Favorite Winter-Themed Lessons

I don’t know about you, but for me, the winter season always seems so busy!  Perhaps it's the holidays and celebrations or maybe it’s all the activities, but winter is a super busy time of year...especially in the classroom. With so many tasks, activities and traditions in our "real" lives, it can be hard to find the time to plan lessons for students. That's why I thought I'd take one thing off your "to do" list:  lesson planning! 

I've put together a round-up of winter-themed lessons and units that are just a download away from teaching.  Some ideas are specific to holidays and others are perfect for any winter day!

Here's a quick listing of the ideas I'm sharing today...
➽  FREE December Plan Book  and January Plan Book
➽  Winter Poem Analysis (5 poems)
➽  FREE Winter Myth Writing


Make the busyness of the winter months a whole lot easier with the December and January virtual plan books

Free ideas for December lesson planning.
The FREE virtual plan books are designed to provide inspiration and ideas for making teaching and learning a whole lot more fun!  You'll find lesson ideas and teaching tips & tricks for each month.  And the best part?  They’re free!  If you’re looking for a discounted set of units for both months (which means you won’t have to plan a thing), check out the December Unit Bundle and the January Unit Bundle.


Here are a few ideas that tap into students’ natural excitement about the winter holidays while keeping students learning!

Lesson plans for "A Christmas Carol"
This is one of my favorite units to teach...especially in December! This 8-day drama study includes absolutely everything you'll need to teach the play. There's a traditional version and a version for interactive notebooks!

Help students learn about holidays around the world and Christmas around the world with this fun research project.  Students research Christmas in different countries and then turn their research into festive gift boxes.
Research has never been more fun or interactive with this Christmas Around the World project! Students each research a different country. Then, they turn their learning into fun and festive gift boxes. It's the perfect way to keep students learning this month!

Teach friendly letter writing with this set of 6 engaging activities based on 8 letters from Santa's reindeer.
Tap into students’ natural excitement about the Christmas season with this fun, engaging, and super educational Reindeer Mail Mini-Unit! Filled with six activities that address critical ELA skills there is nothing “filler” about this unit! 


Check out these resources designed for the end-of-the-year.  The reflection can be completed before students head off to break or when they return to school.  And speaking of break, there’s a print-and-go resource for helping students learn over break too!

Help students reflect on their year with this personal reflection and infographic activity.
As the calendar year draws to a close, engage your students with this fun, creative and FREE Personal Reflection and Infographic Activity. Students will complete a reflection on their year. Then, they'll turn the significant moments from 2017 into an infographic. This is perfect to do before break!

Keep students learning while they are on winter break with these activities that they can complete over winter break.
Want to keep students learning while they are on winter break? It's easy with this Winter Break Project! The Tic-Tac-Snow Winter Break Project is filled with 9 learning activities that will have students reading, writing, and practicing critical thinking skills in unique and creative ways!


Here are two sets of lessons that are built around the winter season!

This resource contains five winter-themed learning centers for students to rotate through in small groups.
This brand-new resource is perfect to teach before the break or when students return to school in the new year. There's five winter-themed learning stations that target different reading comprehension skills.  Students even create a fun flip book and "build" a snowman at each learning center!

This winter, help your students cozy up to five winter poems in this engaging 5-day Poetry Analysis Unit.

This winter, help students cozy up to five winter poems with this engaging 5-day poetry analysis unit.  Take all the intimidation out of teaching and analyzing poetry with the interactive flip books designed for each poem.  Each poem has a winter-theme and aligns with four analysis tasks.

Speaking of poems, click here to find a set of Winter Poems that are perfect to read aloud!


Here's a free writing lesson that you can teach on any winter day! In this fun lesson, students will write a myth based on a winter animal. They'll use spinners to generate ideas. Then, they'll complete a detailed pre-write to plan out their myths. Finally, they'll get writing and sharing! 

This free myth writing lesson works great all on its own, or you could easily leave this with a substitute teacher. Check it out HERE.

Thanks for stopping by!

Mary Beth

Looking for fun lessons and units to teach all winter long?  Then, you're in luck!  I've rounded up my favorite ELA lessons for the winter season!

