It’s that time of year when it is cold outside and there is an increased chance of school being cancelled because of snowy or icy roads. Snow cancellations or delays may not be prevalent all across the country, but even San Antonio recently had a snow day. I think most teachers and students would agree that snow days are great—as long as everyone is safe at home. My students love an unexpected day off. It’s like a bonus weekend!
It can be frustrating as a teacher though, because it can really throw a schedule out of whack. Our school has had several occasions when we had multiple days off in a week. If this happens at the end of a unit or quarter, it can wreak havoc on the plans and learning that was going on in the classroom. The unexpected nature of snow days can be hard to plan for.
I’m not advocating for piling on homework via email the morning it starts snowing—these snow days can be a great mental break for kids. But there are times when these days pile up, and it is easy to feel like students are getting behind on their learning.
Keeping the Learning Going
Using flipped classroom strategies can help with this, giving students some learning to do at home or to keep up on. So as it gets colder and colder, we should think about what we could do to engage students even on a day when they aren't at school. But if flipped classroom strategies can’t work for some reason, we can still try to come up with ways to engage students through the extended break.
I think it's important to note that these suggestions should not be drill and practice activities—spelling words and math facts sound like a great way to ruin a snow day. We need to think in broader terms: How can we help kids to see themselves as learners even on a day when they're at home? These ideas are not about grades or standards, but about problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity.
Here are some engaging ideas for making a snow day awesome and full of thinking—most of which require a little bit of adult supervision:
Creative Writing: This may seem like a simple idea, but it can be a lot of fun—especially if multiple students in the class participate. If there is a collaborative option for students with devices at home, they could create stories based on each of their own “settings” and interweave their stories in some way. Upon returning from the snow day, the teacher could have a classwide “read in” where everybody reads everyone else's stories about the magical snow day and what happened.
Math: Because snow is so much fun and really cool, it's easy to engage students in simple science experiments and data collection that could happen with the snow. Students can time how long it takes to melt different amounts of snow in containers around the house. Do the containers in the kitchen melt faster than the ones by the windows? The thinking part comes in while comparing the different rates and then theorizing as to why the difference occurred.
Family and Consumer Sciences: Make snow ice cream—this can usually happen without a lot of adult supervision, but someone may want to check the snow first! Creating this sweet treat can be a lot of fun and a great exercise in following directions, measurement, and technical reading. There are many recipes available online, but here is a good one from Paula Deen to get you started.
Data and Measurement: Students could go into their yard and measure the tallest/deepest drift they could find. If students are able to measure these and share the information collaboratively with the class/teacher, the class can create a map of the neighborhoods and surrounding areas and chart where the deepest snow occurred.
There are often times when buses are unable to run and students cannot get to school, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a day without thinking. For a few minutes, the students can put the video games down and do something engaging that will help them to solve problems and think critically
Do you have any recommendations for great snow day learning activities at home? Let us know in the comments below! And to stay up to date with all things related to education and education technology, be sure to subscribe to our Educator blog.