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57 Activities for January, by Elizabeth Swartz

57 Skill-Building Activities You Can Use Right Now!

    Primary Grades

  1. Clothespin Math
    Math Write digits on clothespins. Have students put the clothespins in order, separate the odds from the evens or use them to make addition sentences.

  2. Animal Homes
    Science Decorate a bulletin board for center work with a background depicting mountains, forests, streams and the ocean. Have students color, cut out and place animals in the correct habitat.

  3. Letters to Grandma
    Social Studies/Writing As part of Universal Letter Writing Week (January 7-11), share this poem with young students and help them write letters to grandparents.

  4. The Letter

    by Heidi Bee Roemer

    Grandma was sick,
    so I sent her a letter.
    "Dear Grandma," I wrote,
    "I hope you feel better.

    I love you a lot
    and it's you that I miss.
    Please get well soon.
    Here's a hug and kiss."

    I drew a big X
    and beside it, an O.
    I mailed that letter,
    and what do you know?

    Grandma wrote back!
    I was glad she felt better.
    "Thank you," she wrote,
    "for your wonderful letter!"

  5. Shapely Sun Catchers
    Math/Art Place crayon shavings between two pieces of waxed paper and iron on low for 5-8 minutes. Have children cut out various shapes to display.

  6. An Awesome Dictionary
    Reading When introducing the dictionary, take your young students to the Little Explorers illustrated dictionary at www.enchantedlearning.com to see pictures, words and descriptions as well as web links, print-outs and craft ideas. What a great way to make research fun!

  7. Germ Busters
    Health Spend time showing and explaining how to correctly wash hands. Use foamy, scented soap and have children scrub their hands for as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" two times (10-15 seconds) to kill all those mid-winter germs.

  8. Book Opposites by Robert Crowther
  9. Opposites
    Reading/Art Share the interactive book Opposites by Robert Crowther (Candlewick, 2005). Then, have students make single-word vocabulary cards to illustrate with light/dark, one/many, etc.

  10. Remember Me?
    Language Write a word using glue and place a string over it. After it has hardened, cover it with a blank piece of paper. Have the student do a crayon rubbing to discover the hiding word. Do they recognize it? Can they do the same with their own name or word of the day?

  11. Sign with words puerta/door
  12. Global Labels
    Languages Have ESL students make labels for the door, window, desk, etc. that depict their own words for those objects. Include the bathroom door and nurse's room, then add the international signs for restroom and first aid.

  13. Story Sequencing
    Reading Provide some clothespins on which are written the words like, first, second, then and finally. Ask the students to select one pin at a time while telling a story to help organize thoughts. Older students might write one word or short phrase on a card to attach to the appropriate pin.

  14. Place Value Fans
    Math Use 5"x 8" card stock and tongue depressors to make place value fans. Make a set with the digits from 0-9 in one color, then a set in another color so that each place value will be a different color. Send students to the front of the room, call out a number and have them create that number. Ask other class members which digit is in the tens spot, etc. Reuse the fans to make number sentences.

  15. Exciting Instruments
    Reading/Music Begin by reading M is For Music by Kathleen Krull (Harcourt, 2003). Then, display pictures of instruments that go with the letters of the alphabet. Add drums and bongos, banjos and accordions. Bring in examples if possible.

  16. Parent Activity
    Science/Nutrition Spend a family mealtime discussing what you are eating. Determine which food groups are represented, where the food comes from as well as where and how it is grown and harvested. Is it seasonal? Is it nutritious? How does it help one's body? How do different family members feel after eating this particular meal – energized? Calm? Sluggish or hyper?

  17. Put It Together
    Grammar Provide two boxes of slips of paper, the papers in one containing subjects and in the other, predicates. Allow the students to select one of each and put them together. Can they make these into a sentence? Can they add more detail and turn the sentence into a story?

  18. Outdoor Play
    Physical Education Read this poem aloud, then talk about all the things kids like to do in the snow. Wearing snow clothes, go outside and try these activities. If you live in a warm climate, encourage students to build an outdoor maze of boxes to crawl through.

  19. Snow Days

    by Martin Shaw

    like to make snow angels,
    As my arms swish to and fro,
    I like to make snow angels,
    As I loll about in snow.

    I like to make large snow forts,
    And wriggle throughout their maze,
    That's why I like the winter,
    'Cause there's snow for days and days.

  20. Moving Molecules
    Science Demonstrate how heat energy affects the movement of molecules by filling two identical, clear glasses with the same amount of water. Use cold water in one glass and hot in the other. Add two drops of food coloring to each glass. Observe how quickly the color spreads throughout. Which water colors faster, cold or hot? What does this tell us about how heat affects the molecule movement?

  21. Environmental Inventions
    Science Show students a picture of snowshoes. Bring a pair in for display, if possible. Discuss how the snowshoe works and why it was invented. What else has been invented to fulfill a need presented by the environment? What would your students invent to meet an environmental challenge?

