Motivating Kids in the Longest Short Days of Winter.

Motivating Kids in the Longest Short Days of Winter.

Every teacher with 180 school days under their belt knows the shortest days of winter can be the longest days of the school year.

winter-smallI blame it on human nature.  We instinctively want to be hold up in a cozy cave with family and food.  But now with all our civilized ways we are asked, and are asking kids to, get up in the dark, go to school and use the few warm hours of day light trapped in a florescent box thinking!  (my gawd, we must be mad!)

glitterSo what is a good teacher, who wants to make it out alive without failing 60% kids, supposed to do?  Well . . . .   the easiest thing I have found is become the caffeine, or energy boost or even the adrenaline shot.  I am not joking here.  Put on your stage face and act like spring.  Use extra lighting, dress up not down, be perky not comfortable and excite them to discover and create while they think.

How do you excite them exactly?  I use creative choice.  This doesn’t mean you need to create a project with a menu of options for a poster and oral presentation in 6 weeks.  I am talking about creative elements or new ways to demonstrate understanding.  Pull out all your best stuff and offer it up as a way to stir the inner thoughts from your hibernating bear cubs. black-bears-1328136_640

Leave behind the super predictable routine and put some glitter in those lessons plans.

Instead of creating a regular timeline teach students how to make a Mobious strip and incorporate the idea that all things repeat. eg.  Rise and fall of nations.  Rise and fall of skirt hem lines. Rise and fall of the economy. Seasons of the year. Life cycles.

Instead of writing a descriptive paragraph ask for a graphic interpretation with label.  Then create a secret code to write the words in the label to be solved like a spy!

Don’t just do arrays with linker cubes and graph paper, glue macaroni or string macaroni in a mat to show how 4 rows of 7 is 28.

Have students use and then draw Keurig cups to stacked when demonstrating odd and even numbers.

Don’t just read a biography and write an essay, create a recipe for a “personal” pizza.  Get pizza boxes donated so kids can draw or glue items on a fake pizza to show the character traits of a person.  When we did this a couple years ago in May, I knew as soon as I saw the projects roll in this would now be a winter project.  Everyone did it and the “symbolic” toppings were great!  The crust is the setting, the cheese was their predominant personality trait and the topping represented events that shaped the character into the “new” person they were at the end of the story.

These might sound like projects but they are not.  They don’t really take longer to create than the traditional assignments but they excite the kids and that is 80% of what it takes to get participation, even in the shortest longest days of winter.

Next week, for our character trait assignment, students will plan the perfect vacation.  Where would their character want to vacation, what type of lodging would they prefer, what might they eat and how would they spend their days?  By referencing the text to support their opinion I will have incited them into thinking.


If you need more ideas I would like to invite you to drop your email in below and I will send you my list of 50 ways kids can show they know.  After all, it is winter for you too and thinking is not as easy as hibernating.

Just tell me where to send it, and I will get  you my “50 ways to show they know”  right NOW!





  • Jennifer Janis
    Posted at 1:26 pm, December 4, 2016

    LOVE the pizza box idea! I’ll have to file that away for after winter break.

  • Posted at 4:39 pm, December 4, 2016

    I love all the creative ideas you have for demonstrating learning! Sometimes we get bogged down by “the test” that we forget to have fun!

  • Tobin Keeth
    Posted at 6:23 am, December 8, 2016

    Love love love these ideas! Thanks for perking me up & getting my engine going so I can help my students make this a real meaningful learning time of year:)

    Plus, I LOVE glitter! Who doesn’t love glitter?!

  • Molly Ippolito
    Posted at 6:00 pm, December 8, 2016

    Wow! Thanks for the great ideas and inspiration…I desperately need it this time of year. Thanks for reminding me that above all, as teachers we should be having fun! 😉

  • Posted at 9:08 pm, December 8, 2016

    Great post. Really like the character trait idea

  • Julie R.
    Posted at 6:07 pm, December 10, 2016

    Thank you for sharing! 🙂

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