Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: December 2016
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Snowman Creative Writing Project - Perfect for December or January

Today I'm jumping in with a winter idea that you can print and implement in an instant for some winter/holiday snowman fun. It's my snowman creative writing project.

Over the years, I've used this writing project for different holidays--Halloween/fall, winter, and Valentines--to provide something educational, worthwhile, and fun for my 4th and 5th graders.
This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

If you knew me in real life, you'd know we don't ever "party" in my classroom. But, we do have fun educational celebrations {wink}. Over the years, I've come to realize that there's nothing wrong with letting your hair down a few times a year and having a little fun.

Whether you are a big classroom reveler or you are still in the "we don't have parties camp," I think this snowman creative writing project will be perfect for your classroom.

If you want to squeeze it in before holiday break, 1-2 weeks to prepare the stories should be sufficient. If you need something for your return in January, well, this is all about snowpeople, and in my neck of the woods, it will be getting even colder in January ;) 

In this writing unit, students write an imaginative narrative about a snowman with a given character trait. You could also focus on writing poetry or let students decide.

Students do a craft or art component by creating a 3D snowman or just illustrating their snowman on paper to go along with their story (depending on how much time I have to allot for this mini-unit).

Here's what I do:

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read my full disclosure here.

1. Launch the Mini-Writing Unit

I do this with a picturebook like Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner.  I usually read just one, but it would be absolutely perfect to read 3-4 different snowman books prior to launching this unit.

Most of the snowman-themed books I have found are very short, so this wouldn't be hard to do. Snowman Magic by Katherine Tegen, All you Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle, Snowmen at Playand Snowmen at Work (both also by Caralyn Buehner) are some other great reads.

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

2. Choose Character Traits

Next, I have each student choose a snowman trait from a set of adjectives I have generated for the project. Each student receives a different trait so that students learn about as many different words as possible during this project.

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!


This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

3. Use Graphic Organizers

I created different graphic organizers for students to use in exploring their word. Students use dictionaries, thesauruses, and other resources to learn definitions, synonyms, and antonyms of their word and complete the graphic organizer. Word exploration takes at least 1-2 writing workshop periods. We love to use wordhippo to help us in our research, but thesauruses are also necessary.


This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

4. Start Writing!

As students finish up their word research, they move into their actual snowman creative writing project. They use a "character questionnaire" to explore their character to deepen their understanding of the trait,  and to brainstorm and plan their stories. As students plan their stories, I am sure to check their ideas and talk to them about whether or not their character's actions represent the character trait they are supposed to.

Sometimes students incorporate character change into their story--for example, a jubilant snowman could be cantankerous or grumpy at the beginning of the story, but along the way, he found the holiday spirit and became the most jubilant snowman in all the land. :)

Some of your writing lessons could even aim for teaching students to create character change in their stories and this would allow them to utilize their synonyms and antonyms more easily. A simple "beginning, middle, and end" graphic organizer is perfect for having students describe the character at the beginning, think about events that could happen to cause the character to change, then describe the character at the end.

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

5. Draft & Publish

Next, students draft and publish their story. They also sketch out and plan what their character looks like by drawing him/her on a sheet of paper. I give students a sheet of facial expressions to help guide their artwork.

6. Decorate!!!

THIS IS WHERE YOU GO ALL OUT! YOU PARTY ANIMAL ;) The next step is snowman decoration day! I gather tons of craft items that students can use to decorate a 3D snowman (using paper plates, Styrofoam balls, tea lights, marshmallows and pretzels, or any other snazzy idea you can find on pinterest). I invite a few parents to come help us. If you do not want to make 3D snowmen, students can simply complete their snowman character on the snowman design template.

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

7. Celebrate!

And the very last step is to CELEBRATE! To prepare for the celebration, you can have students' snowman designs and stories set up around the classroom. Readers move from story to story leaving “Snowman Shout Outs” (aka positive feedback) for the writer. My students love to celebrate this way AND the room is always quiet with everyone reading happily.

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!This writing celebration is PERFECT for the last day you have before winter break. I mean, what could be better than your students rotating the room, reading one another's stories in near silence, and checking out each other's art work? Not to mention, having students write compliments to each writer on a sticky note is pretty heartwarming as students express kind words to one another.

Take the Learning Deeper

One last thing I do for the celebration is have students complete a word chart after reading each story. They simply fill in a definition, synonyms, and antonyms for the word that was the focus on their classmate's story. This is a great way to reinforce vocabulary learning!

Add Some Sweetness

To make this celebration even SWEETER, serve hot chocolate and candy canes and you will be making MEMORIES for your students! {low prep, low stress, educationally worthwhile memories :)} Don't forget to invite your principal to stop by during your celebration!


No matter the activity or idea you choose, I do hope you take some time to let your hair down and let loose with your students. I truly believe that while my job is to create passionate readers, competent and joyful math students, and all-around good children in my classroom, a little part of my job is also helping to add memories to their childhood. I hope my students look back fondly on our snowman, valentine, and pumpkin personality units!

Click over to grab your snowman creative writing project resource now!

This snowman creative writing project is a great way to let your upper elementary students have some fun before or after the holiday break. You can use it in December during the week before Christmas vacation, or use it to dive back into learning in January. Either way your 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students are going to have a strong focus on reading, writing, vocabulary, and character traits. It's a great, individualized project that you can differentiate to meet ALL students needs!

Why Your Students May NOT Like Task Cards

Having trouble harnessing the magic of task cards and getting students to fall in love with them? Read for 5 reasons why your students may not enjoy task card activities and pick up some tips for using task cards in your classroom. I also share how to use task cards, how to manage task cards in whole group instruction, and how to use task cards to differentiate in math class! Perfect for 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade but others may benefit too!