  22. Snowman
  23. Winter Friends
    Art/Writing Give students handouts depicting three overlapping circles on each that will serve as the body of a snowman. Students will color in the bottom two circles while staying inside the lines. Continue with step-by-step directions for sequencing, allowing students to select colors and objects on their own from a selection of craft supplies. When complete, help them make a large flowchart of the steps to building a snowman.

  24. Tracks and Snow
    Science Read aloud In The Snow by Sharon Phillips Denslow, (Greenwillow, 2005). Set some seeds outdoors for winter friends, near the school, if possible. Visit the site and observe any animal tracks, taking note of the findings and researching to whom these tracks may belong. Alternately, ask students to do this experiment at home with cameras ready. In places where there is no snow, surround feeders with a layer of white powder safe to animals, like corn starch.

  25. Mouth Music
    Music Introduce music using the old favorite, the kazoo. Play everyday songs together. Then assign one group to be your "percussion" section and just kazoo to the beat. Try some marching music to feel the beat more easily. Kazoo to a favorite recorded song or ask the music teacher to play something on the piano for students to echo.

  26. Onomatopoeia Today
    Writing Hang large pictures of two different animals where all the children can see. For a first time, you may want to use cartoon-type pictures. Hand out paper cut in the shape of dialogue balloons. Have each child write in his or her balloons what one animal might say and what the other would say in response. The students can then take turns posting their conversations next to the animals.

  27. Shapely Exercise
    Physical Education/Math Use sidewalk chalk on the blacktop playground or parking lot to make large circles, triangles, squares, etc. Have the children skip around one, jog around another, etc. Draw cards to select an activity and the shape to make it exciting and provide for variation.

  28. Middle Grades

  29. Study Buddy Guides
    Reading/Content Have students work in groups at the end of a unit to prepare study guides for one another. Design an essay question, a vocabulary word search, an auditory review of the mail points. The guide could be in print or in the form of a PowerPoint review. Rotate the groups so one group will complete a different group's guide.

  30. Building a Scene
    Language/Art Before beginning a writing assignment, give each student a shoe box to use in making a diorama of a kitchen. Make sure details are included like the oven mitt, the newspapers on the counter, the cat dish on the floor, etc. Write some dialogue that takes place in the kitchen between two people. Then, put the dialogue and the details together to complete a story. Repeat this activity with a living room or restaurant theme.

  31. Map
  32. The Great Underground
    Geography/Mapping When teaching mapping skills, include subways by taking even your country kids to the New York City subway system at www.mta.info. Have students find their way from one landmark of the city to another. Then see if they can find subway maps for other major cities. How about the railway system in Europe?

  33. Happy Birthday, Ben!
    History/Math In honor of Benjamin Franklin's 300th birthday, students around the world are asked to flip a coin 10 times and enter their "heads or tails" data at The Franklin Institute Online. In the United States, students are urged to use a penny in honor of Ben Franklin's famous saying, "A penny saved is a penny earned." Enter results at www.fi.edu. To share more quotes from Ben, take your students to www.ushistory.org.

  34. Wonderful Water
    Science For some wonderful classroom science activities and projects involving water, go to www.homeschooling-ideas.com. For example, with just a bowl, some water, a mirror, white paper and a sunny day, your class can learn how to split light into a spectrum.

  35. Math Spheres
    Math Provide a styrofoam ball for each student. He or she will then measure the circumference and figure it out using the formula C=?d. Are the results the same for each ball? Cut the balls in half so students may measure and figure out the radius of the balls. Do the formulas hold true? Why do we need formulas? If more tests are necessary, conduct them on other round objects, such as grapefruits and tennis balls.

  36. Dear Dragon
    Reading/Writing Many readers the world over love dragons. On January 16, Appreciate a Dragon Day, take your students to www.meltells.com for some fun reading about Mel the Dragon. See your librarian for a great read-aloud book or ask your students for suggestions. Then write essays about why dragons are so much fun to read about and create stories containing wild illustrations of dragons.

  37. Parent Activity
    Math/Health/Science While waiting for your dinner to arrive at a restaurant, ask your children to estimate and then figure out the cost of dinner and an appropriate tip. Use pencils sometimes and calculators sometimes. Then talk about where the food comes from in our country and what is in season or out of season. Does that affect the cost? Why?

  38. Sticks and Stones
    Writing/Social Studies The truth is that names do hurt. The week of January 21-25 has been set aside for No Name-Calling Week, and is an ideal time for teachers to discuss this matter with students as part of tolerance training. Ask students to write about a time when being called a name hurt them, or when they called someone names. Go to www.nonamecallingweek.org for more suggestions.

