Here’s how we used The Snowy Day picture book, by Ezra Jack Keats, to inspire all kinds of homeschool learning for a variety of ages!
Something I learned early in my own homeschooling days was how a single picture book can cover many subjects. I learned this first with Five-in-a-Row (when my mom used it and I was the student), and now I use it with my own kids. The books we read and what I learned from them stuck with me and created a rich foundation for my entire life.
A good quality picture book can teach us so much – even if the book is about something simple, like a child playing in the snow.
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When it snowed recently, we read The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats, and it inspired some fun, informal learning. We’ve read this story dozens of times, but this time we paused and dove a little deeper.
Here’s what we did!
Note: These ideas are ideal for early elementary students, but even older kids might enjoy the art project and the videos.
If you don’t love reading out loud, you can watch a fantastic reading of the book here!
The Snowy Day: Science
Snow is the obvious choice here. The Snowy Day features many detailed illustrations of snowflakes, so this is the perfect opportunity to talk about snowflakes and how each one is different.
Here are several short YouTube videos about snowflakes:
For older kids, try this video by Veritasium.
The Snowy Day: Social Studies
Peter and his mother live in an apartment in the city. This is easy to glance over as just part of the story, but you can take a minute to talk about people living in all kinds of homes all over the world.
Questions you can ask:
- What kind of home do we live in?
- What do we love about it?
- What would be fun about living in an apartment in the city?
For more reading, you can break out these books about homes children live in around the world:
(We love the one on the left, but if you can’t find it, try the other ones!)
We also talked about how Peter went out walking around the city by himself, which was fairly normal in the 1960’s, when this book was written.
Questions you can ask:
- Do you like taking walks?
- What’s your favorite thing to do in the snow?
The Snowy Day: Representation
Published in 1962, The Snowy Day was the first children’s book featuring a child of color (specifically African American) as the main character. It caused a lot of controversy at the time, but now it’s a beloved classic. It’s an important picture book both because of what it represents and simply because it’s a beautiful, sweet book. Read more about this here.
Amazon Prime has a kids’ tv show based on The Snowy Day, and it’s adorable. Get a free trial for Amazon Prime here. When we watched it, my middle school son pointed out that he noticed and appreciated, “how the characters in this show are mostly people of color.”
While you probably don’t need to point out Peter’s ethnicity to your young kids, it’s important for young kids to see children of all ethnicities simply being kids and doing the same kinds of things they do. As a white mother of white children, I’m doing my best to dismantle my own ignorance and fill my kids’ lives with diverse representation. Reading books featuring main characters of various ethnicities is one small part of that.
The Snowy Day: Math
This is really simple, but it’s an opportunity we can miss while we’re just reading the story. Take some time to count different things in the story. Count Peter’s footprints in the snow. Count how many snowflakes are on the page. How many footprints does he make with his feet facing out? Is it more or less than how many he makes with his feet facing in? How many bubbles are in the air when Peter’s taking a bath? Are there more big ones or small ones?
The Snowy Day: Copywork
To practice writing and handwriting, we take words from the story and write them out on Channie’s handwriting paper (which we love!).
For young kids, the goal is to focus on proper letter formation. For older kids, we focus more on spelling.
Copywork Word Ideas:
Spelling Word Ideas:
You get the idea.
The Snowy Day: Art
While reading the book, I pointed out how Keats used multiple mediums for the illustrations and how it looked like he cut out pieces of paper to make them.
Then we made our own. I picked a page in the book that looked fairly simple to replicate and used supplies we already had on hand.
- A copy of The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
- Construction paper
- Polyester filling (or cotton balls)
- Watercolor paint
- White acrylic paint
- Black pen
- Paint brush
- Paper towels
- 1 Q-tip
- Select an illustration from The Snowy Day. We chose one of Peter sliding down the hill because it was simple to make, used multiple mediums, and wouldn't require too much help from me for them to make themselves.
- Using your selected illustration as a guide, cut out the construction paper in the shapes of Keats' illustrations. We started with the snowy ground in white paper, red paper for Peter's snowsuit, and a small brown oval for his head.
- Glue the background snow on first. Then, for our illustration, we took small whisps of the polyester filling (or cotton balls) and glued them to the sky.
- Use the watercolor paints to add faint streaks of color to the snow, using Keats' illustration as a guide (for very young kids, you can skip this part).
- Use the black pen to add details for Peter's hair and eyes to the piece of paper for his head. Glue it onto his snowsuit.
- Place Peter's snowsuit onto the snow. For our illustration, we used the q-tip to add the white dots of snow shooting out behind him as he slid down. For more detail, cut the q-tip in half and use the small end to make smaller dots too. After that, glue down Peter's snowsuit.
- We added the words that are on the page to our illustration, using the black pen. My son added Peter's footprints and the line he made with his stick too.
- Let it all dry, then display it somewhere during the winter months!
More Winter-Themed Picture Books
Here are more winter-themed picture books that have a lot of potential for free-form learning!