Guest Post: Snow Days Can be ‘Grow’ Days

Snow Days Can be ‘Grow’ Days
By Eugenia Cole and Robin Banford-Geisler
Winter Break is officially over, but the winter season will likely provide a few more mini-breaks before spring arrives.  Last year, Prince William County Public Schools lost 13 days to snow–almost 3 weeks of instruction time. Although snow days can provide a welcomed break from the normal routine for parents, students, and teachers, they can also provide boundless opportunities for intentional conversation and learning at home.  
A good example of the impact even trivial communication moments have on little listeners is a conversation Mrs. Cole recently had with a kindergarten student. The young lady informed Mrs. Cole that she would soon be attending “Reading Workshop” (an after-school reading enrichment program) on Mondays, instead of her normal Thursday time.  Mrs. Cole hadn’t heard anything from the parents regarding the change, but, based on her experience with the student and her family, Mrs. Cole knew this information was something that the girl’s parents had communicated with her and the young student remembered. 
While that example of a young student’s attention to and retention of information shared in conversation may seem minute, it goes to show how responsible and responsive our younger learners can be when provided the opportunity. Often times, questions asked to kindergartners regarding real-life matters are met with shrugs and “I don’t know.” This response is not because our children are too simple or young to be aware, but simply because parents don’t often communicate with them regarding what they consider to be irrelevant topics for children. 
The difference between students who are included in higher-level discussion at home and those who are not becomes evident in classroom discussion and learning time, where a distinction emerges between which students are having things explained to them and which ones are simply having things done for them.  The simple act of regular and intentional dialogue with a kindergartner can permit high-level return in the classroom. While, understandably, parent work schedules contribute to a lack of time for intentional communication, snow days can provide a convenient opportunity to have purposeful family interaction time.
While even kindergartners are as tempted to attach themselves to their electronics as we prove to be, days off from school, prompted by winter weather, can be full of personal interaction & conversational learning for our students. These mini-breaks are a wonderful opportunity to intentionally focus on strengthening your young child’s communication skills by including them in every-day discussion. Use the together-time to help your learner build towards a successful second half of the year and beyond!  
As teachers of a younger audience, we package our learning objectives into fun and interactive lessons in order to engage kindergartners. While electronics and technology may rule our day, there is still opportunity to be creative in how you engage your kindergartner on snow days.  The right kind of game can help him/her strengthen foundational skills, such as following directions, pre-reading (making a guess about topic based on pictures, clues, etc) and working together. Below is an explanation of three great offline, or non-electronic, activities that can help your kindergartner build a solid learning foundation for 2015.
  • Indoor Games:
Brain Games are an example of activities that can help exercise and develop memory. Additionally, parentfurther.com has a list of information processing activities that are worth considering, including the 30 Second Spotlight game, in which participants pick a family related topic, take turns, and talk about the topic for 30 seconds of uninterrupted time.  This game is a great one for your student because it aims to help your kindergartner strengthen his/her listening and responding skills.
If you are already using games as a learning tool, be encouraged that your efforts are foundational. Continue to establish such routine interactions with your kindergartner during snow days and add additional games to work on new skills. 
Amazon’s Best Board Games Ages 3-8: http://www.amazon.com/Best-Board-Games-Kids-age/lm/R3SS3UTQPHD85O
  • Learning With Snow
Snow is fun to play with, but can also be fun to learn with.  Sledding, snow-ball fights, and snow man/fort building are all fun activities during snow days.  Author Jean Warren shares on preschoolexpress.com that snow, as a learning material, presents the opportunity for children to work on Thinking skills, Coordination Skills, Art Skills, Math Skills, Music Skills, Language Skills, Science Skills and Concept Skills. With a little intentionality, you can turn those and other activities into unique learning opportunities.
One example of a specific, fun snow activity that Jean Warren recommends is “Rolling and Throwing,” as explained below. 
ROLLING AND THROWING
Children naturally love to roll snow into large balls and throw smaller snowballs.  Encourage rolling and throwing.  Both of these activities help your child develop their coordination skills.  Instead of throwing balls at people, help your child set up a row of plastic bottles to knock over or a tire to throw through.
You can learn more about this activity at http://www.preschoolexpress.com/learning-station09/learning-with-snow-december.shtml.  Although this article is geared towards preschoolers, these activities can be beneficial for your kindergartner as well!
  • Experimenting
The third important opportunity we highly encourage you to take advantage of is providing times for experimenting. One of those things very obvious in the classroom is the difference between students who are not allowed to experiment, for parental fear of inaccuracy, and those who are challenged to develop independence and find a way to do things on their own.  
A practical example of how student experimenting provides advancements in independent thinking comes from a summer camp situation. During those days filled with heat, we like to offer the students a treat of ice cream in little cups that usually have wooden spoons attached for convenient scooping.  However, one time, the wooden spoons were not included with the ice cream cups.  We had kindergartners begin to cry because they could not figure out how to eat the ice cream without the little spoons.  This presented an opportunity for the kindergartners to problem solve and use reasoning skills to figure out how to eat the ice cream without the relied-upon spoon.  We began to experiment with the students to figure out (non-messy) ways to eat the ice cream, like taking the time to lick the ice cream, squeezing the cup to get the ice cream out, or folding up the lid to make it into a spoon in order to scoop the ice cream out. While exercises in experimenting open doors to less than perfect results, they establish skills in solving problems, encouraging creativity, and rewarding diligence. 
Take time during the snow days to experiment and create opportunities for your young student to practice problem solving and reasoning skills. Intentionally create scenarios in which normal tools are not available to accomplish a task and guide your child toward figuring out how to overcome the challenge faced.  
All of the above-mentioned opportunities, and others like them, can not only create new, important life-skills for your young student, but they can also serve the double benefit of building their self-esteem and sense of security.  Engaging your kindergartner in any of these simple, offline activities will allow your student to more fully and effectively engage in the classroom, more prepared to learn and grow during the second half of the school year.  
If you have any questions related to Kindergarten please send an email to Bcitizen@christchapel.org 
CCA’s next Open House is January 24th from 1pm-3pm.
Authors:
Robin Banford-Geisler 
BS/Early Childhood & Elementary Education; Masters/ Reading Literacy, George Mason University
Kindergarten Teacher
Elementary School
Eugenia Cole 
BS/ Christian Elementary Education, Virginia Baptist College
Kindergarten Teacher
Elementary School
About Christ Chapel Academy:
Christ Chapel Academy is dedicated to unleashing the leadership potential within each student. Academically rigorous programs, a vibrant Christ-centered community, and a unique multicultural learning environment make CCA a great option for parents who want a smaller school but don’t want to sacrifice big opportunities for their student(s).  
Christ Chapel Academy was voted as the “Best Private School” in Prince William County in 2014, by Prince William Today readers. 

Learn more about Christ Chapel Academy at christchapelacademy.org