Sunday, November 30, 2014

Winter Surprises

The joy that students have during this time of year is undeniable. I gladly nurture it using some exciting projects in the classroom. A few years ago Ann Marie and I decided to compile many of our fun activities into a “Winter Surprises” basket. It gives students something to look forward to and you can use it as motivation for good behavior and work habits.

Below are 15 activities that I’ve had in my basket before. I print out these cards and put them in boxes, bags, envelopes, etc. and each day we open a new one. I like to label each container with a number and keep a list of what activity is inside, because I need to make sure we have time for the chosen activity. One idea involves going outside, so I always look at the weather forecast before deciding when to do that one.

1.  Light up somebody's day.
I found this idea on Pinterest. I like to open this one first so my class can pick a new idea each day. It really helps encourage kindness in the classroom. (Which can be hard to come by right before winter break!)

2.  Write a letter to someone who lights up your life.
Use this paper to have students write a letter to someone who makes them happy. I’ve had students write to bus drivers, Girl Scout leaders, parents, friends and even me! One year I took the letters and put them on a bulletin board with a banner that said, “Who Lights Up Your Life?” We added a tree decorated with light bulbs colored by students and covered with translucent glitter.

3.  Eat a snowy treat.
I found white cheese balls called “Snow Balls” and knew I wanted to share them with my class! You could also use powdered doughnuts or marshmallows.

4.  Make a paper plate popup snowman.
Another Pinterest find! I had a parent volunteer trace a template, like the one from the tutorial, onto plates and made sure to tell my class many, many times NOT to cut on the dotted line. I’m glad we had some extra plates because my “Distracted Donnie” cut the dotted line anyway and needed a new plate. 

5.  Make a silly snowman.
Visit this website and have your students create a silly snowman. There are tons of choices and the students have a blast making them. (To avoid choruses of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" use the word *make* or *create.* OR: Go all in and ask them the question.)

6.  Make a candy cane reindeer.
These are adorable! To encourage students to use their reindeer as an ornament rather than a snack, I recommend giving students another candy cane to eat.

7.  Write a letter to Santa.
There are tons of templates online that students can use to write their letter. If you want to go the extra mile, grab an envelope to decorate and/or address to Santa.

8.  Make peppermint fudge.
Use this really simple recipe to make tasty, no-bake peppermint fudge in the classroom. You can even print out recipe cards on cardstock and give them to students to take home. (Bonus: no one's hands touch the fudge!)

9.  Open me.
Wrap a book to read to the class. It can be a new book, or any book that your class hasn’t read this year. This is one of the most anticipated surprises because students can see the wrapping paper and are always itching to rip it open.

10.  Go outside and use chalk to build a sidewalk snowman.
Since we typically don’t have enough snow outside to make a real snowman, I like to have my class use chalk to draw them instead. They have a blast choosing accessories for their snow people. 

11.  Build a mini fire and roast mini marshmallows.
We use small pieces of cardstock and different colors of construction paper to make tiny fires. When students finish they come get a toothpick and a mini marshmallow to “roast” over their fire. 

12.  Draw a portrait of Santa.
One more Pinterest project. Check out these easy steps to draw a picture of Santa. Even kids who always say, “I can’t draw that!” are able to follow the steps. Every Santa turns out different and adorable!

13.  Make a marshmallow man or woman.
Give a rounded square shape to your students and have them create a marshmallow man or woman. Encourage them to add some wintery accessories like scarves, hats and mittens.

14.  Design a wintery bookmark
Cut pieces of blue cardstock or construction paper into bookmarks. Let students decorate them using white and silver pens or crayons. When they’re done, sprinkle the bookmarks with glitter to really winterize them.

15.  Have a silent snowball fight
I’ve done this two different ways. I’ve had students make and throw imaginary snowballs and I’ve had them throw cotton balls. They’re both entertaining and get students out of breath quickly.

Just typing up this idea has me anticipating the last 3 weeks before Winter Break!!


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