Sunday, January 25, 2015

Snowballs, Snowflakes and Snowmen: Winter-Themed Lesson Plans

"That Grand Old Poem called 'Winter'..."  Henry David Thoreau. Photo credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2015.

Building a Snowman: Engineering and So Much More!

I'm not sure what your weather is like lately, but it appears that it is finally winter here in New England. On Saturday, we enjoyed about 7" of packy snow, and delightful winter temperatures in the 30's -- great for outdoor play.

Has it been snowy where you live? Instead of staying cooped up inside, why not get everyone outside for some fresh air and winter fun? The natural excitement of fresh snow can be an instant hook for any homeschool or classroom lessons.

And it's not just kid stuff, either: fun, familiar winter activities, such as snowman building, can teach important engineering ideas, and offer great opportunities for developing mathematical language.

January 2015 OHC Blog Carnival

Snowmen, Snowman Stories and Fake Snow: Winter Weather in the Elementary Classroom

Building Snowmen and the Engineering Design Process

Our recent snowstorm was a great opportunity to practice the Engineering Design Process in our homeschool classroom (on a SATURDAY, yet!). Although our youngest homeschooler is a sixth grader, the engineering design process can be used with even preschoolers. Any time we solve human problems using science, we are using the engineering design process. Here are the steps:

  • Ask: Our question was, "How can we make a bigger, better snowman than last time?"
  • Imagine: We surveyed the area, and visualized how the snowman would look from the window, and from the street. Ultimately, we chose to position the snowman facing the sidewalk, for passersby to view.
  • Plan: We quickly divided the tasks among ourselves (snowball rollers {Mom and son}, materials gatherers {ditto}, photojournalist {Mom}, cheerleader and evaluator {Dad}).
  • Create: The fun part...
  • Improve: Repairing design flaws is always a part of snowman building: an unstable base that needs reinforcement; a wobbly neck that needs support.

Check out our engineering design process in photos! (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2015

Connecting Snowman Building with Literature

Snowman building fun doesn't have to end once the snowman is built. There are many classroom connections to literacy, social studies, health and mathematics that can be used both before the snowman engineering and as follow-up extensions of the outdoor activities.

Interested in building upon the snowman experience? See "Building a Snowman: Lessons for Preschool and Kindergarten" for cross-curricular connections that can be used for young snowman engineers and other winter enthusiasts.

Enjoying Snow, Any Day of the Year

We were fortunate enough to have a warm, wonderful snow-play day, which included our dog wearing his doggy sweater (which he loves) and a sneak-snowball-attack on Dad, who was shoveling. However, some winter days just are not hospitable for outdoor play, or your snow isn't packy enough for snowballs and snowmen.

If you find your winter weather just a little too wintry for comfort, check out Isaac Saul's "12 Most Fun Activities You Can Do With Children," including winter-theme treasures as "Magic Dough Snowmen," "Rainbow Ice Towers" and "Magic Puffing Snow" - great sensory table ideas for homeschool and classroom. Try these, and other, ideas, when the weather outside is frightful, or you are thinking wintery thoughts in June!

Photo credit: (c) Microsoft, 2010

Add Sparkle to Your Winter Lesson Plans – Get Out in the Snow!

A sudden change in weather can be an exciting way to add pizzazz to your lessons in your homeschool or classroom. With a little advanced preparation, you can create powerful learning from familiar, fun outdoor winter activities. Why not plan some for your winter instruction?

Need to build a thematic library for your snowman studies? Here are some great picture books to include in your snowman activities:

More Winter Learning...

If you have toddlers in your home, Erica Loop has a great list of 10 Winter-Themed Books for Toddlers. They include some of my favorites!

Deb Chitwood has a raft of Montessori-Inspired Winter Math Activities, to use as an indoor extension to your snowman-building. 

Miss Kindergarten connects the seasonal weather to some lovely winter activities for literacy and math activities. Very cute downloadables!

Mrs. M. has amazing, creative Winter Writing Display ideas on her kindergarten blog, The Daily Cupcake. More inspiration for reflecting on our snowman engineering project!

Looking at the Weather...
"This, from the Channel 3 Weather Center: Tuesday: Periods of snow with heavy snow at times.  Windy with near-blizzard conditions possible.  Low: 22.  High: 27 inland, 29 shore."
  1. Groceries? – Check
  2. Snowblower ready? – Check
  3. Lesson plans? – Yes, indeed…

How do YOU use the winter weather in your homeschool or classroom lessons? Leave a comment below, and share your favorite winter ideas.