A Flurry of Activities
The Lesson Plan
Book: The Snowy Day
Themes: Snow, Creative Play, Feelings, Discovery
Subjects: Language Arts, Visual Arts, Science
Students will be able to:
- identify and discuss elements of a story
- discuss and understand new vocabulary words
- participate in activities in a group and individually
- donated material (doll shoes, toothpicks, rubber stamp, cotton swabs)
- blue construction paper
- craft paint and brushes
- art paper
- props for playacting (mitten, gloves, scarf)
- assorted blocks
- math games
Each session begins with a reading of the story to the class, followed by basic comprehension questions, such as: What did Peter want to do when he saw the snow? What did Peter use to make a track in the snow? With successive readings, the questions can become more interpretative: How did Peter feel about not being able to play with the big boys? What do you think Peter was thinking about in the bathtub?
Then the children come up with words that describe snow, which the teacher records on a large whiteboard. Once the centers are explained, the students are organized into groups of four and spend 20 minutes at each center. A bell rings to announce clean-up time, and two minutes later, a second bell sends the children to the next center. The centers in this lesson plan are geared to kindergarten, but can also be used in first and second grade by making the tasks more challenging.
- Art Center (adapted from Scholastic’s “Ezra Jack Keats Author Study,” in the section “The Snowy Day Extension Activities”). Using the EJK Foundation home page as a guide, the students paint a white, snowy hill on blue construction paper. I asked parent volunteers to make cutouts of Peter prior to the lesson, and supplied doll shoes, toothpicks, a rubber stamp and cotton swabs for Peter’s footprints, the track he makes with a stick, and snowflakes.
- Writing Center. The students are given a page with the phrase, “Snow is…,” and directed to complete the sentence with a word from the board, for example, “Snow is cold” or “Snow is soft.” The teacher can also write a child’s chosen word on an index card for the child to copy. The children draw a picture that illustrates their sentence with color pencils or crayons. The completed pages can be compiled into a class book titled, “Snow is….” First- and second-graders can write their own sentence and make a book themselves.
- Easel Painting Center. At this free-choice center, children may paint whatever they like. Younger children can dictate a sentence about their painting to the teacher, who attaches it, while older children can write their own. I like to leave this center open-ended. Some children will paint a favorite scene from the story without prompting!
- Playhouse Center. This area has play kitchen appliances and furniture. The children can play-act situations based on the story or improvise a scene of their choice. Mittens, hats and scarves can be added to the center to continue the “Snowy Day” theme.
- Blocks Center. With many types of blocks, along with wooden people and signs, the children can build a snowy city based on the book, or imagine a different one. Cut-up paper can be used to make snow.
- Math Game Center. Teachers can use board games and other math games, or stick to our theme and provide activities related to snow! I have found fun ideas on the website Gather.com, where member Kelly M. has shared a few math activities for The Snowy Day that work well in this center.
Why We Like It
The centers format is a creative way to introduce books to children. Each session starts with a reading, so that the children listen to and discuss the story three separate times. (Scholastic’s “Ezra Jack Keats Author Study” provides a good discussion guide.) The activities personalize the learning process, and the children tend to participate eagerly and without prompting. Through reading, discussion and activities, the children develop a keen understanding of the story that they can transfer into other parts of their lives.
- Four teachers and 150 students participated in the program, which was organized into three 45-minute sessions.
- Initially the teachers were not confident that the children could work independently at each activity center, but the children adapted quickly and thrived. The children I worked with painted their own “Snowy Day” pictures at the Easel Center, built cities with snow at the Block Center and played different family roles at the Playhouse Center.
- Teachers told me that the students were eager to return each week, and used The Snowy Day game in their classroom to keep the story alive until the next session. The children told me they remembered which centers they had completed and which they still needed to do. One teacher began using the center approach for other activities, with successful results.
A Note from Gayle
- I created this program for kindergarten teachers, but it’s age-appropriate up to grade 2. Using Keats’s The Snowy Day as the theme, I designed this lesson as a rotation of six activity centers, some related to the book and others for improvised play.
- The format can be adapted to most any book in the library. (I’ve also used it for Keats’s A Letter to Amy.)