Tuesday, December 21, 2021

21 Activities and Lessons That Have a Winter Theme

Today is the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere. To mark the start of winter I've put together a list of twenty-one activities and lessons that have a winter theme. 

Snowy Outdoor Activities
I enjoy winter and my kids do too. We like to sled, ski, snowshoe, and just play outside in the snow. If you live where we do, it's a long winter if you don't learn to the love the snow.

NOVA, as a part of their program on Denali, has directions for building a snow cave and directions for building an Igloo.

Boys' Life offers a list of outdoor winter games as well as directions for building igloos and snow shelters.

Making your own snowshoes is an activity that can be done indoors with the final product enjoyed outdoors. There are dozens of DIY snowshoe videos on YouTube. This one is a little bit too quick, but it does have a detailed materials list in the description. 

When I was about seven or eight I was given a copy of The American Boy's Handy Book (available for free in Google Books). The book is filled with fun hands-on indoor and outdoor activities including an entire section devoted to snow forts and other snow-related activities. I took my tattered copy off the shelf last winter and explained to my daughters that the book was written when people thought that girls couldn't do the same things as boys, but now we know better. We then turned to the section about making ice-fishing traps. Now they can't wait to go ice-fishing, again! 

Playing outdoor bingo is a fun way to get kids outside and exploring the nature in their neighborhoods. Watch this video to learn how you can create your own outdoor Bingo boards using Flippity's Google Sheets template.

Video Lessons About Winter Weather
The following video explains how windchill is calculated. The video comes from Presh Talwalkar.


Television news reporters like to use the word "extreme" whenever we have a lot of rain or snow in a short amount of time. Is the weather really "extreme" or is that just our impression of it? The following Minute Earth video takes on the topic of how extreme weather affects our thinking about weather patterns in general. I found the video to be interesting from a psychology perspective. The video is embedded below.


The video from Reactions that is embedded below explains how snowflakes are created.


Thundersnow is a video from UNC-TV that explains how thunder sometimes, though rarely, coincides with snowstorms. PBS Learning Media has a set of corresponding lesson materials that you can use with this video.

Why the Full Moon is Better in Winter explains how the combination of the position of the moon relative to Earth and snow on the ground make the moon appear brighter in the winter than in the summer. Take a look at the video as embedded below. 

Where do Snowflakes Come From? is a SciShow Kids video about how snow is formed. What is a Blizzard? also comes from SciShow Kids and does a good job of explaining the difference between a blizzard a regular snowstorm. Both videos are embedded below.

Video Lessons About the Winter Solstice
What is a Solstice? is a National Geographic video. The two minute video explains why we experience solstices. The video also explains why the solstice and the first day of winter aren't always the same.

PBS Kids Nature Cat has a cute video that explains the basic concept of winter and summer solstice.

Last year TIME published a video featuring "four things you probably didn't know about the winter solstice." Spoiler alert! You probably knew them, but the video will remind you about those things.

Mechanism Of The Seasons is a six minute video about why the length of daylight we receive in a location changes throughout the year. This video could be helpful in a flipped classroom environment.

Autumn Stars and Planets is a short PBS video that explains why the stars and planets that we see from Earth change with the seasons. The video is embedded below.

Indoor and Online Winter-themed Activities
Lumio, a new service from SMART that I wrote about last month, has a collection of a dozen ready-made winter-themed online activities including winter poetry writing, math snowmen, and a winter "would you rather?" quiz. 

Flippity offers a template for making your own online snowman activity in which students have to guess the correct letters to spell words before the snowman melts. Here's a demo of how to use the template. 

Surviving Winter is a PBS Learning Media online activity for elementary school and middle school students. The activity consists of reading and watching videos about how animals adapt to survive through winter. Students have to complete writing and word sorting activities as they move through each section of the Surviving Winter activity. 

ReadWorks has a big collection of reading activities arranged around the theme of winter. A couple of those activities include a lesson on Beating the Winter Blues and a lesson about Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Free Webinar Today at 3pm ET - Best of the Web 2021

Every year I review hundreds of new websites, apps, and other educational technology tools. And every year I give a "best of" presentation about my favorite new and updated tools of the year. This year I'm giving that presentation the form of a free, live webinar

Today at 3pm ET (check here to convert to your time zone) I'm hosting Best of the Web 2021. Registration is free but it is limited. 

During the webinar I'll share my favorite new and updated tools of the last year. I'll give live demonstrations of some of them and answer your questions about them. A copy of my slides will also be provided to those who attend. 

You can register for the webinar right here!

If you cannot attend the live webinar, a recording of it will be available on my YouTube channel the next day. 

I have a new ebook for busy tech coaches, teachers, and media specialists. It's titled 50 Tech Tuesday Tips. You can get it right here

Monday, December 20, 2021

A Platypus in My House! Fun and Learning Through Augmented Reality

My four-year-old loves Gus the Platypus in the Pete the Cat series. A couple of weeks ago that led to her asking questions like "can we get a platypus?" and "what's a platypus sound like?" My answers were "no" and "I don't know." I did, however, put an augmented reality platypus in our house. 

Through the use of Google's augmented reality in search experiences I was able to make a digital rendering of platypus swim through our house. Here's a little video of the experience. 

The augmented reality platypus was fun for a while, but my daughter still wanted to know what a platypus sounds like. For that, I just did search for "platypus sounds" on YouTube. This video had what I needed. 

Kids who are older than my preschooler can learn a lot about how the biology of a platypus through a fascinating TED-Ed lesson titled A Year in the Life of One of Earth's Weirdest Animals

How to Use Google Keep as a Comment Bank

Last week I had a reader ask me if there was a way to have a comment bank in Google Documents without using Chrome extensions or Google Classroom. My suggestion was to try using Google Keep as a comment bank in Google Documents. 

To use Google Keep as a comment bank in Google Keep you need to write your comments as notes in Google Keep. I recommend giving the notes titles that are easy to remember because you'll later use those titles to find your notes to use as comments. Then when you're giving students feedback on their documents you can simply search for the title of the note, copy the note's text, and paste the text into a comment. The whole process is rather quick and you can update your comment bank on the fly. 

Watch this short video to learn how to use Google Keep as a comment bank in Google Docs. 

Applications for Education
Using Google Keep as a comment bank in Google Docs can be a good way to save time when you're trying to provide students with feedback on first drafts of their writing. I like to include links to helpful additional resources in the comments. 

In addition to using it as a comment bank, I use Google Keep for keeping track of my to-do list, bookmarking, and setting reminders for myself. Learn more about Google Keep in Five Helpful Google Keep Features for Students

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Voices, Keyboards, and Birds - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it is chilly and we're expecting our first real snowstorm of the year! That means that tomorrow I'll be shoveling snow and my kids will be making snowmen. We'll probably do a bit of sledding as well. I hope that you have some equally fun things planned for your weekend. 

Before jumping to this week's list of the most popular posts, I'd like to point two things that I announced yesterday. First, I have just published a new ebook titled 50 Tech Tuesday Tips. Second, this coming Tuesday at 3pm ET I'm hosting a free webinar titled Best of the Web 2021

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. The Easiest Way to Add Narration to Google Slides
2. How to Modify & Share Canva Templates
3. An Easy Way to Quickly Add Voice Notes to Google Docs
4. We're Counting Birds! - A Lesson in Citizen Science and Canva Template Creation
5. The Story Behind QWERTY - Why Keyboards Aren't in Alphabetical Order
6. How to Annotate Historical Images on Jamboard
7. Six Reasons to Try Tract for Remote & Hybrid Learning

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This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.