Fun Winter Classroom Activities

The days are getting shorter and the nights longer, which only means one thing—winter is near! It’s the perfect time to delve into wonderful winter topics like cool changes of matter, global holiday traditions, and much more. Find a collection of fun winter classroom activities to welcome the new season.

8 Winter Lesson Plans

1. Holidays Around the World, Grades K5

No wonder winter is known as the holiday season! During the upcoming months, calendars will be filled with festive celebrations from all around the world. Explore different traditions and celebrate global winter holidays with the "Holidays Around the World" activity.

The goal of this winter activity is to teach students about worldwide winter holidays through a fun, interactive experience. What does that look like?

  1. Partner with your grade-level teammates to come up with a list of global holidays to study. Each teacher will choose a holiday to showcase in their classroom.
  2. Teachers will research their holiday and can either create a slideshow or select literature that highlights their corresponding holiday. They can also plan a craft to go along with their holiday, for example, creating a dreidel for Hanukkah. Each holiday lesson should be around 20–30 minutes long.
  3. Pick a date to host your "Holidays Around the World” celebration.
  4. On the day of the ”Holidays Around the World” celebration, students will go from room to room to learn about each holiday.
  5. After the 20–30-minute lesson, students will venture off to learn about the next holiday. This winter lesson plan is perfect for the days leading to winter break; it can last an afternoon and feel like a classroom party!

An alternative way to teach the ”Holidays Around the World” winter-themed lesson is to have students rotate to a different classroom throughout the week for 20–30 minutes during your social studies block. You can also host a celebration within your self-contained class. Either highlight different holidays throughout the week during your social studies block or host a ”Holidays Around the World” party, where students rotate between different centers that showcase a holiday.

Consider the following winter holidays and celebrations, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Chinese New Year, when planning your ”Holidays Around the World” winter activities and lessons:

Extend this winter activity by having students share their own holidays and later explore other worldwide holidays with our 2022–2023 Monthly Calendar.

2. Blizzard Quiz Review, Grades 1–5

Give your quiz review session a blizzardly twist. This activity calls for crumbled paper snowballs filled with a skill to practice or a question to answer. These questions and skills are written by the teacher and can cover any subject area, such as English language arts or math. Students toss the snowballs to create a blizzard and answer the review question or practice the skill written inside the snowballs.

This activity gets students moving, all while reviewing for an upcoming assessment. Here are some ways to engage your students in a blizzard quiz review:

ELA: Vocabulary Prefix/Suffix Skills Practice

Have each snowball contain a prefix, suffix, and root word to form a vocabulary word.

What to Do:

  1. Write prefixes, suffixes, and root words on pieces of paper.
  2. In the classroom, display three signs: Prefix, Suffix, and Root Word
  3. Explain to students that they will be sorting themselves according to their snowball vocabulary word as either prefix, suffix, or root word.
  4. Have the students crumble the paper to create the snowball.
  5. Let the blizzard begin! Form a circle and let student toss their snowballs in the center. Have fun with it and participate yourself!
  6. When the blizzard ends, have students pick up the snowball closest to them. They must now sort themselves based on their vocabulary word and stand under the corresponding sign.
  7. Then ask students to pair up in duo or trio to form a vocabulary word that contains either a root word and a prefix, a root word and a suffix, or a root word with both a suffix and a prefix.
  8. Have students read their newly formed words aloud and explain the meaning.
  9. Repeat the blizzard to shuffle the snowballs and play another round.

Math: Addition and Subtraction Review Questions

Each snowball should have an addition or subtraction fact to review math facts.

What to Do:

  1. Write questions on paper. Have enough questions so that there are two to three for each student. This will keep the blizzard going longer and act as a backup in case a couple of questions get lost. For an added challenge, you can let students come up with their own questions.
  2. Have the students make their snowballs by crumpling their paper.
  3. Let the blizzard begin! Form a circle and let students toss their snowballs in the center. Have fun with it and participate yourself!
  4. When the blizzard ends, have students pick up the snowball closest to them. They are now in charge of answering that snowball.
  5. Repeat the blizzard to shuffle the snowballs and let students answer new snowball questions.

Another fun-filled math review is to have a blizzard where students match shapes to their attributes. For example, some snowballs contain shapes (e.g., “square”), and others contain attributes (e.g., “have four sides”). After students throw their snowballs, they will form groups that match shapes with their corresponding attributes.

3. Hibernation and Migration Sorting Activity, Grades K–2

Things seem to become quiet in winter, and that is largely due to the lack of animals around. So where are they? Did they leave, or are they hiding somewhere warm?

Well, it depends on the animal—sometimes, it’s a bit of both. Animals who cannot withstand their environment during the winter, or any other season, adjust their lifestyle or environment through migration or hibernation.

Hibernation is defined as a period that an animal or plant spends in a dormant state, usually in the winter. Migration is a seasonal movement of animals from one area to another. Explore hibernation and migration with the “Where Did All the Animals Go?” sorting activity.

4. Snowflake (Salt) Painting, Grades K–5

Snowflakes can be scientific and artistic! This winter season, explore chemical reactions with this fun and frosty STEAM activity.

Students will sketch snowflakes, trace over them with glue, and sprinkle them with salt. Once students add water (and paint) to the salt, they’ll witness a chemical reaction between the salt and water! As the salt absorbs the water, the color will spread. This is because salt is hygroscopic, which means it can absorb both liquid water and water vapor in the air.

