We are having “snow much fun” in kindergarten. We are staring off the month with The Mitten, one of my favorite books written by Jan Brett, and will follow that up during the next few weeks with other snow-themed books.
The illustrations in The Mitten are amazing, and the kids spend a lot of time examining all of the unique details on each page. Several students were quick to notice that the illustrations were similar to those in the book Gingerbread Baby, written by the same author.
I use The Mitten to reinforce the concept of story retelling and sequence. Now that my students have some vocabulary, we can begin our work on comprehension and retelling. My students are familiar with rabbits, mice, owls, and foxes, but many have never seen or even heard of a mole, hedgehog, or badger. Reading these two books is an excellent way to introduce unfamiliar animals to my students and build vocabulary.
You can create your own The Mitten retelling story pieces by visiting Jan Brett’s website. She has free printables that include mittens and various characters. After listening to The Mitten at the listening center, students made their own retelling props using a copy of a white mitten glued to a white lunch bag (the lunch bag represents the snow), popsicle sticks, and images of the book's characters.
Being able to retell a story in the correct sequence is something we work very hard on in kindergarten. Not only does this skill lend itself to story comprehension, but it also helps the ELL students with public speaking and using correct English grammar. I provide my ELL students with simple sentence frames such as “The _________ went in the mitten.” My students use these sentence frames and their retelling props as they practice their retelling skills. During small group time, I am able to assess my students’ knowledge and understanding of the story they are retelling and more specifically, their knowledge and understanding of how to retell a story.
To make the activity more inviting, I created an enormous mitten for the students to use as they retell the story. Using the character masks from Jan Brett’s website, students retell the story in front of their peers as if they were putting on a skit. This gives the students another opportunity to practice retelling the sequence of the story while also giving them an opportunity to perform in front of their peers.
Hang a large paper cutout of a mitten on the board and have students predict if they are taller or smaller than the mitten. After students make their predictions, make a class graph and tally chart of those predictions.
Build a Snowman Using Your Name: For this activity students had to count how many letters were in their first name. They used one large circle for each letter and a smaller circle for their snowman’s head. For example, Emily would use five large snowballs for her snowman's body. Once their snowmen were built, students added hats and arms.
Measure Your Snowmen: Students measured their newly created snowmen with Unifix Cubes.
Paint a Snowman: Mix equal amounts of shaving cream and white glue together and use it as paint. It will take about a day to dry, and when it does, it has a puffy, cottony texture. Use this wonderful white winter paint to create snowmen or sponge-paint snowflakes. We used this mixture to paint scenes from my favorite book, The Snowy Day.
Have a Snowball Fight: Write upper- and lowercase letters on separate sheets of paper and wad them up into balls for a snowball fight. Set a timer for one minute and have students gently toss the balls around the room. At the end of one minute, students take the snowball closest to them and find their partner. For example, I have 24 students, so I would only choose twelve pairs of letters from the alphabet to write. This activity can also be done with older students using homophones, antonyms, or synonyms.
The Biggest, Best Snowman by Margery Cuyler
The Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll
Clifford’s First Snow Day by Norman Bridwell
Five Little Penguins Slipping on the Ice by Steve Metzger
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Surprise! Snow Day! by Courtney Baker
There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow! by Lucille Colandro
During the next few weeks, we will continue to read snow-themed books. We will also begin to do some writing, using the book Snowmen at Night. Before reading the book, I will have my class make predictions about what they think snowmen do at night. We will then complete our prediction chart with what actually happened in the story. After reading the book, we will make our own class book. The students will create a picture of their snowman on black paper and then complete the sentence frame, "My snowman _______ at night."
if your students enjoy reading The Mitten and the activities I have shared, they will enjoy reading The Hat, written by the same author. Both books provide a good story for students to retell using story elements.
What snow-themed activities do you do with your students? Do you have a favorite book that you use to spark a winter theme in your classroom?