Let's Build a Snowman

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Two 30- to 45-minute sessions
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How do animals find food in winter? In this lesson, students will learn that building a snowman is one way to provide food for birds and animals during the winter. Students begin by listening to a book about snow. Students are then introduced to a K-W-L chart and discuss what they know about how animals find food in the winter. As students listen to Henrietta Bancroft's Animals in Winter, they listen for details about how some animals survive during the winter and record those details in the last column of the chart. To continue to build students' knowledge of the topic, they listen to additional fiction and nonfiction books and view a website about animals in winter. As a culminating activity, students use their charts to write and illustrate a story.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Twin Texts are two books, one fiction and one nonfiction (informational) on the same (or related) topic. While the nonfiction book answers questions in a straightforward manner, the story structure of a fiction book may be less difficult for students to understand.

  • Pairing books of fiction and nonfiction allows students to become familiar with selected topics and vocabulary.

  • Activating prior knowledge in preparation for literacy tasks enhances comprehension, sets a purpose for reading/listening, and can provide experiences that are meaningful and challenging to students.

  • Using nonfiction materials can also serve other purposes, such as helping students develop reference skills, presenting summaries, introducing new topics, offering instructions to construct hands-on activities, or following recipes.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Materials and Technology

  • Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft & Richard G. Van Gelder (HarperTrophy, 1997)

  • Snowballs by Lois Ehlert (Harcourt, 2001)

  • The Snow Child by Freya Littledale (Scholastic, 1989)

  • Additional books about snow

  • Chart paper

  • Computer with Internet access



Student Objectives

Students will

  • Use both fiction and nonfiction texts and the Internet to gather information about how animals survive in cold and snowy areas

  • Discover the patterns and relationships among a variety of texts

  • Use K-W-L charts to activate prior knowledge about how animals find food and survive in areas with cold climates

  • Understand that building a snowman can be one way to provide food for birds and animals during the winter

  • Write and illustrate stories incorporating information from their K-W-L charts

Session 1

1. Read aloud The Snow Child by Freya Littledale to the class. Explain that the book is a folktale or make-believe story. Ask students if the information in the story about winter and the coming of spring is also make-believe. Explain that we can often learn factual information by reading a fiction book.

[Note: If you are in an area that does not have snow or cold weather, you may want to read aloud some additional books about snow until you are sure that most students have adequate background knowledge to proceed with the K-W-L chart.]

2. Introduce or review K-W-L (a method of graphically organizing information based on what readers KNOW about a topic, what they WANT to know, and what was LEARNED after reading or listening). The information is charted in three vertical columns and models for students the active thinking involved in reading for information (Ogle, 1986).

3. Ask students to generate ideas about how animals find food in the winter, specifically when the ground is covered with snow, and record their responses in the first column (KNOW) of the K-W-L chart. Have students copy the ideas on their own K-W-L charts. Then record questions the students have about the topic in the second column (WANT) of the chart. Lead students to ask questions based on the information they listed in the first column of the chart. Also, ask students if they have any questions or learned anything new about how birds and animals survive in the winter after reading The Snow Child (e.g., the birds flew to a warmer climate during the winter).

4. Read aloud Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft & Richard G. Van Gelder to the class, pointing out that this book is nonfiction (or informational). Compare the information in the book with the K-W-L chart and fill in appropriate information in the third column (LEARNED). Have students record the information on their charts as well.

5. Bookmark the How Do Animals Spend the Winter? website. Have students find information about how some animals survive during the winter. New information should be recorded on the students' K-W-L charts.

Session 2

1. Read aloud Snowballs by Lois Ehlert to the class, explaining that this book is fiction. Ask students if they can predict why there are birds and animals on some pages. Ask them what they think happened to the seeds, nuts, and corn on the snowmen (i.e., the birds and animals ate them). Be sure to share the pages at the end of the book. Even though this book is fiction, it includes a great deal of factual information about snow and snowmen. Add additional information from this book to the LEARNED column of the K-W-L chart and have students add information to their own charts as well.

2. After reviewing and discussing each of the texts and the K-W-L chart, have students write and illustrate stories about how animals survive during a cold, snowy winter, incorporating information from their charts. The stories can be fiction, nonfiction, or a combination of both.


  • For areas with snow, ask students to build snowmen at home or on the playground using items to feed the birds and animals. They can also make feeders by following the directions on the website How Do Animals Spend the Winter? (Scroll down to Projects 1 and 2.)

  • For areas where there is no snow, have students make a papier-mâché snowman or cut large (life-size) snow people from white paper and decorate them with seeds, buttons, hats, etc.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Teacher observation and ongoing assessment during the lesson:
    • Are students able to activate prior knowledge about the topic?

    • Are students able to discuss ways in which animals survive during the winter?

    • Are students able to record new information on the K-W-L chart?

    • Do students understand the differences between fiction and nonfiction texts? Can they explain why both are important for learning?

    • Are students able to use the Internet sites to gather additional information about how animals survive in the winter?

  • Illustrated story from the K-W-L chart:
    • Does the story include information from the K-W-L chart?

    • Does the story indicate an understanding of how animals survive in the winter?

    • Does the story include elements of fiction, nonfiction, or both?

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