It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Winter read-alouds offer a great way to usher in the new season and learn more about the transition from fall to winter.
These four books are student favorites! A brief synopsis of each book is included with activity suggestions specific for each selection!
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Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner; illustrations by Christopher Silas Neal
In this delightful picture book, a father and daughter ski across the snow while making observations about animals both over and under the snow. At the opening of the book the little girl sees a red squirrel that quickly disappears into a crack beneath the ground and she wants to know where he went. Dad explains that under the snow there is “a whole secret kingdom where animals stay safe and warm.” As they continue to ski through the woods, the author shows animals that live above the snow (e.g. owls, deer, foxes) and animals that live under the snow (e.g. shrews, deer mice, voles, snowshoe hares, bullfrogs, beavers, chipmunks, black bears, bumble bees). There is also a list at the end of the book that gives more information about each animal mentioned.
Have students create a two column list with the headings “Hibernate” and “Does Not Hibernate.” During or after reading, have students categorize the animals from the book and then pick one to research and learn more about. This book also uses a lot of repetition, alliteration, and poetic language that can be discussed!
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen
This Caldecott award winning book begins “on a cold afternoon, in a cold little town” where a little girl named Annabelle finds a box full of yarn in every color. She uses the yarn to knit a sweater for herself and one for her dog, but there is still a lot of yarn left. While walking her dog (both wearing their colorful sweaters), Annabelle encounters a boy with his dog. When he makes fun of their sweaters, Annabelle knows that he secretly just wants one of his own. So, she knits one for him and his dog. But there is still more yarn left. As she navigates throughout her community, Annabelle ends up making sweaters and hats for all the people she encounters. When she still doesn’t run out of yarn, she makes sweaters for the houses and buildings in her city. Then Annabelle’s box of yarn becomes famous and an archduke offers to buy it from her. She refuses, but the archduke steals it from her only to discover that the yarn has finally run out.
Before reading, talk with students about finding the theme in book. After reading, work with students to discuss what the theme of Extra Yarn might be. Use this graphic organizer to help!
Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak
Kenard Pak does it again (he has written one of these books for each seasons’ transition) with this beautifully illustrated picture book that helps children understand the transition from autumn to winter. At the opening of the book, the scene is one of late autumn where the trees are bare and leaves are on the ground. The characters say hello to the leaves as they blow in the wind. They greet the robins and the cardinals as they prepare to fly south. They also say hello to farm animals, late fall flowers, the setting sun, evergreen trees, snowflakes, and other signifiers of autumn moving into winter. One of the best parts of this book are the illustrations. The scenes on each page show how the setting changes as the seasons do. The holiday decorations and snow falling are particularly beautiful.
Talk about cause and effect with your students. Give them a cause from the book (e.g. It will soon be cold) and then have them identify the effect (e.g. The deer and horses will move into their stables).
The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson; photographs by Mar Cassino; illustrations by Nora Aoyagi
This informational picture book helps students learn about snowflakes and how they are formed. It answers questions like: 1) How do snowflakes form? 2) What shapes are snow crystals? 3) How many sides do snowflakes have? 4) What happens to snow crystals when they land? Each question uses science to help students understand one of the most exciting wonders of the winter season. The photographs of real snowflakes are also very beautiful and helpful!
If it happens to be snowing when you read this aloud (or if you’re expecting snow soon), have students complete the activity at the end of the book (“How to Catch Your Own Snow Crystals”). You could also have students create their own unique snowflakes to decorate the classroom!
This time of year can be hectic! Get tips to survive teaching elementary school in December here.
Teacher tip: This post had many activity suggestions. Once you have the books, get a sticky note and write down the activity and stick it on the inside cover of the book. Any time you do the read aloud, you can remember the easy no-prep activity!
This post was written by my friend Erienne Jones. She is a former school librarian turned entrepreneur who continues to immerse herself in the world of books!