Brrrr. It’s cold outside! Engage your students by bringing the winter theme inside your classroom. Make your winter theme hands-on and FUN for your little learners. You will see fewer behaviors problems when students are engaged in meaningful learning experiences. Don’t forget to grab the FREE Snowman at Night retelling cards included in this post.
Turn your sensory table into a pile of snowballs (aka cotton balls). Toss in small letter manipulatives (I added DIY bottle cap letters), empty water bottles, clear gems (Dollar Tree), and tweezers. Students will love filling, shaking, and emptying the bottles. It’s also a fabulous fine motor activity! It’s tricky to get the cotton balls in and out of the bottles. Plus, when you add letters to the sensory table, students will be talking about letters and sounds too!
Building sight words and/or students names with snowball letters is a ton of fun! I did this activity with my pre-k friends. They also wrote the words they created on the recording page.
Sight words aren’t developmentally appropriate for my three-year-olds. I came up with an equally engaging alternative for them: they matched the snowball letters. I had two sets of uppercase snowball letters and two sets of lowercase snowball letters on the table. They could match uppercase with uppercase, lowercase with lowercase, or uppercase with lowercase. I also set out dry erase boards on the table for them to attempt to write letters on.
A winter theme means a winter writing center. I put out winter paper, winter words (uppercase set on the ring and lowercase set in the pocket chart), markers, colored pencils, crayons, envelopes, winter colored dot markers, fancy scissors, and winter paper cutouts. The winter paper cutouts are from a teacher store near me. Winter stickers are fun to add also. Adding new things and writing tools to the writing center will keep your students interested and excited about writing.
Writing letters is HARD for little fingers who are just learning! As teachers, we can make it FUN! My students just love writing trays. I made snow writing trays with salt and glitter. Next to the trays are snowball letters so they can model the formation in the tray.
My students also love dry erase markers. Students traced the letters on the snowman letter cards. My pre-k friends traced the letters on a recording page too.
I found these foam snowflakes in the Target dollar spot. I wrote an uppercase letter on the front and a lowercase letter on the back of each snowflake with a silver sharpie. Students matched the letter beads to the snowflake letters. I only made 10 snowflake letters so there were letters that didn’t have a match. The letters that didn’t match went on the double snowflake (bottom right).
Penguins! Letter sounds can be tricky. The first time we did this activity, we did it together during small group. Later, I put it out in the library center for students to do independently.
Snowman at Night is one of my favorite winter books. Reading books multiple times and using retelling cards builds comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and sense of story. I usually read this book at least three times! Each time I read the book, I have a different purpose (objective) for reading it. Day one: we make predictions. Day two: we reread it using the event cards and discuss the sequence of events. Day three: we reread the book and focus on various vocabulary words in the book. Be intentional when you read a book at circle. What you skill do you want to focus on? What is your objective?
FREEBIE alert! Grab your freebie HERE or by clicking on the picture above.
Add winter props to the blocks center. Cotton balls, clear/blue gems (Dollar Tree), white/silver felt, and forest animals are perfect choices to add dimension to your blocks center. Don’t forget to add non-fiction books about winter and hibernation too for students to use as a reference as they build. Try covering some blocks with foil! Students can pretend it is ice or icebergs.
Winter STEM I Can Build Cards go on my blocks center bulletin board. It challenges students to build something they may not have thought of on their own. The real photographs help them visualize what they want to build. You can grab the cards HERE.
Measuring with snowballs (cotton balls) is a fun way to practice measuring with non-standard tools. Students measured the height of various winter objects.
We also measured with snowball rulers! For small group, students measured various arctic animals.
Once students were familiar with measuring with the snowball rulers, I wanted them to measure items to determine if it was more, less, or equal to a given quantity. For example, during circle, I challenged students to walk around the room, find objects that were seven snowballs long, and place it on the chart. It was an amazing activity. I heard tons of math conversations occurring among students. Students were observing other students. And the best part was students were excited about measuring!
It’s super easy to make winter shape cards. Grab a few pieces of blue cardstock, and draw a shape on it with a silver Sharpie. Students traced the shapes with clear gems. As students made the shapes, we took note of how many sides and corners the shapes had.
Mini erasers are a fun math manipulative. Put out a set of number cards with winter themed mini erasers. My students made a number line with the cards first. Then they identified a number, counted out the quantity, and placed the items in a row above the card.
Counting and creating snowflakes. Students counted out the corresponding number of snowballs with tweezers (fine motor work) and placed them on the snowflake.
Do you wanna build a snowman? Make it a game! Use one die and make it a counting game. Use two dice and make it an adding game.
A snowman play dough tray is perfect for a winter theme. I put buttons, tiny sticks, pebbles, ribbon, orange foam triangles, and foam hats in a tray with the white play dough. To make the hats, cut triangles from foam and hot glue a pom pom to the top. Play dough trays are fine motor work that my students LOVE to do.
Painting on ice (aka foil) is the perfect open ended art activity for your winter theme. HINT: Add a few drops of liquid soap to the paints to help it stick to the foil better when it dries.
Shaving cream on FOIL! Tape pieces of foil to the table and squirt some shaving cream to each piece. Students can pretend to ice skate with their fingers on the foil. Students will see the silver foil as they make their designs in the shaving cream.
If you are lucky and it snows, bring the snow inside! Put some snow and sand tools in a plastic tub. Put a towel under the tub to soak up any snow that escapes. Observe the snow melt as the day progresses.
Marshmallow Math! Pretend the marshmallows are snowballs and do a ton of math: counting, graphing, patterns, and shapes!
Grab my Winter Math and Literacy Centers. Just print, prep, and teach. I made five literacy activities, an emergent reader, winter vocabulary cards, writing/journal paper, and six math activities for you. I did all the creating for you so you can spend your weekends and evening with your family.
Grab Winter STEM I Can Build for your blocks, STEM, and science centers.
Take the winter theme into your dramatic play center and change it into an Ice Rink. Check out this post to see my Ice Rink in action (and kids learning through play)!
Need arctic ice themed activities and experiences. Check out THIS post.