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Snow Days Don’t Have to Freeze Out Learning |®

Let It Snow! Snow Days Don’t Have to Freeze Out Learning

Snow days. Sure, the kids love them, but teachers trying to stick to a lesson plan don’t. But the white stuff doesn’t have to bury your best intentions. In fact, with a change in attitude and some planning, you can turn a snow day into an opportunity for learning.

After all, as retired third-grade teacher Donna Leslie of Independence, MO, says, “To me, the only difference in coming back after a snow day, as opposed to other days off, is the inevitable excitement that follows the kids in the door.”

Leverage the Web

Many school districts now use the Web to keep the learning going during unscheduled days off for weather or other issues, making these surprises much less disruptive. The districts build specific pages that enable teachers to post directions on what to do in case of emergencies or inclement weather. “Teachers can post assignments, list required readings and so much more through their Web sites,” says Rodney Jordan, a sixth-grade math teacher and author of the book From the Heart of a Teacher. “Tell the students about the Web site the first day of school. Send directions for finding it home for their parents and discuss the idea at back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences.”

Do a Writing Activity

Go ahead and create a snow day writing assignment so it’s ready when you need it. “Children, especially K–3, really want to tell you about what they did on their snow day. It's exciting,” says Laura Eckroat, a Fort Worth, TX–based kindergarten teacher and children's book author. “Bring out the writing journals and have them write or draw what they did — even if they just stayed in their pajamas all day. Then have everyone come to the carpet and share their stories.” For the students who finish fast, encourage them to illustrate their stories or label their drawings. “Once the snow day stories are over, tell everyone it's back to business and begin your day.”

Perform a Science Experiment

“If you still have snow on the ground upon your return, make a quick little science discovery center,” Eckroat suggests. “Fill snow to the top of a cup and have children make their best guess as to how long it will take to melt, or how much water will be in the cup when it melts. Or bring in an icicle and hang it up and see how long it takes to melt into a cup.” Then discuss the science behind melting, and the concepts of liquid and solid. You can even talk about the meteorology behind snow and ice — and the difference between meteors and meteorology.

Keep Your Perspective

The most important thing, says classroom veteran Leslie, is to take it all in stride. “Teachers should realize that things like snow days will always happen,” she says. “In the Kansas City area, a perfect example would be the hoopla with the Royals’ recent run toward the World Series. Excitement was rampant in the local schools for weeks.”

“Have plans in place to embrace, not ignore it. This will enhance the learning, not detract from it.”

Margot Carmichael Lester is owner of The Word Factory in Carrboro, NC. The granddaughter of schoolteachers, she’s a frequent guest instructor, leading K–12 workshops on persuasive, opinion and argumentative writing. She’s a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Find her on Google+.

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