How do you engage your students in learning on a snow/cold day?

I’ve been enjoying this series of reflections from #mschat from last week and today’s question is no different. How do teachers keep students engaged in learning over the course of a snow/cold day cancellation? I have a few thoughts on it and I’m inclined to take an contrarian position today than most of the participants did in the chat, just for the sake of argument.

There was a fair amount of chatter on this question about keeping kids employed working on challenge problems, assignments via website, blog, edmodo, etc. A perfect example of this sentiment came from @mrgranito

“Post a “bonus” video or activity on edmodo/blog/website. Stir up conversation with the kids while they’re at home.”

and @theemrmoore,

“Social media platform for snow day challenge a nice rallying-up point for students. Get a hashtag going. Connect it to Ss”

Now, I’m for trying to get kids in think while they are off for a day because of inclement weather. At the same time, I also believe that kids need a day off from doing school related activities. I try to remember that I was once a kid and remember with affection the days cancelled on account of inclement weather we often filled with hours of sledding down steep hills we weren’t suppose to, or snowball fights, building snow castles and forts for the previously mentioned snowball fights. We teachers sometimes overthink things and forget that the need for separation is just as important as the need for engagement. Thankfully I wasn’t alone in this concept. @RoanHoward seemed to agree with me with his tweet,

“On a snow day, I’d say just have fun and be a kid… Unless you’re bored, then work on your #geniushour project”

I like how he added “unless you’re bored, then work on your #geniushour project”. What he implied (I think) is that teachers can provide options for their students to extend their learning if they are motivated to. That is the key. If a teacher has laid the proper groundwork, then the engagement is already there and some (not all… let’s be realistic here) of the students will engage with the extra short video clip, or possible experiment to run (like @Meffscience  “Try to show them they can learn when not in school.  Like taking hot water, throwing it in the air changing to snow when cold”). The point is that we, as the teacher, have to remember a little bit of what it was like to be a kid. We often get too caught up in our current stressed lives of high stakes testing and other pressures on us and feel like we have to be teaching all the time, even when the kids aren’t required to be there. I say the snow day is an important reminder to take the foot off the gas pedal… just for today.

With the invention of acuweather reporting and the interweb there is a better chance that we are aware of possible snow days a few days in advance of any impending snowmagedon or snowpacolypse. Be honest with students about the possibility of impending doom and work with them and ask them what would be a good idea to extend learning if a snow day occurs. I tell my students that if they want to, I’m usually available online during the course of the day. If they find a cool TED talk, CPG Grey video, or a CrashCourse History video to watch (Check out the recent Lord of the Rings mythology explained by CPG Grey!!!) I’ll post it to my webpage and ask the kids to come up with some questions for the rest of class. I always stress that these activities are not required but they are thought provoking. I usually get between 10-20 kids on a regular basis participating. That rate tends to go up over the course of the year because word-of-mouth testimonials from the students gets the other kids excited. The whole point of what we do is to inspire kids to want to learn, always.


“Have to make school and learning something STUDENTS miss and desire”

Yup. Well said. 

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