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Snow Day Learning: Lesson Ideas for Any Setting

snow day

When I was a kid, getting the day off for snow was rare. I grew up in Indiana, and the norm was to get into the car and get to school unless freezing rain made the streets into sheets of ice. It took everyone a while to arrive at their destinations, but people trickled in eventually. These days, the option for virtual instruction has created a new kind of snow day, one in which students can continue learning at home either live or asynchronously even when several feet of snow coat the ground. While those of us with fond memories of sledding and making snow forts may bemoan this change, there are benefits to conducting learning from anywhere. With the ideas below, teachers in any content area can make virtual snow day experiences more memorable for kids of all ages so that a day of at-home learning doesn’t turn into just another day on Zoom.

Snow Poems           

Newly fallen snow is a naturally poetic sight that brings sensory details to mind: the taste of hot cocoa, the smell of fireplace ash, the sight of blindingly white roads and trees. No matter how old students might be, we can inspire their creativity with writing poems in a variety of possible forms and can also provide choices for how to engage in this process. Perhaps students want to write a thematic series of haiku with “Snow Day” as a theme, using the opportunity to be either reflective or funny. They could also opt to write emotion poems, which describe a feeling (in this case, one inspired by snow) in detail; then, classmates might take turns guessing which emotions each poem describes. Another option for students who resist too many guidelines is to write in any poetic form desired, rhyming or not, and share the results with one another. These options all translate well to online learning, but they also work in physical classrooms and can be shared in person or remotely.

Math Etchings           

There are so many ways to take math class outside, even in cold, wintry weather. Why write problems on paper when we can etch them into the snow? No matter how old they are, students will enjoy this spin on doing their math work. Older students with phones can snap pictures of their problems carved into the frozen ground and share them with the teacher or the class, and younger kids will get joy from the process even without photographic evidence. As a side benefit, the time outside will refresh everyone’s brains and bodies. Then, when students return either to online meetings or to the building, students can discuss how they approached their snowy work in a collaborative setting.

Frozen Dioramas           

Often, we ask students to analyze or describe events that are either fictional or historical by writing their ideas. Instead of tapping into that medium, what if we let everyone get a little more visually creative with the snow? If the class is studying Woodstock, for example, students can do an artistic interpretation of the famed music festival by molding a snow stage with little participants, or perhaps by making a hippie snow person. The task is a little on the silly side, but it has the benefit of engaging students in a different way, one that might have them showcasing talents that we do not typically see. As with the math snow etchings, the option of taking photos and sharing the experience is a great way to follow up with how different students interpreted the task when everyone is back inside.

Choice of Movement           

It can be hard to teach physical education when we’re not in proximity to students; consider handing out a list of possible movement options for the snow day and letting kids choose what they’d like to do. Perhaps some students might opt for a short snowy hike, while others might wish to help their parents or neighbors by shoveling snow. Then, once students are back in a virtual or traditional classroom setting, they can research what kind of exertion they experienced, how it affected their heart rate or which muscles they engaged, and think about the connections between how we move around in real life and the benefits everyday activities can reap without needing a gym or special equipment.

Story Time   

While story time is traditionally considered an activity for young children, teenagers appreciate the experience just as much (if not more, given its rarity). Reading to students often takes the form of drudgery; in many content areas, we typically select a required text and read it aloud to help students with comprehension. Instead, what if we encourage students to share a text of their own choice out loud? If a science class is learning about photosynthesis, ask students to do some online reading and find a user-friendly resource to share with everyone. Then, they can read parts of the resource to the class or even to a smaller group either in breakout rooms or in the classroom. If it’s possible for teachers to vet the resources before students share them, the options for what can be shared are so much vaster and fit perfectly into a snowy day of learning.

Snow Tradition Share           

Some students will have tried-and-true snow day traditions of their own, while others will have aspirational goals for how they would like to spend a snow day. Either way, taking a quick break in the middle of a long class to toss around some ideas gives everyone a chance to reset. To share snow day traditions, students either write their thoughts on a shared document and then have a conversation, or the process can be more informal with people offering verbal contributions. The point of the exercise is just to enjoy one another’s company, take a break from content and recognize the beauty of the frosty world around us.            

Snow days might not be the same as they used to be with virtual learning on the table, but that doesn’t mean we have to ignore what is happening right outside our windows. Experiential learning is important; when students connect to the world around them, they engage more with their classes. Taking the time to incorporate snow into a virtual lesson for even a little bit of time shows students that we care, and that we want to make their day a little more special.

Written by Miriam Plotinsky, Education World Contributing Writer

Miriam Plotinsky is an instructional specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, where she has taught and led for more than 20 years. She is the author of Teach More, Hover Less and is also a National Board-Certified Teacher with additional certification in administration and supervision. She can be reached at or via Twitter: @MirPloMCPS.

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