Igniting Critical and Creative Thinking

Critical Thinking: 7 Winter-Themed Activities to Warm Up Your Brain

As the winter chill sets in, it’s not just our bodies that need to stay warm and active; our brains also crave stimulation and challenge. While the cold weather might tempt us to hibernate mentally, it’s actually the perfect season to ignite our student’s critical thinking skills in fun and engaging ways.

In this blog post, several of my teacher blogger besties and I share a variety of winter-themed activities that promise not only to entertain but also to exercise kids’ brains. From stem challenges to classifying snowflakes and exploring mentor texts, we’ve compiled a list of activities that are sure to keep your students’ cognitive fires burning bright. So, grab a cup of hot cocoa and prepare to dive into a winter wonderland of brain-boosting activities that will keep your kiddos intellectually engaged and mentally sharp during the frosty months ahead.

Using Owl Moon As A Winter Mentor Text from Sandy at Sweet Integrations

Sandy at Sweet Integrations encourages critical thinking through teaching with mentor text. In her blog post, Winter Mentor Text for Teaching Content Areas, she uses the book The Owl Moon.

By implementing mentor text, teachers can set the mood for introducing a unit, making meaningful connections to real life, and teaching important concepts.

Sandy suggests asking students to make predictions as they read the book. Thinking about the characters and their actions in the book fosters critical thinking.

Strategies You Can Use With Any Winter Text from Carla at Comprehension Connection

Critical thinking is deeply involved with reading comprehension and engagement. As students read, they need ways to stick with the text and engage with it.

Carla from Comprehension Connection’s post on strategies to improve deep thinking offers teaching ideas you can use with any text.

You might also check out her Winter Themed Resources and Lessons post for free and easy to use ideas. It includes great mentor texts and book companions among other engaging ideas. The winter months can seem long, so keeping kids motivated is important. Check out other motivational strategies on Comprehension Connection here.

Winter Themed Stem Challenges For Critical Thinking from Janet at Fishyrobb

One of the best ways to build critical thinking skills is with open-ended problem solving tasks like STEM challenges. Janet at Fishyrobb loves using winter-themed challenges to show students how they can use their math and science skills to solve real-life problems.

In her blog post The Best STEM Activities for 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade Kids, she explains how to choose and plan quality STEM challenges that truly get students thinking critically.

Snowy Creativity: Wintry Art Lessons from Amanda at Party in the Art Room

Amanda at Party in the Art Room loves using art to boost critical thinking in her students.

In her article, Snowy Creativity, she shares three inspiring art lessons that are perfect for any classroom’s wintry curricular mix! From Beatrix Potter to penguins to winter landscapes, these art lessons are designed to spark creativity and warm up young minds during the winter season.

Using Winter-Themed Word Problems from Kady at Teacher Trap

Kady from Teacher Trap loves using themed word problems and guided group conversations to help students develop math problem-solving skills.

In her blog post, 5 Unique Word Problem Solving Strategies That Get Results, she shares ways to engage students in meaningful work around word problems. Get your students excited for a challenge by building in collaboration, questioning, and guided rounds using fun winter-themed word problems!

Using Collaborative Problem Solving from Amy at Amazing Materials For You

Amy of Amazing Materials for You knows how to use break the code activities to engage students in collaborative problem solving in her upper elementary classroom.

In her blog post, 4 Great Ways to Engage Upper Elementary Students in Collaborative Problem Solving Using Break the Code Activities she recommends using 4 different approaches to encourage problem solving using variables – number talks for whole group, print copies for partners, Google slides for individuals, or small group instruction. Join her for the fun!

Winter Themed Critical Thinking Activities To Keep ’em Thinking From Me!

As the winter months set in, the days are often cold, dreary, and seemingly endless. Keeping students engaged in the classroom can be a challenge, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to engage students in activities that stimulate critical thinking. In my blog post, Engage Students with My Favorite Winter Picture Book, I talk about how the picture book Snowflake Bentley provides an excellent opportunity to captivate students’ attention and encourage critical thinking, even on the gloomiest days.

Snowflake Bentley is one of those rare picture books that you can share all winter long. Students can learn about the life of this amazing man who developed a way to photograph individual snowflakes, as well as about snow science and how snowflakes are formed.

They use critical thinking as they analyze literary elements such as character, theme, cause, and effect, along with classifying snowflakes and learning how snow is formed.

Final Thoughts…

Winter offers unique opportunities to keep our students’ minds sharp and engaged. From word problems that strengthen problem-solving skills to mentor texts, STEM challenges, and art projects, each activity provides a fun and effective way to exercise students’ brains.

By incorporating these winter-themed critical thinking activities into instruction, you not only fend off the winter blues but also enhance your students’ cognitive abilities in exciting and enjoyable ways. Let’s embrace the chill with activities that warm up our students’ brains and keep the spark of learning and curiosity alive all winter long.

Click on the Image to Check Out These Other Winter Products to Teach Critical Thinking


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I'm Susan!

I’m Susan Morrow and I help overwhelmed teachers create thinking classrooms where students discover the joy in learning and achieving.

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