5 Redesigned Activities for Winter Break

Emma Foley
Curriculum Specialist
Blog on January 26 2022

For most educators, the weeks leading up to a winter break often means getting together worksheets that will eventually get photocopied, stapled, and sent home in students’ backpacks. With all the effort you have put into learning the Google and Microsoft applications over the past year and a half, why wouldn’t you redesign those activities to make them digital and more engaging? You might just realize that you get back more completed activities than in years past!

Keep reading for 5 easy-to-make activities that utilize websites and applications like Google Docs, Google Slides, and more!

1: Design a creative art template

No art supplies? No problem! While nothing beats hands-on art experiences with actual craft supplies, an art activity designed on Google Slides (or PowerPoint, or SMART Notebook) can be great for students who are home and have little to no supplies available.

Interactive art activities are easy to create and provide fun, at-home experiences for students to work on whenever. With these activities, students have the opportunity to interact with the templated slides and can select from the library of colors and accessories on the slides provided. They can also always look through the shapes menu and SafeSearch image library built into Google Slides to personalize their work. With simple instructions at the start of the slide deck, students can work independently. What parent doesn’t love an independent activity during a school break? Here’s how to create an interactive Slide activity:

  1. Create a template Slide deck in Google Slides. For example “My Snowman”
  2. Slide 1: activity directions. You can also decorate this slide thematically.
  3. Slide 2: Activity template or starting point. For example, a picture of a snowman with no decorations on it.
  4. Slide 3: decoration options like shapes, images, lines, clipart, and more. Students can click and drag, or copy and paste onto Slide 2 as desired. This slide is optional, you can also have older or more advanced students decorate on their own by using the shapes, images, and search functions.
  5. Distribute a copy to students (be sure not to send your original template) through your LMS or other preferred method.

If you are looking for the activity to be even more collaborative, you might want to consider taking the same idea and making a template that all students can work off of. Keep in mind, this can get a little chaotic if you have a large class because more students means more collaborators! You would also need to set clear expectations for only editing to add their contribution and not altering another student’s work. Check out this YouTube video from The Techie Teacher by Julie Smith if you are looking for some more information for a similar activity.

2: Bundle an art activity with a literacy component

Another great idea is to bundle an activity, similar to the one above, with a writing activity. There are so many ways to make these activities a little more academic in nature and this is just one of them. All you need to do is add a box for students to write something to go along with the art they created. For students who want to write longer pieces, they can use the duplicate slide feature to copy that slide template as many times as needed, or they can always write on a Google Doc and link the word document to the file itself. There are truly so many options!

Snowman template for students to decorate for a winter-themed activity.Assorted winter-themed snowman arms.There are various accessories that your students's snowman can wear.  Students can customize their very own snowman for this winter activity, complete with eyeballs.

 

Other benefits to adding digital writing components are the accessibility features built within the Google Workspace and Microsoft Office applications. Students can access support tools, including voice typing and grammar check to assist them as they write! If you are looking for other support tools, you might also want to consider something like audio directions for younger students!

For more ideas on accessibility features within these programs, check out our Digital Accessibility course category on OTIS for educators.

3: Creative writing to explore different genres

Did you know that you don’t need to have your students download add-ons to create fun and creative writing pieces? All you and your students really need to know is how to access the many options on the Google Docs top toolbar menu!

One of my favorite hidden gems on the top toolbar in Google Docs is hands-down the emoji menu. Who doesn’t smile at the sight of an emoji? This is sure to take your students’ writing to a whole new creative level!

It truly is just as easy as it is to access emojis on your phone or tablet. To access the emoji menu on Google Docs, you just need to follow the steps laid out below:

  1. Select “Insert” in the top toolbar on Google Docs.
  2. Select the “Special characters” option.
  3. You’ll see a group of symbols and arrows. To change to emoji, click on the drop-down menu that says “Symbols” and select “Emoji”.

Students can access emojis and special characters in Google Docs

For a writing activity that incorporates emojis, you could have students write a rebus story, or a story that incorporates words and pictures. This activity could easily be edited to fit the needs of your students!

Students can create their very own rebus using winter-themed words and pictures.

4: Create a hyperdoc

Do you have multiple activity ideas for your students to work on? If you don’t use a learning management system,  such as Google Classroom or Schoology, you might be trying to figure out how you are going to push out all these activities to your students. A hyperdoc just might be the answer.

Hyperdocs are basically digital lesson plans. They can be as detailed or simplified as you like. They provide access for students to all content and learning in one organized digital space by taking advantage of the linking feature within the word processor.

In order to create a hyperdoc, simply apply the different features within Google Docs such as headings, linking, and table of contents. For example, you can create a table of contents with a list of activities (pages in the document) and have students choose a certain number to complete. Then use the headings feature for each activity and link to your table on contents. You can also link to external websites within each activity as needed.

Online activities are a great way for students to stay interactive during school breaks.

Digital escape rooms are a great way to use creative thinking for students, along with word challenges to test the mind!

If you need some assistance or a refresher on how to directly link an image or text to a website, or how to use internal links within a document, definitely check out the library of our short skills videos on OTIS for educators.

5: Create a Mini PBL Unit

Although a thorough project-based learning unit usually takes at least 4-6 weeks, it doesn’t mean that your project-based learning can’t start over the winter break and continue once students return to school. Most PBL units start with research, so why not give students all the tools they need to start their research and get inspiration for their projects? Maybe students will use the activities you put together to gather research about a seasonal issue they need to solve, or perhaps your PBL unit will tie into other units of study in other core curricular subjects. Regardless of the topic, with the right activities and templates for note taking and brainstorming, students can start the PBL unit at home and continue in school.

Project-based learning tends to be a more engaging form of learning for students because it can be very hands-on and often opens up students’ eyes to issues they might not have even realized are going on. Both the Google Workspace for Education and Microsoft Office applications are great tools for you as you design activities and templates to support your students. To learn more about project-based learning or redesigning traditional activities, check out our courses on our online professional development platform OTIS for educators.

We hope these ideas sparked some inspiration and will help you design break activities that are meaningful and successful for both you and your students. Don’t forget, at-home activities like this can be used over the summer, during remote learning, or even in a flipped classroom.


For more tips, tricks, and tools for teaching in and out of the classroom, check out more articles on the Teq Talk blog.

We also offer virtual professional development, training, and remote learning support for educators with OTIS for educators. Explore the technology, tools, and strategies that can spark student success — no matter where teaching or learning are happening.


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