As winter rolls in and the snow piles up (well, depending on where you live!), it's the perfect time for cozy winter read alouds and related activities in your upper elementary classroom. Seasonal themed books can introduce students to new topics and help build thematic units. Winter books can also connect different genres about the same topics. For example, you can read fictional winter stories or informational texts about living in cold climates. What a fun way to review genres halfway through the year!
Favorite Winter Read Alouds
I've included Amazon affiliate links for easy browsing below, or you can browse the entire list of winter read alouds here.
Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle: How Animals Get Ready for Winter by Laura Purdie Salas — This nonfiction winter book dives deep into how different animals prepare for winter. After reading this book with students, engage in a synthesizing activity. Have all students read an article about a specific animal or print several different articles so that each student is reading about a different animal. Then have students take the information they learned from the book and the article to create a new understanding about the animal's winter habits.
The Little Snowplow by Lora Koehler — This adorable book is about a snow plow that joins a group of big machinery. None of the other machines think the snowplow will be capable of handling big storms. This is a great book for introducing theme to students. It has an underlying message that is easy enough for students to grasp as they begin flexing their theme-finding muscles, but it’s still a great practice. I recommend modeling this process on another picture book before jumping in, but this book pairs nicely with a theme mini-lesson. You can read the book during morning meeting as a read aloud and then refer back to it during your literacy lesson on theme.
Wish by Chris Sauders — Not only is Wish a cute winter book, but its rhyming, verse storytelling is great for learning about poetry. The story is about a rabbit who is granted three wishes. After reading the story, challenge your students to write their own poetry about a wish that they have. While not all poems have to rhyme, it’s a great starting place for beginner poets (especially when using Wish as a mentor text). You can even host a jazz club after your students create their poems. During this jazz club, students can come to the front of the room and share their poems with the class. Of course, everyone snaps when the reader is done. It's a fun way to get students to share their poems with the class.
Winter Sleep: A Hibernation Story by Sean Taylor — This is a fictional story that explores hibernation. At the end of the story, there is a section that lists what we can do to help animals in hibernation or during the winter months. This is a great activity for some letter writing! Have students write letters to the school, their parents, or even the mayor convincing them to help out animals and insects in the winter. The book provides some examples of actionable items, such as leaving out fresh water and feeders. It will be the students' job to convince their reader to take one of these actions. This is your chance to talk about the art of persuasion (something students are very good at without even realizing it). You can discuss appealing to the reader's emotions and using facts to make sound arguments. For more persuasive writing tips, check out this post!
Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins — It’s not every day that you find a book that incorporates math concepts, but this winter book does just that. Two kids want to build a lemonade stand during the winter and have to count lots of money along the way. This book talks about several basic and more complicated math concepts, from counting money to determining probability. After reading this book, have students complete a money related math problem. You can make it as simple or as complex for your students. For example: Polly is selling lemonade for $2 a cup. It costs her $1.09 to make each cup of lemonade. If Polly sold 20 cups, how much money did she make? Hint: Make sure you subtract what it cost her from how much money she earned. If your students love it and want more, I compiled my favorite math picture books in this post.
Here are more favorite winter read alouds:
- Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft
- All About Animals in Winter by Martha Elizabeth hillman Rustad
- Polar Animal Adaptations by Lisa J. Amstutz
- Snow Globe Wishes by Erin Dealey
- The Deep and Snowy Wood by Elwyn Tate
- Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak
- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
- Blizzard by John Rocco
- Max and Marla by Alexandra Boiger
Winter Themed Activities
Along with my favorite winter read alouds, I keep the winter fun going with these low-prep activities to count down the days to winter break.
Seasonal Reader’s Theater
I can’t put all the magic of reader’s theater in words, but trust me when I say that it’s always a good time. The interactive components of reader’s theater, and drama in general, always gets my students excited and begging to read (win-win).