I once had a teacher friend say to me, "My students don't like task cards." After picking my jaw up off the floor and wracking my brain for a single student that didn't respond positively to task cards in my past 5 years of using them, I realized that this response may have come from differences in the way task cards are implemented and used in the classroom.

So, today, I'd like to describe how I use task cards in my math class. I'd love to know if I share anything with you here that is a new way of looking at task cards.

HOW I PREP TASK CARDS
I know many teachers use task cards for math stations or centers, but I almost always launch a set of task cards by using them in whole group first. If the task card set has been designed with levels of difficulty or in sets of tasks that increase in challenge, I print the task cards on different colors of card stock. I print the answer keys and write the color the task cards were printed on on the top of each one. (So, if I printed the task cards on lovely neon green cardstock, I write GREEN on the top of the answer key). I place each answer key in a plastic sheet protector to keep it clean.

WORK TIME: Whole Group using the same set of cards
Now, depending on where my students are in their learning of the skills and objectives, I may have 2-3 sets of task cards in use OR I may be using one set of task cards with the whole group.

If I'm using one set of task cards for whole group, I place cards all around the room, 1-2 per desk and then put a few at the carpet, the kidney table, on top of reachable bookshelves and sometimes in the whiteboard tray. (If you think you have to tape all of your task cards up around the room and in the hallway like a scavenger hunt to get students to enjoy them--you don't! Save yourself some prep time and just train students in how to spread them around the room.)

After task cards are spread out, students move around the room as they wish, solving card after card. I either stand at my bookshelf, grab a student desk where I can easily monitor everyone, or sit at my back table to help students who ask for it and check their answer sheets. I expect students to check in with me throughout their task card work and sometimes have an extra adult in the room who also has an answer key (ummmm #lifesaver #thankyouUareAWESOME!) I ask students who are struggling to come check in with me after every problem solved (or we just grab a seat next to each other with them working while students come to me to get checked). It works like a well-oiled machine, I promise.

WORK TIME: Multiple Sets of Cards for Differentiation
If I am using multiple sets of task cards {because my students have shown that they need me to differentiate their practice, see these subtracting fractions task cards for an example}, I create a chart to display on the smartboard showing each student where they will be working. I can have students working on three different task card sets at the front of the room, at my carpet, and at a table or at their own desks. {One year, I figured out how to get TWO CARPETS into my classroom. It was glorious!} Now that I've got students in 2-3 differentiated groups, I bet you can guess who I'll sit down by and who I'll spend most of my time with. My higher kids will come to me to ask questions about what they don't understand. Often, when I've gone over a tough question with one student, I then make them the go-to person for that question. {works like a charm and ensures that I didn't do the work for them without them truly understanding}.

Note: I also get into times where I have 2-3 sets of task cards going because some students have finished a set of task cards and were ready to move on to the next level. {I always have the next-harder set of task cards prepped and ready to go for occasions like this!}

CLEAN UP
When clean up time comes, my students know to search the room for task cards. Usually, a few students take responsibility for collecting task cards and a few students take the answer sheets. (I make it clear that I do NOT want materials brought to me). Either myself or a few students organize all of the materials at our small group table. The task cards go in a plastic bag. The student answer sheets, task card answer keys, and the bag of task cards get clipped together for easy clean up.

Now that you know how I implement task cards, let's get back to why your students may not like task cards...here are some reasons I thought of:
Having trouble harnessing the magic of task cards and getting students to fall in love with them? Read for 5 reasons why your students may not enjoy task card activities and pick up some tips for using task cards in your classroom. I also share how to use task cards, how to manage task cards in whole group instruction, and how to use task cards to differentiate in math class! Perfect for 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade but others may benefit too!

1) You put your task cards in a center before introducing the cards or the concepts. Some students may feel uncomfortable or unprepared for working on the cards independently--even if you feel you have differentiated your stations.

2) You always expect students to be silent or work completely independent when working on task cards. Task cards are not worksheets! The beauty of task cards is that they can be used to get students on their feet. They may want to socialize from time to time (or they may talk to help one another), but it's not necessary that they are completely silent during task card work.

3) You are not rotating the room and checking their work to give instant feedback (gratification) and encouragement. Maybe you are tied down to a small group or to 1-2 students who need more help. Be sure you take a break from them from time to time and check on the rest of the class. Better yet, set your students who need one on one attention up with a partner that can provide them the support they need so that you will be available to work with everyone. I find INSTANT FEEDBACK is part of the magic of task cards versus worksheets.

4)  Your students are unmotivated or stressed because they have to finish all of the task cards before they can do something else. When I implement a set of task cards, I rarely expect students to complete every single problem. Some task card sets have 30-40 questions and some students work more slowly than others. Expect an appropriate amount of questions to be answered, but don't make students feel punished just because a task card creator gave you more cards to work with than your students can complete in 1-2 sittings.

5) Your students see the cards as busy work because they are not challenging enough for their learning needs. Once a student has shown mastery of the concepts, I often go ahead and move them on to more challenging task cards or math projects. No need to keep working on something that you already know how to do well.

If you have felt unsuccessful using task cards in the past, I encourage you to think about why they didn't feel successful. What wasn't working? (I'd really love to hear about it in the comments or in an email @ tarheelstateteacher@gmail.com). Make sure that you are not using task cards like "glorified worksheets" (click to read that post to learn more about why I think task cards are magical if you haven't already!) and give it another shot!

Need some task cards? I'm here to help because I am madly in love with task cards as a differentiation and teaching strategy!
Grab your 4th and 5th grade task cards aligned to the common core math standards and other important upper elementary math content.

 Check out the mega bundle of all of my 4th and 5th fractions task cards; lots of real-world themes incorporated in these task cards to help students connect fraction concepts to real-world concepts.

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