definitely take pictures. WARNING: This is a project that if done correctly can last the whole week during recess time. Some kids even come in the next morning with new ideas how to make their fort stronger, or bigger. It is fun to watch their little minds at work.
SNOW: (Need snow, mittens, gloves,) If you can I have a bunch of older kids who are bored in the morning go out and fill up some buckets full of that great white stuff and then bring it in and dump it into my sensory table. I add mittens and gloves or have the kids wear their own, so their hands don’t get cold while in the sensory center. At this point you could also add those food coloring ketchup bottles, scoops, and cups. All to create mini snowmen, or forts for plastic dolls.
Snow Dough: White playdough with glitter. You can cheat like I often did with buying white playdough from the story and adding my own glitter. (The finer the glitter the better by the way. It looks more sparkly like the real stuff) Or you can make your own. With the white playdough, I liked to put out snowflake and circle and snowmen cookie cutters. I also like to put out little strips of yarn,cloth, and felt hats with the snow dough, so that they can build a mini snowman if they want too. Small buttons, and little pieces of orange pipe cleaner are also good add ins. The orange pipe cleaners they like to make into the noses.
Snowball Science: I go outside and make three snowballs. In the story “The Snowy Day” The little boy brings his snowball in at night, and leaves it in his pocket over night. Of course when he wakes up there’s no more snowball. I ask the kids where did the snowball go do you think? Then I say we are going to try to make our snowballs disappear too, but we are going to see which ones we can make disappear the fastest. I place each one in a plastic or metal bowl, but all must be the same. Then I put one near our heater, one just on a table, and one in the refrigerator. Then I ask them which one they think will melt the fastest. (Make sure you do this activity early in the day so you can keep checking, depending on the size of your snowball, you should have one disappear before they leave. The others you might have to take pictures and print them out so they can see what was happening every hour, half hour, or two hours, whatever you are able to do.
Snowflake Science: For this I go to the local library and ask them if they have any good nonfiction stories about snowflakes. I read them the story about snowflakes being exactly the same symmetrically. We talk about how no two snowflakes are the same. Following the book and discussion, we make designer snow flakes. I give them each three pop sickles and have them paint them white. If you add a little glue to the paint, then you could also add some glitter after they have painted them. Finally, after the paint is dry they can add jewels, cotton balls, sequins, or blue buttons to create their snow flakes. Once those have dried, then we can finally add a string and hang them in our room. It’s snowing inside!
Have someone who come who plows for a living, and talk about what they do, and maybe show off their truck and how the plow goes up and down, etc. It may not be a long visit, but I guarantee there will be a lot of amazed children. It seems as if all small children have a slight fascination with snow plows.
Individuals like Snowflakes: For this activity we discuss how God makes each snow flake different, and how he makes each of us different. I usually find a scholastic poster, or print out a few pictures of snowflakes, to compare how they are different. Then we compare how each of us are the same, and how we are each different. (If you want to integrate math into this particular unit, you can graph, how many of us have eyes, nose, mouth, etc, all same things, and how many of us have brown hair, blonder hair, and other differences. ) Then to complete the activity, I use my Cricut, to cut out some large snowflakes, on 12 by 12 paper, then I have them glue a school picture in the middle. Then I have them tell me all about them as a journaling activity. I let them draw things on their snowflakes, that they like to do, or are good at.
Play dough S’s(Making S’s out of playdough) Tracing S’s in the snow. Simply making snowballs. Coloring our snowflakes in for our Social activity. Squeezing squirt bottles to color the snow.
The Good Samaritan: If you haven’t heard this story before here is the shortened version of this story. A man once asked Jesus what is the greatest commandments. Jesus responded by saying there are basically two great commandments, first: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and two: Love your neighbor as yourself. The man said yes I know these, but who is our neighbor. Then Jesus told this parable. There once was a Jewish man who was robbed and left to die on the side of a road. While there three men walked by. The first man was a priest, and he walked by fearful of himself getting robbed, if the robbers were still around. The second man, was a teacher of the law, and he too walked by on the other side of the road. Finally, the third man who was a Samaritan walked by. The Samaritans were not liked by the Jews and the Samaritans did not like the Jews. However, the Samaritan took the time, and cleaned the man’s wounds, and bandaged them. Then he also took the wounded man to a hotel and paid the Inn Keeper to help the man for a while, and if the man needed more help, the Samaritan man said he would return and pay the what ever was still owed. Then Jesus asked the person who asked the question, who was the neighbor? The man answered, “the Samaritan who helped the injured man.” I use this opportunity to talk about even though the Samaritan and the Jewish man were different, the Samaritan showed love to the Jewish man. Just like the Samaritan we need to show love to everyone, not just people who are like us. Often times little children will not even notice differences. Then I ask them if they’ve ever seen somebody who was very different then them in some way, maybe very different clothes, or language, or maybe had glasses, or unique hair styles, and I ask them how they felt? Were you still nice to them, did you still talk to them, or did you walk away? We talk about how we need to share God’s word and love to all, even those that maybe make us uncomfortable. Often once we get to know someone, we are no longer uncomfortable with them. That’s why we need to keep getting to know people and sharing God’s love with “all nations”. We can discuss ways we can be nice to all people in our classroom, or maybe be nice to another classroom. I once had the kids make cookies for the big kids. My small students were a little nervous because the kids were so much larger than them, but the big kids loved the cookies. I then planned a read aloud time, where the big kids got to read to little kids, or play games with them once or twice a week for a month. Then I asked my students if they were still as nervous around the “Big” kids. They of course said no. Great lessons on including differences, and showing love to others.