Browse these winter-themed, ready-to-use lesson plans and teaching ideas that cover a range of subjects, skills, and grade levels.
When winter rolls in, temperatures drop and food becomes scarce. Many animals, such as birds, migrate to warmer climates. Other animals survive by hibernating. These animals find a place to spend the winter that is warm and safe from predators. Animals, such as chipmunks, woodchucks, and bats, sleep so deeply that they appear to be dead. Their body temperature drops as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius).
Other animals who hibernate, such as bears and raccoons, go into a shorter, lighter periods of slumber called torpor. All hibernators need to eat extra food to store up fat for energy during the long winter. Even cold-blooded animals such as frogs and snakes hibernate during the winter in mud or under rocks.
When spring arrives, the hibernators slowly begin to wake up. They have just enough fat energy left to leave their burrows, caves, and other safe places to go off in search of food.
About the Author
Tori Kosara is the author of several science books for children including Big Sharks, Wild Weather Around the World, and Lonesome George Finds His Friends. She lives and works in New York.
Teaching the Book
Young children often wonder where animals go to stay warm in the winter. Hibernation provides the answer through engaging text and close-up photographs.
The book provides an opportunity to discuss seasonal changes, to teach cause and effect relationships, and to introduce vocabulary related to hibernation. Activities will get students involved by having them observe animals in their own community, notice seasonal changes on a calendar, and write songs about animals in winter.
Theme Focus: Animals and Seasons
Comprehension Focus: Cause and Effect
Language Focus: Words Related to Hibernation
Get Ready to Read
Show What You Know
Play a quiz game with students to engage them in thinking about where animals go in the winter. Ask each of the questions below, giving students a choice of two answers. Tell them to write down the letter of their answer on a sheet of paper.
1. What do many birds do during the winter?
a. hide in birdhouses b. fly south
2. Where might you find a bear during the winter months?
a. in a cave b. in Florida
3. Hibernation means
a. allergic to winter b. sleeping through the winter
4. Which describes a human and a chipmunk?
a. cold-blooded b. warm-blooded
5. Where might a fish spend the winter?
a. at the bottom b. in an aquarium of a river
Go over the answers by taking a poll of how many students chose each answer or by creating a KWL chart. Tell students they’ll learn more about the answers as they read Hibernation.
Preview and Predict
Have students study the cover of Hibernation. Ask them to describe the details of what they see and what the animal might be doing.
Words Related to Hibernation
Introduce these words that describe animals and their behavior related to hibernation:
- migrate, p. 3
- hibernation, p. 3
- burrow, p. 4
- predator, p. 5
- torpor, p. 9
- warm-blooded, p. 16
- hibernaculum, p. 21
- cold-blooded, p. 22
Ask students to look and listen for the words as they read and to use the text and photographs to help give them clues to the words’ meanings.
*Note that the words are in bold in the text and are defined on the last page of the book in the glossary.
Use Resource #1: Vocabulary Cards and distribute copies to students.
Words to Know: Words Related to Hibernation
Read aloud the following questions about the vocabulary words, one at a time. Have students volunteer the answers or find the answers in the book. To reinforce meaning, ask students to point to an illustration of a word or animal.
- What is a small hole where a chipmunk hibernates?
- What do most birds do in the winter?
- What is an animal that eats other animals?
- What is an example of a warm-blooded animal?
- What is an example of an animal that goes into a torpor?
- What is an example of a cold-blooded animal?
As You Read
Reading the Book
Read the book aloud to students, modeling fluency and expression. Encourage students to follow along in their own books, studying the illustrations and connecting the photos with the text being read.
Reread the book, asking students to read their copies at the same time. Cue them to read aloud certain words and phrases that you omit from your reading. For example, on page 5, prompt students to fill in the last word of the sentence: “Animals settle into these safe spots, and fall into a deep ____.”
Cause and Effect Relationships
Explain to students that science books like Hibernation are full of cause and effect relationships. A cause is the reason that something happens. An effect is the result of the cause. Discuss that recognizing cause and effect relationships will help them understand the meaning of what is read.
Use the graphic organizer on Resource #2: Cause and Effect. Project the page on a whiteboard or pass out copies to students. Then model how to identify the cause and effect in the text on page 3 about winter rolling in.
We just read that when winter rolls in, it grows cold and food is hard to find. This is the cause that makes something else happen. What happens? The text says, “Many animals, such as birds, migrate to warmer places. Other animals stay put and sleep through the cold season. This is called hibernation.” I’ll write in the effect box that “Some animals migrate. Other animals hibernate.”
Have students volunteer the effect for each of the remaining causes listed on the organizer. Encourage them to point to evidence in the text for their answers.
After You Read
Questions to Discuss
Lead students in a discussion of these focus story elements.
1. Animals and Seasons
What do hibernating animals do when spring arrives? What do you think migrating animals do? (Hibernating animals wake up, go out to find food, build new homes, and perhaps have babies. Migrating animals return to their spring and summer homes.)
2. Cause and Effect
Hibernating animals store a special kind of fat called brown fat. What is the result of having brown fat? (It keeps the animal warm when their body temperature drops.)
3. Words Related to Hibernation
Use three of the vocabulary words to tell about an animal that hibernates. (Answers will vary.)
Questions to Share
Encourage students to share their responses with a partner or small group.
1. Text to Self
How do you adapt or do things differently to adjust to the changing seasons?
2. Text to World
Describe what you know about other animals that adapt or migrate during the changing seasons (for example, whales, penguins, fish, other birds, etc.).
3. Text to Text
What other books, television shows, or movies have you read or seen about animal behavior? Tell about the animals and what you learned.
Content Area Connections
Seasons on a Calendar
Provide students with a calendar that shows the dates when the seasons change. Ask students to flip through the calendar to find when the seasons change. Suggest that they count the days between seasons and do research about what causes seasons to occur.
Winter Friends Science Play
Students learn more about hibernation and migration in this fun play about animals in winter. There are character roles for six readers who take the parts of animal friends in winter. Print the play.
Encourage students to work as a group to create a list of animals that live in their community. Have them record each animal on chart paper. Then direct students to add columns for “Migrate,” “Hibernate,” and “Around in Winter.” Ask students to put a check in the correct column for each animal.
The songwriter Brent Holmes has a collection of bear songs including “I Can’t Wait to Hibernate” available on the Internet. Play the song for students and then encourage them to write their own songs about hibernation. Supply them with several words that rhyme with hibernate to get them started: great, gate, date, hate, late, etc.
Ask students to look through the book and choose two of their favorite photographs. Then assign them to write a two-to-three sentence caption for each photograph. They can use information from the text to write their captions. In the caption, they should identify the animal, describe what it is doing in the photograph, and add any other interesting information about hibernation. If possible, project the photos on the whiteboard and have students read their captions.
Don't Forget the Big Question
Give each student an opportunity to answer the big question. Encourage students to support their answers with details and evidence from the text. Remind them there is no one right answer. How does hibernation help animals to survive?
Animal Trading Cards
Ask students to create a “trading card” about a hibernating or migrating animal that includes: name, appearance, habitat, diet, winter home, and another fun fact. Make copies of the printable, Big Activity: Animal Trading Cards and distribute to students. Help students copy or print out photos, if possible. Students can use information from the text, from the illustrations, or from research on the Internet. Encourage them to share their cards with each other or project them on the whiteboard.
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