Winter Themed Lesson Plans
Here we are folks, JANUARY! What a year 2020 has been to say the least. The stretch of school between Thanksgiving and Holiday break goes by so quickly, and it’s definitely a time of year when I need easy, low-prep, therapy options because things feel busier than ever leading up to Christmas. Winter is not my favorite season, but it definitely opens up some amazing opportunities for thematic therapy. I love the inclusivity of seasonal themed therapy and how I can utilize these therapy ideas for months! Our “snowy” season here can sometimes last from November to April… ugh… but I do appreciate that this is a theme I can use week after week! Let’s jump into this “week’s” therapy plan!
This week’s theme: WINTER
My Winter Theme Unit is great for all grade levels, so I love using that to start my sessions.
As a warm-up, I like to use some of the Story Prop/Sensory Bin pictures, specifically the ones featuring children and different winter actions. For remote sessions, I’ll simply rotate the PDF and use the annotate feature to target Pronouns, either receptively or expressively. For a receptive language warm-up, I like to give directions targeting pronouns such as “Touch… SHE is sledding” or “Touch… HE is skiing.” For some of my preschoolers, whose parents sit in on sessions with us, I’ll ask the parent to tell me if they pointed to the correct picture, then circle it myself using the annotate feature, or for older students with greater independence, I’ll have them circle or mark the correct corresponding picture with the annotate tool. To target expressive language, I might ask questions about the pictures and ask students to respond using targeted pronouns, basic concepts, adjectives, verb use, etc. For in person therapy, I target this concept in similar ways, but I like to print, cut and laminate the pieces beforehand. For group sessions, I might mix the pictures up and give a few different cards to each student, then ask questions like “Who has… a boy throwing a snowball?” which creates greater opportunities for turn-taking, answer questions, understanding basic concepts, etc.
Another fun activity for both remote and in-person sessions is charades using the Winter Verb Mats. First, I like to review all the different verbs or vocabulary targets with my students so they can easily identify what each picture is and know the correct labels for them, then I’ll instruct my students to act out an action they see on the mat. If I (or other students for groups) can guess their action correctly, I’ll mark that picture with their initial or color. Sometimes, we’ll play until all the pictures have been filled in, or depending on my student/group I might make it a game to see who can have the most spots filled in of their color. It’s a quick task, but gets my students up and moving which is so important for my remote learners.
Another quick warm-up is to target sequencing using the winter activities in this resource. It’s a chance to tie in vocabulary and use real-life examples as these are activities that most children are familiar with; making hot chocolate, getting dressed in winter gear, and building a snowman. I like to practice sequencing skills, and incorporate sequential vocabulary into more drill based, structured tasks while also targeting it during literacy activities.
Speaking of literacy activities, one of my favorite Winter themed books is “A Loud Winter’s Nap” by Katy Hudson. (Katy Hudson’s books are usually some of my favorites no matter the season, can you tell?!) It’s the story of a somewhat grumpy Tortoise trying to find a place to sleep quietly through the winter, but his busier winter-loving friends keep waking him up. My book companion for this story is a no-prep, no print resource which makes it great for both in-person and tele-therapy sessions! Like all of my book companions, you can target vocabulary, “wh” questions, basic concepts, compare & contrast, grammar and sequencing. There is also a breakdown of the common core standards that can be addressed with this material!
Because I’m working with primarily preschoolers this year, I will definitely utilize the basic concepts activities to go along with our story. I love to target basic concepts outside of simple drills, or concept reviews because it helps to develop a greater understanding of those concepts and attach greater meaning to the language we use during these activities. After basic concepts, I might work on categories depending on my student and their goals. There are three different activities within the categories section of this book companion: What Belongs, What Doesn’t Belong, and Name the Category. I used vocabulary from the story for these sections so it ties perfectly in with the themes of winter and woodland creatures and can even be used independently from the book. For some of my older students with more specific literacy goals. I might also target sequencing which is great for recalling details as well!
For a read aloud version of this story, simply click on the picture of the story on the first page to bring you to a YouTube link. The pace for this version is a little fast, especially for my preschoolers, but I love when the video shows a clear view of the entire book because I can mute the story and read it aloud myself. I like being able to pause, give time for my students to comment, ask questions, talk about vocabulary, etc. OR if your students like to listen to the YouTube version, but you don't like the speed, change the playback speech under settings! You can select one of the presets, or choose a custom speed. For this version, I slowed it down to .85 which was a great pace while still keeping the natural sound of the voice!
(For more Katy Hudson Book Companions, check out my bundle here!)