5 Favorite Poems to Teach Growth Mindset

Teach growth mindset with these five poems.  Each poem is inspirational and addresses critical concepts of growth mindset!

Robert Frost once said “There are three things, after all, that a poem must reach: the eye, the ear, and what we may call the heart or the mind. It is most important of all to reach the heart of the reader.” Anyone who has read a poem and felt the words deep within themselves knows this assertion to be true. Poetry is uniquely capable of touching the hearts of readers.  That's why it lends itself perfectly to the underlying messages of growth mindset.

Poetry can be engaging when relatable, and it also makes for an easy way to reinforce skills that students have already learned while reading longer works such as interpreting figurative language, citing evidence within the text, finding the central idea, and close reading. But it also has the potential to begin a conversation with students about their own lives and experiences. Poetry can spark an investigation into growth mindset, too.  Everyone can relate in some way!  

The following poems are ones able to reach even the most reticent of poetry readers while shedding light on the themes of growth mindset. Each person, young and old, has had experience with trying to persevere through tough times when things seem to be working against them. These poems present an easy way to show students who may be struggling that they are not alone, while also building on reading and critical thinking skills.

POEM #1: "The Man Who Thinks He Can" by Walter D. Wintle
Favorite poem to teach growth mindset

Surely such a short poem couldn’t be so powerful? Think again! This poem focuses on the idea that positive thinking is one of the most important factors in succeeding when faced with something difficult. This poem is packed with fun rhyming, but also offers some more difficult phrases to inspire thinking amongst students in order to feel the full meaning of the poem. 

If you'd like to give students a chance to analyze this poem and connect it to growth mindset, check out this popular set of Growth Mindset Doodle and Do activities.

 POEM #2: "It Couldn't Be Done" by Edgar Albert Guest

Much like The Little Engine That Could, this poem aligns perfectly to growth mindset.  That's because it takes a look at positive thinking when completing tasks. This is such a fun poem because the rhyming makes it seem as though it is a fun nursery rhyme. Reading this aloud is sure to get students engaged and interested in this poem and its underlying meanings.

POEM #3 - "If-" by Rudyard Kipling 

Critical thinking is shall I say…critical! In this poem, the author takes the reader through a journey of understanding the qualities in themselves that may set them apart...such a great growth mindset lesson!  The best part about this poem is its use of metaphor to get some points across. This poem is sure to keep students thinking and coming to their own conclusions.

Poem #4 - "Hard Luck" by Edgar Albert Guest

The grass is always greener on the other side—right? In this poem, the writer confronts the concept that we sometimes think that someone else has it much easier than we do when maybe they don’t.  Although this longer poem may take more critical thinking on the part of students, its casual wording, such as using the word “ain’t,” can make for a very fun read-aloud!

Poem #5 - "Listen to the Mustn'ts" by Shel Silverstein

We complete this list with a well-known and loved author—Shel Silverstein! Although a short poem, it still adheres to the idea of perseverance and positive thinking (hello, growth mindset)!  This can be a fun treat to include in lessons to give students a mental break with a favorite!

Poetry can be so powerful, and when it's combined with important concepts like growth mindset, its impact is immeasurable!  I hope you've found a few poems to share with your students!

Great news!  Since poetry can be so much fun in the classroom, I've put together a set of 5 exclusive poet-"treats" for teachers and students.  You'll receive over 50 pages of poetry analysis, writing, and reading lessons!  Sign up to have free poetry lessons sent to your inbox!

    If you're looking for more ways to develop growth mindset all year long, check out this blog post or you can find 5 of my favorite poems for middle school here.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!
    Mary Beth

    P.S. You might want to check out this blog post, too!

    Help students understand the concepts of growth mindset with these inspirational poems!  Perfect for helping students understand the essentials of growth mindset!

    3 Fun and Educational Thanksgiving Lessons

    Thanksgiving lessons for the ELA classroom that are fun and educational!  This list of Thanksgiving activities move beyond Thanksgiving crafts and ELA skills to students' learning.

    I love infusing holiday-themed lessons into ELA instruction. Since students are naturally excited about holidays like Thanksgiving, it's easy to capitalize on their enthusiasm while still teaching critical skills.  That's the key part, right?  I love lessons that keep students learning while adding a Thanksgiving-twist to the lessons.  

