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Banish Winter Classroom Blues

Banish Winter Classroom Blues

The middle of winter can be a difficult time for students to maintain their focus and keep up their ambitions. The cold weather and dark days test their abilities to concentrate. While class only resumed a few weeks ago, students may be acting like they need another vacation already. This is a crucial time to keep kids engaged in their learning. Plan to do so with these beneficial activities and unique projects.

Fire Up with Physical Activity

If your students seem frozen to their seats, warm up their bodies and minds with movement. Besides improving attention and on-task behaviors, quick bursts of physical activity have helped some students to complete cognitive exercises with more speed and accuracy. While not every child will see these kinds of gains, it is unlikely that the exercises will adversely affect student performance. With your students' abilities in mind, you can choose from this list of activities which will be best for your kids to try:

  • Yoga. More and more teachers are integrating basic yoga positions into their classrooms. Yoga can help kids improve their balance, physical strength, and, most importantly, their overall well-being. Find all the resources you need to get started by visiting kidsyogastories.com. Here, you will find poses recommended for children, as well as information about how yoga can be used in learning activities during reading instruction.
  • Calisthenics. The beauty of these types of exercises is that no supplies are needed and few students will need to be taught the moves. Calisthenics include jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, squats, and many other exercises that help burn calories and get blood flowing. Spending three minutes on calisthenics may be all your class needs to stay engaged during long periods of seat work.
  • Matching Game. Choose to match words to their definitions, synonyms to antonyms, dates to events, or math problems to solutions. Write each part of the pair on an index card or square of paper. After shuffling all of them, scatter the cards about the floor or pass them around to students. They will get a kick out of searching for correct matches.
  • Wall Work. Instead of presenting your students with practice work at their seats, have them retrieve each part of their assignment from the classroom walls. Post each problem or question on the walls for students to answer as they walk around the room.

Tie in the Iditarod

Some of the greatest contests take place during the winter season. The classic sled dog race known as the Iditarod is held annually in Alaska. Teams race from Anchorage all the way to Nome—a distance stretching more than 1,000 miles! On the first Saturday in the month of March, competitors begin the race. Along the way, teams stop at designated checkpoints as they travel to Nome. Some teams can cover the entire distance in as few as 10 days, whereas others may not cross the finish line for an additional week! Plan an entire unit of study or a single lesson around the Iditarod to fit your course and grade level. Visit Iditarod.com and NEA.org for ready-to-use lesson plans and materials to facilitate your instruction. Here are a few samples of learning objectives to work towards when teaching with the Iditarod:

  • Use imagery and sensory details to write a poem about dog sledding;
  • Analyze data related to the weather during past Iditarod races;
  • Calculate slope to examine the elevation difference between checkpoints along the trail;
  • Write a research report about Alaskan animals;
  • Identify latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates for cities and landmarks in Alaska;
  • Sew dog booties.

Make Time for Fishing

Hockey and skating aren't the only sports that take advantage of an ice-covered body of water. Even on the coldest winter mornings, ice fishermen brave the low temperatures to hook the catch-of-the-day. Although fieldtrips with a local expert to a frozen lake or pond may be right for your class, there is no need to leave the warmth of your school when you include the topic of ice fishing in your lessons this winter. Hook your students on learning with these ideas for bait:

  • Read a work of non-fiction like “Let's Go Ice Fishing” to determine how an author's purpose is achieved by the organization of the text;
  • Write a narrative about ice fishing that includes the technical vocabulary specific to the sport;
  • Compare and contrast the rules and regulations regarding summer and winter fishing in your state;
  • Draw a scale floor plan for the ultimate ice fishing shanty;
  • Analyze how human activities are influenced by the physical environment.
  • Research how winter affects both the habitats and behaviors of fish
  • Review safety precautions one should take before setting foot upon a frozen body of water.
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