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Winter Teaching Ideas

Janelle Cox

Grab your warm coat and hat because the season of snow begins December 22! There's no need to hibernate: Explore the winter season and learn about winter holidays, hibernation and the cold months with fun hands-on activities, books and other winter teaching ideas.

Winter Teaching Ideas for Grades K-2

Animals and Winter

What happens to animals during wintertime? Discuss the changes that animals go through during the cold months. Read the story "Animals in Winter" by Henrietta Bancroft. This story explains the ways animals cope and adapt with the harsh weather conditions, and talks about migration and hibernation. Discuss migration and hibernation with students, and how it's a challenge for animals to get food in the wintertime.

Talk about what animals do during the cold months to stay alive. Then break students into groups and have each group research which animals hibernate, migrate or become dormant. Have each group share what they have learned with the class, and then create a chart that displays their information.

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Hibernation Station

A fun hands-on project to help students understand how animals hibernate is to create a hibernation station. Before creating this activity, first read the story "Time To Sleep" by Denise Fleming. Talk about where the animals sleep in the story and what makes it comfortable for them. Then give each child a shoebox and art supplies to create their very own "den." For some added fun, allow students to bring in a small stuffed animal to sleep in their den. Then create a hibernation station in the classroom filled with pictures of animals, the outdoors and of course, all of the students' dens.

Hibernation Nuts

A fun way to complement, or end your lesson on hibernation, is to have students make an edible treat. All you need for this recipe is chocolate donut wholes, chocolate frosting, broken up pretzels, chopped up toffee bits, a plastic knife and paper plate. To create the hibernation nut, spread the frosting on the top half of the donut, and then dunk it into a bowl of toffee bits. Finish with a pretzel "stem" to complete your acorn. For extra fun, try hiding students treats around the classroom and have them pretend they are squirrels trying to find their nuts.

Learn More about Hibernation

To help students understand the effects that the winter weather has on living things, choose a few of the following stories to read while exploring hibernation.

  • “Animals That Hibernate” by Phyllis Jean Perry
  • “A Bed for the Winter” by Karen Wallace
  • “What Do Animals Do in Winter?” by Melvin Berger
  • “What Is Hibernation?” by Bobbie Kalman
  • “Who Lives in the Snow?” by Jennifer Jones

Winter Teaching Ideas for Grades 3-5

Winter Holiday Celebrations

Christmas is probably the most beloved holiday of the winter season. But it's important for students to gain knowledge on the many other holidays that occur during the winter months too! For this activity you must first start a discussion about which celebrations your students take part in during the winter season. Encourage students to share their traditions and customs with the class. Then divide students into groups and have them create a list of the most common traditions during the holidays. Students may say lighting a tree, eating a turkey, and so on. Once they are finished, come together as a class and share their lists.

Now that students have shared common holiday traditions, it's time for them to learn about winter holidays other than Christmas. As a class, make a list of winter holidays such as Winter Solace, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year and Kwanzaa, to name a few. Challenge students to partner up and choose one holiday they know very little about and research it. Give students full access to books, the internet and the library to help in their investigation. Encourage students to discuss the customs of their holiday, typical foods eaten during that time, as well as anything special that occurs during that holiday. When presenting to the class, allow students to bring in a special treat that correlates to their holiday or to dress appropriately.

Winter Holiday Stories

Keep these winter holiday stories in your classroom library for students to learn more about winter holiday celebrations.

  • “The Winter Solstice Paperback” by Ellen Jackson
  • “Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around the World” by Heather Conrad
  • “All About Hanukkah” by Madeline Wikler
  • “Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa With Candles, Community, and the Fruits of the Harvest” by Carolyn B. Otto
  • “Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year With Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns” by Carolyn Otto

Do you have any winter teaching ideas or activities that you would like to share? Please share with us in the comment section below!

Janelle Cox is an education writer who draws on her 15 years of professional experience in the education system. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, where she provides educational information and lesson plans for teachers around the globe.