    Here are a few of my favorite Thanksgiving lessons that are not only fun, but super educational, too!

    This FREE lesson combines listening comprehension and art!  It's a collaboration between Art with Jenny K. and I.  During the Thanksgiving lesson, students will practice the critical skill of listening comprehension while they learn about the origin of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.  After a mini-lesson on listening and note-taking, students will listen to a passage about Sarah Josepha Hale two times.  They'll take notes during both readings.  Then, they'll answer comprehension questions based on the passage.

    Help students develop their listening comprehension skills and learn about Thanksgiving with this art-infused lesson!

    Finally, students will create a festive piece of turkey pop art with designs and shapes based on their answers.  This activity is the perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving in the classroom while helping students develop critical ELA skills!  Check it out here.  (Oh, and there's two versions included.  One for grades 4-5 and one for grades 6-8.)

    These Thanksgiving-themed reading comprehension centers are not only designed to give students meaningful opportunities to practice reading, they're also incredibly fun and engaging!  The resource includes EVERYTHING you'll need to easily bring the Thanksgiving reading comprehension centers into your classroom.  

    There are five different centers.  Students will practice distinguishing between fact and opinion, identifying the main idea, making inferences, finding the sequence, and comparing and contrasting nonfiction passages.

    Thanksgiving reading comprehension centers to help students practice their reading skills and learn about Thanksgiving.

    The stations are super versatile.  They can be taught during a single class period or spread out over consecutive days.  You'll find table labels, teacher resources, student pages, all the center materials, a grade tracking sheet, and answer keys in the resource!  The learning stations are super hands-on, too!

    Fun and engaging reading centers all about Thanksgiving!

    And...there are even two different versions.  One for grades 4-5 and one for grades 6-8.

    This activity is all about the primary sentiment of Thanksgiving:  gratitude.  Rather than just teaching about the Thanksgiving holiday, this activity is meant to help students show some gratitude and thankfulness.  The activity is from my Classroom Community resource, but I'm providing it as an exclusive freebie here.

    It includes a stack-able poster.  The poster contains a quote about gratitude (one of my favorites).  After a discussion about the quote, students will participate in a gratitude activity.

    Classroom kindness poster

    During the activity they'll reflect on a person that they are grateful for.  Then, they'll turn their reflection into a personalized note to that person.  The note is on a postcard that students can cut out, design, and mail/give to their own "charming gardener."

    I hope you've found a few fun and educational ways to teach Thanksgiving in your classroom!  Here are some of the links from this post:

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

    Mary Beth

    9 Fun Book Projects

    The days of dioramas and book reports may be long gone. (Is it wrong that I’m a little sad about that?) Yet the expectation that students read and express their understanding of what they’ve read remains as strong as ever.

    So what’s a teacher to do? More specifically, what’s a creative teacher to do, when she doesn’t want to rely on worksheets? Get creative, of course!

    I’ve compiled 9 Fun Book Projects for you. They’re quick and easy to prepare, and best of all, they’re engaging – for both your students and you. No more slogging through piles of “Why I Liked This Book!”

    Take a look:

    Write a different ending -- What if the main character didn’t make it in the end? Or the dogs had lived? Or the culprit was the best friend? Your students’ imaginations can really wander with this assignment. Maybe their alternate ending will be even better than the original! Offer to let students draw their new ending as a bonus.

    Give a book talk --- Book talks are a wonderful way for students to demonstrate their understanding of books that they have read while practicing their writing and speaking skills.  They're a great book project because they combine so many skills...and students love listening to one another.  Oh, and the added bonus is that students can learn about books that they're interested in reading as they listen to the book talks.  

    If you'd like to give them a try, then check out this FREE BOOK TALK GUIDE.  It includes an overview of book talks, pre-write, final copy, and tips and tricks for presenting a book talk.  Find it HERE.

    Book talk planning and presenting guide!

    Write a sequel -- If you have the time, your students may want to extend their alternative endings into a whole second book (or at least a few pages or a chapter). After all, who hasn’t reached the end of a great read and wished for more? This will be a challenge, as students will have to build on the original plot lines and character outlines. Refer them to some famous book series for inspiration.

