Winter Surprises

23 01 2016

Sharing the beauty of winter:

Enjoy a shovel-free view of winter from pictures I took and assembled in the “Winter Surprises” video I created:

https://youtu.be/bownpnIV7hE

On a serious note:

Winter Storm Jonas is affecting millions of people. The impact of the storm has taken some by surprise. It’s worse than predicted in certain areas. Please pray for people living near the New Jersey shore. Flooding already seems to be worse than Hurricane Sandy.

When such disasters strike, some wonder Where’s God? I don’t presume to have all the answers, but I would like to share something with you. Today a devotional I wrote was posted on Rest Ministries. Below is an excerpt of that message titled, “Discovering Winter Surprises Despite the Cold.”



I gotta admit; I dread winter. Cleaning snow off our cars exhausts me. One winter, the snowstorms were relentless. I barely had time to recover before another storm hit.

 One storm dumped a foot of snow. It took longer to remove.  I stopped to catch my breath and spotted a scene that took my breath away. The sun glistened off mounds of snow. Mounds that appeared to be topped with whipped cream by God’s own hand.

 That winter surprise propelled me to finish quickly. I jumped in my cleared-off car and set out to do a photo shoot. Some scenes grabbed my attention. Others were discovered by seeking them out. God’s beauty was found when I looked up, focused closer, and studied shadows.   

 We can face the winter seasons in life that way. Isaiah tells us to, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

 Seek God: look up, focus closer, study shadows. He is near.

 





Lessons from Winter

23 01 2016

Chalkboard and Apple

It never ceased to amaze me. Whenever my second graders spotted the first snowflakes, they’d act like it was the first time they were seeing snow. They’d squeal with delight and share gleeful observations. All talking and giggling at the same time.

Early in my career, like most teachers, I would battle to re-establish order and regain attention. Experience taught me I needed a creative solution—a proactive strategy that would embrace the situation.

On days when snow was predicted, I would keep the curtains closed. As soon as I’d hear stirring in nearby classrooms, I’d peek out my window to confirm the unavoidable interruption. Then I’d take control.

“Boys and girls, it has started snowing. I know you’re happy to hear that news. And I’m sure you’re excited. So, here’s what we’re going to do. When I dismiss your group, walk slowly over to the window. Once we’re all assembled by the window, I’ll open the curtains. Then on my signal, you’ll all let your excitement out. Be sure to get it all out so we can continue working.”

NOTE: Out of consideration for neighboring teachers, I’d let them know ahead of time to be prepared for a thunderous cheer of excitement from my students.

Early Dismissal Activity:

Early dismissals created several challenges. Let’s be honest: I dreaded them!

When inclement weather necessitated a mid-day school closing, student reactions would be varied. It would all depend on when the student got called to leave. Cheers would arise from the first students who were set free. Deflated looks would cross the faces of those left behind. I could read their minds:

Great. Those kids get to go home and play in the snow. I’m left here to do work!

I probably could read their minds because I joined them in their sentiments.

The first student dismissal announcement would signal the end of my preplanned lessons. I couldn’t cover new material with a dwindling class count.

Like most teachers, I’d plan early-dismissal lessons. I’d engage my students in activities which were structured, somewhat productive, and fun. Competitive math games using jumbo-size attribute blocks were a favorite. Students also enjoyed indoor Spelling Baseball (with words of varying difficulty “thrown out” by me—the pitcher). But the all-time favorite activity was a class debate.

Details for a Class Debate:

  1. Arrange chairs in a horseshoe. At the right end of the horseshoe, put a sign that says “POSITIVE OPINION” and at the opposite end, put a sign that says “NEGATIVE OPINION.”
  2. Announce the topic for the debate, such as winter.
  3. Have students identify their opinion about winter by saying, “Boys and girls, in your own mind decide how you feel about winter. Do you love it, hate it, or don’t care either way? Don’t tell anyone your opinion. Once everyone has decided, you’ll all move slowly to a chair on the horseshoe. You’ll sit somewhere in the horseshoe depending on how you feel about winter. If you love it, you’d sit in a chair near the POSITIVE end. If you hate it, you’d sit in a chair near the NEGATIVE end. If you don’t care either way, or if you like it sometimes and dislike it sometimes, you’d sit in the middle. Remember, the right end signifies strong POSITIVE feelings about winter. The opposite end represents strong NEGATIVE feelings.”
  1. Once all students have made up their minds, have them select a chair in the horseshoe. Students’ seating will represent their opinions about winter.

How the activity progresses:

Have volunteers take turns stating facts to support their opinions.

  1. Start with students sitting on the end signifying strong POSITIVE feelings. Invite them to state a fact.  A volunteer may state, “You can make snowmen.”
  1. Instruct students to think about that fact and decide if that information has persuaded them to change their seat. For example, any student sitting near the NEGATIVE end of the horseshoe might decide to move one or two seats closer to the POSITIVE end of the horseshoe (to signify their modified feelings about winter).
  2. Then give a student at the NEGATIVE end a chance to state a fact. For example a student might state, “You can fall and get hurt.”
  3. Once again, provide a minute to see if any students won the opposite end were persuaded to change their opinion and move to a different seat.
  4. Repeat steps 1-4 as time allows.

NOTES:

Unsurprisingly, most of my second graders would always cluster around the positive end. Playing the devil’s advocate, I’d sit on the opposite end.

Examples of POSITIVE facts:

You can make snowmen, go sledding, and get off from school.

Examples of NEGATIVE facts:

You can get slip and get hurt. Driving on ice is dangerous. You have to shovel.

Benefits of the Debate:

  • This activity prepares students for persuasive writing, where they’d first write their opinion and then provide facts to support their opinion.
  • Students practice reasoning skills.
  • This activity requires good listening skills.

Suggested Topic for a Debate:

Fiction & Nonfiction Books

I used this activity with my second graders to reinforce the concepts of fiction and nonfiction books. Students’ facts highlighted the benefits of each genre, and provided examples of each category of books.