What You’ll Need

  • White cardstock or thick paper
  • Liquid watercolors or food coloring
  • Salt
  • White glue
  • Paintbrush
  • Water
  • Snowflake template (optional)—print an image of a snowflake online

What to Do:

  1. Students can either use a snowflake template or draw their own outline on the cardstock.
  2. Trace the snowflake with the glue. It’s best to use bottles with small nozzles so that students have more control over how much glue comes out.
  3. Sprinkle the salt. Coat it on thick so that every inch of the snowflake is covered—if you miss a spot, the color won’t be on it.
  4. Shake off the salt. Gather the excess salt to be used again for more snowflakes!
  5. Now for the painting. Only use a small amount of water to keep the colors vibrant. Similarly, use small amounts of paint, as too much can water the page down. Watch as the color spreads throughout the snowflake.
  6. Let the paint dry. Be careful not to touch the salt, or it may come off.

5. Cool Changes in Matter, Grades 2–4

As temperatures drop in the upcoming months, it’s a good time to draw inspiration from the cooler winter weather. Lead a winter lesson on the states of matter and how they change with our “Investigate a Change of State” lab.

Before diving into the activity, introduce students to the difference between a liquid (a state of matter that flows to take the shape of its container) and a solid (a state of matter that keeps its shape). Then propose the question of if a liquid can become a solid and vice versa. Afterward, ask students to theorize how these phenomena occur.

Have your students complete this hands-on experiment from HMH’s Into Science that further examines physical changes of matter.

For more great hands-on learning, check out ”Learning by Doing: The Importance of Hands-on Science Activities.”

6. Fun with Fractals, Grades 5–8

A mathematical structure that fascinates children, adults, and artists alike is the fractal. This geometric shape is self-similar on all scales and never-ending, creating an infinitely complex pattern no matter how much you zoom in. Fractal patterns can be found in nature, such as lightning, plants, clouds, crystals, and, most appropriately for winter, snowflakes!

Let your students search online and see what other fractals they can find. What do fractals look like in nature? Or in art? What are some other famous fractals?

After students have finished their investigation, challenge them to draw a Sierpinski triangle, which is an equilateral triangle filled with smaller equilateral triangles.

Wf1661000 Inline Graphic 2

What to Do:

  1. Provide each student with a perfectly constructed equilateral triangle. It may be easiest to search online for one and print it out.
  2. Have students draw a dot in the midpoint of each side of the equilateral triangle.
  3. Then connect those points to create a new downward-facing triangle.
  4. Now there will be three upward-facing triangles that are just like the original but half the width. Have students repeat step two with each of the upward triangles, creating even smaller triangles.
  5. Have students repeat these steps at least two more times. Afterward, prompt a discussion around how many times students were able to add triangles. How many more are even physically possible? Is it possible to have an “infinite” fractal in nature?
  6. Once students are done, have them cut out their triangles. Now you can join all their triangles together to create an even larger Sierpinski triangle!
Wf1661000 Inline Graphic 1

7. Winter Writing Prompts, Grades 1–12

The winter weather might make it too frightful to venture outdoors. On days when your class is stuck inside, encourage students to grab a pencil and paper and write their own stories. Have students jot down the joys of winter with the following writing prompts.

  • Grades 1–5: I can always tell it is winter when…
  • Grades 6–8: Do you have any winter traditions? If not, which one would you want to start this year?
  • Grades 9–12: Personify and describe winter. If winter were a person, what would they look like? What would they wear? What would be their interests and hobbies?

8. Must-Read Winter Literature, Grades K5

Winter is a great time to cozily curl up with a book. Pick up the following seasonal stories and include them in a classroom read-aloud or small-group instruction.

HMH Into Reading features the following winter titles to include in your winter lesson plans:

  • Polar Animals by Wade Cooper (K)
  • How Do You Know It’s Winter? by Ruth Owen (Grade 1)
  • Rabbit’s Snow Dance as told by James and Joseph Bruchac (Grade 2)
  • Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis (Grade 2)
  • The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino with John Nelson, Ph.D. (Grade 2)
  • In November by Cynthia Rylant (Grade 3)
  • Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman (Grade 5)

¡Arriba la Lectura! features the following Spanish winter stories, that are perfect to use for dual language, Spanish immersion winter lesson plans:

  • Animales polares by Wade Cooper
  • ¿Cómo sabes que es invierno? by Ruth Owen
  • Conejo y su danza de la nieve by James and Joseph Bruchac
  • La historia de Kali: Rescate de un oso polar huérfano by Jennifer Keats Curtis
  • La historia de la nieve: La ciencia de la maravilla del invierno by Mark Cassino with John Nelson, Ph.D.
  • En noviembre by Cynthia Rylant
  • Las abejas de invierno y otros poemas del frío by Joyce Sidman

Engage students in learning all season long with these winter lessons and our additional winter holiday activities! And before skating into winter activities, explore our collection of fall classroom activities to close out autumn.

Share Your Winter Activities and Lesson Plans

Have any winter classroom activities or lesson plans that we missed? Share your favorites with us on Twitter (@HMHCo) or Facebook, or email us at shaped@hmhco.com.

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Find more lesson plans and classroom resources on Shaped.

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