    Write a letter to the author -- Take a page from Beverly Cleary’s classic Dear Mr. Henshaw and have students write a thoughtful letter, with questions for the author of their current reading selection (or a favorite book). Most authors love to write (of course!) and appreciate opportunities to interact directly with their readers. Address letters (or e-mails) to the publisher, or see if the author has contact information on his or her website. It never hurts for students to practice their letter-writing and envelope-addressing skills, either – at least as long as snail mail is still around. Your students will be thrilled to get a response, too.

    Great news!  I've put together three stationary templates that students can use when drafting their letters.  They're a special FREEBIE just for you!  Click here to check them out...and download them for free!

    Choose a response --- Here's an idea that students love...give them choices!  It's amazing how giving students the ability to select the response or project that they would like to complete instantly increases their engagement.  With that in mind, I created a series of "This or That" reading responses.  Each This or That Reading Prompt includes instruction at the top of the worksheet and then 2 reading response choices for students to showcase their learning.  After reviewing the choices, students can choose to do the "This" prompt or the "That" prompt.  

    Make students' book reports a lot more fun with these fun writing prompts.

    You can easily turn this into a book project by having students complete 5 (or so) different prompts while reading the book and submit them all as a final project when they finish reading the book.  Learn more HERE.

    Set it to music -- Have your students capture a pivotal scene from the book in a song set to familiar music. It can be a ballad, a pop song, a rap – whatever speaks to them or best works with the scene. Encourage students who select this option to put on a concert. For students who are shy to perform, give them the option of recording their song privately, so you can play it without them having to get up in front of the class.

    Doodle it --- This is my FAVORITE type of book project!  That's because it combines reflection, thinking and DOODLING!  You can instantly take book reports and book projects to a whole new level with a Doodle Book Review!  First, students complete a planning guide. Then, they design a Doodle Book Review!  Check it out HERE!

    There's even this cinema-themed version that your students are sure to love. Find it HERE.

    Create a File Folder --- I first developed this book project idea many years ago as a summer reading project.  Then, I altered it slightly so that it could be completed during anytime of the school year with any book.  With this project, students compile critical information from the book they read including the plot, characters, setting, and a reflection in a manila file folder.  The file folder book report includes detailed instructions so that students can complete it all independently.  The end result is a compact project that students love!  Oh, and you can store the file folders by your classroom library for students to reference when picking out a book!  Find more details HERE.

    Blog about it -- If you have a classroom webpage, it can be fairly simple to create a live (and private) blog that students can use to discuss and debate the merits of their favorite books. This option might work best for students who have read the same book. Make sure you establish expectations for a civil online conversation. You can get in on the convo, too!

    Focusing on nonfiction in your classroom? Try one of these book report alternatives:

    Ø  Create a scrapbook with images and facts about the book topic.
    Ø  Write interview questions for the main character (if reading a biography, for example). Extend this assignment by allowing students to dress up as the character and record their responses to the interview questions.
    Ø  Write a diary that one of the story’s main characters might have kept before, during, or after the book’s events. Make sure students emphasize what the character is thinking and feeling to give it an authentic feel.
    Ø  Write a news story about the main event in the book (for example, the sinking of the Titanic). This is a good opportunity to practice this very specific form of writing. You’ll want to review inverted pyramid style and how to use quotes if you go this route.

    BONUS: Wait! I have one more idea. Here's a new spin on the classic book report mobile! Why not have students report out on the plot, setting, characters, and theme on fun pieces of paper clothing? Then students can hang their work from a hanger that says, "Try this book on for size!" This project includes a set of first draft materials and final copy elements so that students can create a high quality project! 

    Here's some links for some of the project ideas above:
    ➧  File Folder Book Project (any book!)
    ➧  Doodle and Do Book Review (doodle book project)
    ➧  This or That Reading Response Prompts
    ➧  Book Talk (freebie)
    ➧  Letter to the Author Stationary Templates (FREE!)
    ➧  Clothes Hanger Book Report

    I hope that you've found some fun book project ideas to try in your classroom!

    Happy reading!

    Mary Beth

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