  39. Hamsters with Angles
    Reading/Math Read aloud Hamster Champs by Stuart J. Murphy (HarperCollins, 2005), in which a team of feisty hamsters demonstrate angle measurement. Then, pass out protractors, rulers, small toy cars and cardboard with which to create ramps, and replicate the hamsters' stunts. In the back of the book are several other angle-measuring activities for adults and kids.

  40. Pass the Germs
    Health Try this experiment from Bill Nye the Science Guy's Great Big Book of Tiny Germs by Bill Nye (Hyperion, 2005). Put glitter on the hands of some students in the room. Have those students shake hands with one friend each and then go back to work. Later in the day, under bright light, look at everyone's hands, as well as their faces, pencils, desks, etc. How did all those "germs" travel? How could their spread be lessened? There are lots of great germ experiments available in this book.

  41. Chapter Reports
    Nonfiction Writing When students write a report about animals, have each chapter, even if it is only one page long, be a different topic. Some chapter examples: habitat, food, growth stages and life expectancy. Once students know what they are looking for and where to categorize it, visit YahooKids with them to find the information needed.

  42. The Lay of the Library
    Social Studies While teaching mapping skills, take the class to the library. Map it. Make a key showing Fiction, Nonfiction, Research, Periodicals, etc. Color code the map and then have it checked by the librarian. Leave some maps on display to help other students locate materials.

  43. Dodecahedron
  44. Fantastic Figures
    Math/Geometry Check out www.enchantedlearning.com for pictures of geometric forms that can be printed and completed, like this dodecahedron.

  45. Holey Music
    Music Read I Wonder Why Flutes Have Holes and Other Questions About Music by Josephine Parker (Kingfisher,1995). This book illustrates instruments from around the world and gives the seating chart for an orchestra. Perhaps provide your students with the seating chart while listening to an orchestral score together. Help students identify which sections are playing when.

  46. "Click"
    Reading/Writing Read aloud any of David A. Adler's Cam Jansen books. Then, to encourage your students to practice remembering details, say "click" at various times throughout the day. Students will then close their eyes and try to recall everything they have just seen or heard. Have them open their eyes and quickly write down what they remember. Did someone just enter or leave the room? What is currently on the board? Who was speaking last? Very few people have the kind of photographic memory that Cam Jansen has, but we can all improve our attention to detail with practice.

  47. Jack Who?
    Science/Reading/Poetry Use the following poem to illustrate personification. What human traits does the author give to winter? Research to find out when the idea of Jack Frost originated. What other human traits are given to weather conditions?

  48. Jack Frost

    by Martin Shaw

    He causes lakes and ponds to freeze,
    Turns pale cheeks crimson red,
    Makes people wear warm coats of down,
    And hats atop their head.

    Whenever he comes on the scene,
    A strong chill fills the air,
    For Jack Frost brings the coldest cold,
    And forms ice everywhere.

  49. Year of the Tiger
    Social Studies/Art This year, February 10 starts the 15-day celebration of the Chinese New Year. 2013 is the year of the Snake; what do the different animals of the Chinese zodiac represent? en.wikipedia.org is an informative site about Chinese New Year. What celebrations are being planned in your area or in the closest city? Ask Chinese families in your community how you might learn about and participate in their festivities.

  50. Personification
    Writing Collect a set of pictures and attach them to construction paper. Include animals, furniture, trees, etc. Pass out the pictures and have each student study one picture and then assign to it some human characteristics. Have students consider cartoons with which they're familiar to help them get started. What kind of story can come from a tree being able to talk? How might a talking couch change your lifestyle? Help stories begin here and see where they go.

  51. The Ol' Nor'easter
    Science What exactly is a Nor'easter? Go to www.accuweather.com to research and follow weather patterns. Have students make weather maps using laminated continental maps. Use washable markers to track storm fronts. Different groups might use different weather information systems. Keep track of which forecasts prove correct. Does one service have a smaller margin of error than another? What could account for that difference?

  52. Snowflakes
  53. No Two Are Alike
    Reading/Language William "Snowflake" Bentley (1865-1931) was a famed photographer of these unique and beautiful ice crystals. Learn about this self-taught artist by reading aloud the Caldecott medal book Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Houghton Mifflin, 1998). Collect snow on a cold cookie sheet covered with a piece of black construction paper. Observe, photograph, sketch and make a list of descriptive words about the snowflakes. Collect as many different samples as possible. Compare and contrast the flakes.

  54. Mirror Image
    Art Have your students draw and cut handheld mirror shapes from colored posterboard, then cut white circles to fit these frames. Encourage the kids to draw self-portraits on the circles, glue these portraits to the frames and write descriptions comparing the drawings and their real faces using descriptive words and details.

  55. Intermediate Grades

  56. History in the Making
    Social Studies Help students start and maintain a notebook on developments in Iraq. Whether one is in favor of the war or not, the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is a significant point of history. Follow the development of the new Iraqi constitution. Discuss sticking points as they appear in the news. How is their constitution like ours? How is it different?

