Empowering Writers

January 2016 Lesson of the Month

My favorite time of year is when it’s cold outside and I am curled up by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate. For many of you, the cold lasts way too long for you to love it. In Texas, we get just the right amount. The cold and snow always bring about a chance for “No School.” But when school IS in session while the snow falls and the temps are frigid, why not enjoy a fun writing lesson paired with a creative art project. Take a peek inside and find a cold-weather lesson appropriate for multiple grade levels.

Students will create an art project using a selfie photograph or a photo taken by the teacher placed inside a snow globe. They’ll use the crafted scene as a “jumping off” point to write a MAIN EVENT about their adventure trapped in a snow globe.

Here’s what you’ll do:

1. First, you’ll need to gather a few supplies:

  • Fake snow (available at a local craft store)
  • Clear plastic plates with a rounded, globe-like shape (I use the small version) or small clear plastic bowls
  • Inexpensive white paper plates or heavy white card stock
  • Glue, tape, scissors and crayons/markers

2. Bring in a Snow Globe for the students to touch, shake, imagine, and experience. Read aloud a book about snow or snow globes. Some suggested titles are: Snow by Cynthia Rylant (HMH, Books for Young Readers 2008, The Snow Globe Family by Jane O’Connor (Puffin Books, 2008) or The Snow Globe by Tammy Brown Elkeles (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013).

3. Talk with students about what they do in the snow. Chart some of the activities suggested by the students. snow ski, build a snow man, have a snowball fight, sled, ice skate, make a snow angel, warm by a warm fire, sip hot chocolate, roast marshmallows

Then ask, What if you were trapped inside a snow globe, what might you do? Ask what they might be wondering or worrying about if they were stuck inside the globe, how they would feel, and how they might get out.

4. Next, let students create a snow globe of their own. The teacher can create one as well to use when MODELING a MAIN EVENT about being trapped in a snow globe.

  • Have the students think about one of the suggested (charted) activities or an activity they enjoy on a snowy day. Students will pose (as if they were enjoying the activity) and take a “selfie” or have the teacher snap a picture of each student pretending to engage in the activity. For example, if they like making a snow angel, have them lay down on the floor and pretend to flap their arms and legs in the snow. Take a picture, print and have them cut out the photo, cutting around the student image only.
  • Using the clear plate or bowl as a pattern guide, trace the outer edge of the plate/bowl on a white paper plate or heavy white cardstock. Cut along the traced circular line, creating the backdrop for the snow globe.
  • Adhere the cut-out student image to the white circular backdrop. Using markers, crayons and other crafting supplies, have the students create a snowy scene illustrating the activity they are engaging in with their photo.
  • Partially fill the rounded clear plastic plate/bowl with fake snow (don’t overfill). Then glue and/or tape the snowy backdrop scene to the plate/bowl.
  • When turned upright, the clear plate/bowl resembles a snow globe. Shake the plate and watch the snow trickle down.

5. Once the snow globes are complete, MODEL a MAIN EVENT with the students: “I found myself trapped in a snow globe.” Remind students that a MAIN EVENT is the build-up of a single, significant event. If you created a snow globe, (teacher version), use the sample to MODEL the MAIN EVENT or use a student sample. Brainstorm and chart suggested ideas using the Menu for a Fully Elaborated Main Event, page 259 in the Comprehensive Narrative Guide.

Click Here to Download pg. 266

For example: on the whiteboard, smartboard or chart paper, write:

ACTION: What did you do? (brainstorm and chart responses.) The responses might be similar to this: • knocked on the glass • laid down cold snow • blew into my hands to warm them up • slipped on a pair of skates and slid across the icy pond • made a snowball • waved at people outside

Continue in the same manner:

DESCRIPTION: What did you see, hear, feel?

THOUGHTS/FEELINGS: What were you wondering, worrying, feeling?

DIALOGUE/EXCLAMATION: What did you say or exclaim?

SOUND EFFECT: What did you hear?

Sample MAIN EVENT: (This sample is based on ice-skating)

I pushed on the glass with all of my might, but I could not break the seal on the snow globe. Struggling to catch my breath, I stood staring at the snow floating down from above, revealing a picturesque mural in front of me. Although the landscape was breathtaking, my fear would not let me enjoy the beauty. A thick white powder covered the trees surrounding the frozen lake. I noticed a tiny log cabin nestled in amongst the pines. I yelled out, “MOM! DAD!” but silence was all that called back. How could I possibly be stuck in this snow globe? Would I be able to escape? Those same thoughts kept repeating in my mind. Without warning, the sound of laughter rang out near the pond. I slowly shuffled toward the gleeful racket. The closer I got to the noise, the quicker the panic began to subside. I noticed some children skating on the ice and others throwing snowballs at their friends. Something magical seemed to come alive within me. I sprinted to the edge of the pond and bent down to touch the ice-covered lake. Just then, a boy held out a pair of skates as if to say, “Take my skates!” I reached out, grabbed the pair of blades and quickly slipped them on my feet. In less than one minute, I was on the ice, skating around like I knew what I was doing. SWISH SWISH went the blades across the ice. I realized I was actually skating on the frozen pond for the first time ever. Was I in a dream? Even if I was, I did not want to wake up. Gliding over the ice was so much fun. I circled the arctic waters for what seemed like hours. If this was what it was like to be trapped in a snow globe, I didn’t mind at all.

6. Using the color-coding suggestion on page 258 (#4), color-code the completed MODELED SAMPLE.

7. Have students write a MAIN EVENT to accompany their finished snow globe. Again, color-coding the completed student work will help ensure that they included the balance of action, description, thoughts/feelings, dialogue/exclamation, and sound effect.

*Note: The MODELED SAMPLE shown is too sophisticated for younger students. For K-1 students, provide some sentence starters for them to use as a guide to their writing.

Sample Sentence Starters:

Staring at the _____ I _____.

The snow globe _____.

This small snowy world seemed _____.

Trapped inside I _____.

I couldn’t help but notice _____.

My eyes were drawn to _____.

I wondered how _____.


In keeping with the “snow” or “snow globe” theme, read an expository book to the students. Some suggested titles are: Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, The Story of Snow by Mark Cassino, The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art and Science of a Snowflake by Kenneth Libbrecht, Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft, or Hibernation: Patterns by Nature by Margaret Hall. Create expository lessons based on the book you read, whether the theme is animals in winter or the science behind a snowflake. Have the students do research on the lesson theme. Research lessons are available in the Expository Guides.

Teaching Tips:

Always practice Close Reading Strategies to inform your writing and increase reading comprehension skills simultaneously. Each of the guides, Expository and Narrative, has a variety of reading passages for annotation and analysis to use during your reading and writing block.

Don’t forget about the multitude of Empowering Writers materials that can enhance your writing program. Teachers love our Desktop Sentence Starters. These come in classroom sets of 25 and are bound in a helpful flip style book for easy access. These become student’s #1 aid in writing. Plus, the posters are extremely useful as you teach the Expository and Narrative skills in the classroom. They serve as a powerful reference for students and teachers alike.