This seasonal reader’s theater bundle includes several seasonal themes, including winter. For each season, there are eight high-interest play scripts. Reader’s theater is excellent for fluency and comprehension work. It’s especially great for those days close to winter break when attention is slowly drifting.
Winter Find Someone Who
‘Find Someone Who’ is the perfect activity to build community any time of the year. This FREE winter activity will get students up, moving, and building connections with their classmates. Try using it as a quick brain break or morning meeting activity! This is the perfect activity for students to use right after winter break!
December Literacy Passages
Get ready to build literacy skills this winter holiday season in a way that’s FUN for students and EASY to prep! These December reading comprehension passages are part of a monthly resource to teach and review essential reading, writing, and grammar skills.
December Word Problem of the Day
Solving word problems is a critical component of math instruction and increasing problem-solving skills. These Word Problem of the Day resources provide you with a variety of single and multi-step word problems. Use your grade level set or mix and match for differentiation! Click here for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades!
Winter Math Craft with Angles
This math craftivity is perfect for the day before winter break. You can use popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, or just some good old fashion paper and ruler to have students build a snowflake. Once their snowflake is complete, students will measure the various angles on their snowflake. They can even label the angle, such as acute and obtuse.
Winter Sports Literacy Project
You don’t have to be a sports lover to enjoy curling or figure skating (seriously, they are just fun to watch). This winter sports literacy project brings together resources for all the winter sports you can think of, while also focusing on several key literacy skills. Students will read an interview from Shaun White while working on summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting. Students will also read a postcard and newspaper article about ski jumping, and then compare the first and secondhand accounts. You can also watch a few winter Olympics replay videos in class to add to the fun!
Winter Themed Imagery
Imagery and figurative language are challenging skills, so I fit them in as often as possible! If you live somewhere that snows and looks “wintery” by December, then you can bring students to the classroom window or even outside for this activity. If you don’t get a true “winter”, then a Google image or even YouTube video will do. Have students look at a wintery landscape and describe it using their senses. What can they see? Smell? Touch? Taste? Hear? Of course, if they're looking at an image, it might take a bit of imagination.
You can keep the figurative language fun going with these FREE activities!
Winter Wonderland Math Project
Who doesn’t love a holiday vacation? With this winter wonderland math project, students will plan their winter vacation, but they must track their expenses and other math-related tasks throughout the trip, such as determining the perimeter of their lodging and plotting a ski slope. This project is also differentiated, so you can pick and choose the tasks and activities that work for your students.
How to Build a Snowman Procedure Writing
Winter is an easy way to slip in some procedural texts. You could easily switch out this topic for “How to Make Hot Cocoa” or “How to Make a S'more”. The ideas stay the same, students will write a procedural text for creating a winter themed item. I recommend looking at a procedural text first before diving into writing. I also recommend giving your students some transition words they can use when writing.
Winter Early Finisher Activities
If you’re like me, then you always have early finisher tasks available for students. One way I keep these activities fresh is by updating the tasks periodically throughout the year. These winter early finisher activities are perfect for December and January. They include activities for both math and literacy. There are writing prompts, reading tasks, and math activities. Plus, they require very little prep from you!
Winter Pictures To Teach
Brush up on reading skills with this FREE set of winter reading skills practice pages.
January Reading Skills Task Cards
Sometimes after a long holiday break, students seem to have forgotten everything. These January reading skills task cards are perfect for an after-break review. I use these task cards in centers and morning work the first couple weeks after winter break. The task cards cover pretty much every skill you could need: main idea, context clues, inference, sequencing, point of view, and a lot more. These are also easy to set-up. Print and make basic cuts to prepare your task cards.
More Winter Activities
If your students are begging for more winter classroom activities to go with these winter read alouds, I have several blog posts with more winter fun. Here's a comprehensive list of math and literacy holiday activities for upper elementary.
If you want something a bit more festive, these Christmas activities are the way to go.
If you want to learn about the various winter holidays, these holidays around the world activities are educational and fun.