  57. Vertical Timelines
    Social Studies/Art Select a day and research events that happened on this day throughout history. Create a vertical timeline that students can use to see developmental changes. Use color art to illustrate recent happenings and black and white for past events. A great help in this project is the book Today in History: A Day-by-Day Review of World Events (DK, 2003), which is based on the television show This Week in History on the History Channel.

  58. Magazines
  59. Favorite Magazines
    Reading/Writing Do an informal study of favorite magazines within your school. Provide those magazines to your class to read and compare. Do the favorites lean mainly toward fiction or nonfiction? Is there a difference between what boys and girls are reading? Are the magazines related to particular hobbies? What needs do magazines fulfill for people? Write up the research results.

  60. Franklin on the Move
    Geography A traveling exhibition about Benjamin Franklin will visit five U.S. cities this year. Have students research the tour locations by going to www.benfranklin300.com. What things will be traveling with the exhibition? Are any of the cities near your school? Could a field trip be planned?

  61. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  62. Remembering Dr. King
    Social Studies As a class, research and read books and/or articles about Martin Luther King, Jr. Discuss his work and then have students write an essay considering how their own lives might have been different if not for Dr. King's contributions. How has Dr. King influenced the world? Discuss how one person can be a changing force in the world. How would your students like to effect change in the world?

  63. Science Fair, Here I Come
    Science Help students pick appropriate projects for upcoming science fairs by taking them to www.scienceproject.com to look over possibilities. Have them consider materials, complexity and time required in choosing a project.

  64. Identifying Parts
    Writing After students complete a writing assignment, give them a set of sticky notes on which to write: beginning, middle, ending, turning point, main idea, topic sentence, etc. Have them place each sticky note on the appropriate part of the writing piece. It will help the student know when the piece is finished – and help you see where he or she needs guidance.

  65. Frisbee Physics
    Science Go outdoors, to the gymnasium or to a large room where flight experiments can be done safely. Mark the starting spot. Take turns each throwing a frisbee 10 times in the same direction and measuring the distance traveled. Then carefully cut the rim off the frisbee and repeat the experiment. How do the results differ? What purpose does the rim serve? Do some physics research for the answer.

  66. Parent Activity
    Time Management/Organizational Skills Take your child to a book store or office supply store to purchase a quality datebook. Make sure it provides enough room on a daily page for assignments to be written down. Help him or her get started by recording and organizing family and emergency phone numbers, addresses and schedules together. Perhaps help your child get in the habit of using it by sitting down together to update your respective books. Remind him or her frequently to write in family plans.

  67. Sports equipment
  68. Sports Math
    Math In all areas of sports, math plays a large role. See if your hockey fans know the size of an official rink, and the sizes and weights of the pucks and sticks. What are the scoring procedures, and how are penalty minutes racked up? What about the regulation circumference on a basketball? Have students select a favorite sport to research, reporting on the uses of math within that sport.

  69. Making Music
    Music Invite a local disc jockey to your classroom. Ask him or her to bring a sound board and explain and demonstrate how the mixer works to combine different instrumentation to create songs. Encourage students to ask questions related to the machinery, the music and the career. Is there a market for more disc jockeys? Does one need a specific educational background? Is this something students could apprentice in on weekends while in high school?

  70. Winter Camouflage
    Reading/Poetry/Art Share the following poem. What other weather phenomena covers everything in its path? Search online for images of snowstorms and sandstorms. In what climates and parts of the world are these happenings most likely? Compare and contrast the two. Which would your students rather experience?

  71. Snowflakes

    by Martin Shaw

    They never ever make a sound
    When they come floating to
    the ground.
    Unless you see them as they fall,
    You'd never know they came at all.

    They cover cars and houses, too,
    Just like a blanket covers you.
    These flakes of snow, serene
    and white,
    Fall silently by day and night.

  72. My Blood, Your Blood
    Science/Community Service January is National Volunteer Blood Donor Month. While the minimum age to donate blood is 17 in most states, younger students nationwide organize blood drives in their schools and communities. Your students can learn all about what blood is comprised of and the functions it serves by visiting www.mybloodyourblood.org. To organize a blood drive at your school, go to www.americasblood.org and click on "information for students."

Tawnee Swartz, State College, PA #18; Sherry Timberman, Sanford, ME, #43; Marie Cecchini, West Dundee, IL, #44.

POETRY: "The Letter" by Heidi Bee Roemer, Orland Park, IL. "Snow Days," "Jack Frost" and "Snow Flakes" by Martin Shaw, Bronxville, NY.

Illustrations by H. Robert Loomis. Opposites Copyright ® 2005 Robert Crowther. Candlewick Press, Inc.

30+ Days of Activities