There are so many AMAZING books centered around winter that I have a hard time picking just a few to target in therapy. Which is another reason why winter is a great theme; you can use it as a therapy target for months and never run out of materials! These Quick Prep Book Companions are a great resource to use to incorporate more specific language support and visual support into reading activities in therapy. On my busiest days for in person therapy, my go-to was to grab a game and a book and make it work! These quick books are so handy because once they are prepped I can have them ready to go whenever, and now they are also available digitally with Google Slides!
(Click here for a tutorial on how I use these digital book companions during tele-therapy)
This growing bundle includes activities for ELEVEN different winter themed activities, and includes other holidays and seasons for the entire year. Some of the winter classics include Ten on the Sled, The Mitten, Snowmen at Night and Bear Snores On. For those doing in person therapy, you can cut and laminate the pieces for activities such as feeding the Old Lady items while reading There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow, or use visuals from The Jacket I Wear in the Snow to use as a storyboard while reading the book and for story recall. Other activities target sequencing like the companion for The Mitten and Ten on the Sled, and almost all of the activities include sentence strips for extra visual support and language expansion.
I’m so excited about the digital version of these too! We all know things this year are changing so quickly, that I love having resources my students are familiar with ready for in-person and remote so there is some consistency across our services. The digital version allows you to upload a read aloud video into the slide, while still seeing the visuals below. It’s just like if we were in a therapy room together while reading a story! I like to use the annotate feature and have my students also do the same to answer questions, identify/label characters, and expand on language productions using the sentence strips. It’s such a relief during a busy time of year to know I have activities for therapy prepped and ready to go with minimal time or energy.
When I said my busy day go-to therapy plan was a book and a game, I meant it. Which is why I love this Winter Inferencing Headbands Game!
There are few things I love more than seeing tiny humans in adorable, handmade hats or headbands. Construction paper birthday crowns? Yes, please. Some kind of headband with animal ears? You bet. So how could I not make a game that incorporates great language skills and an adorable winter headband?! Are you familiar with the game Hedbanz? Kids place a picture on their forehead and others give clues to describe the picture so the child can correctly guess their item. It’s usually a big crowd pleaser, and lots of fun! This material is based on it but with more language support and vocabulary targets that tie in to our winter theme! I don’t know about y’all but I find asking questions to be a tough skill for a lot of my students to understand and utilize. The goal is to get our students to ask a variety of yes/no questions, and for their peers to answer correctly without just blurting out the picture they see. It’s a skill I definitely make sure to practice before introducing this game. This resource includes question prompts based on categories, describing words, function/use, parts and other actions. There are also sentence strips directly relating to the task which has been very helpful for my students who need simplified, visual supports! I like to print the hats on colored paper so the kids can choose their favorites, and of course I like to cut and laminate all the pieces for extra durability and ease with cleaning.
While winter might not be my favorite season, it makes a great theme for therapy and I feel like I could go on and on with other ideas tying to my favorite books, vocabulary, games and crafts. Here is a list of my winter materials and freebies:
Winter Hat Inferencing Game: My Winter Hat Inferencing Game with visuals, and sentence strips specifically matched to language use within the game. Perfect for in-person therapy this time of year!
No Print No Prep Winter Pronouns Perfect for remote instruction/tele-therapy! Download this PDF to target Pronouns and Nouns both expressively and receptively.
Winter Following Directions Target Following Directions at FOUR different levels with this coloring freebie. Great for in person therapy, just print and go!
Would You Rather Freebie: A great activity to target conversational skills, topic maintenance, expanding utterances, and just general expressive language skills!
Design a Snowman: An open-ended Snowman activity with sentence strips for extra visual support. You bring the targets, this boom deck brings the creativity!
Winter Inferencing: Listen to clues and select the correct item to match and make the correct inference! There are some Christmas/Santa items, but lots of great winter vocabulary targets too!
Virtual Snow Play with LAMP Any LAMP users out there?! This deck includes visuals from PRC’s UNITY system and is an AMAZING way to target seasonal and core vocabulary with AAC users and complex communicators!
Quick Prep Seasonal Book Companions: This growing bundle features Quick Prep Book Companions for the whole year. This bundle is slowly becoming digital on Google Slides too which makes it perfect for in-person therapy and remote learners!
A Loud Winter's Nap Book Companion: This No-Print, No-Prep Book Companion goes perfectly with a winter theme!
Angelina Ice Skates: I LOVED this story when I was little and I love to read it with my students during therapy.
Thomas’ Snowsuit: Talk about bringing the sillies to speech. This Robert Munsch classic is far-fetched, goofy and great for elementary students!
The Hat: If your students like The Mitten, try this other Jan Brett winter classic. Full of farm-animals, this is perfect for younger learners.
Want clickable links to everything we chatted about (and more?!)... You can grab your free lesson plans here! (multiple themes included!)