Each December my world is a whirlwind as I’m sure many of your worlds are, too. There’s so much to do! There’s so little time! It’s an unbalanced force of nature that heaps on additional stress from party planning to gift giving to oh-my-goodness-we-are-out-of-tape-on-Christmas-Eve panic that is enough to make anyone want to crawl into the chimney themselves and hide.
Despite the chaos of holiday happenings, I secretly LOVE this time of year! Oh, the joy of writing by the twinkle of lights on my tree, decorated with decades of memories from my family! Oh, the love shown by others as Secret Santas sprinkle kindness to make someone else’s day just a little bit brighter! Oh, the jubilation of doing fun, creative lessons at school where holiday themes and acts of service trump standardized tests and worksheets!
One my my tried-and-true, favorite lessons to teach this time of year is “Hot Chocolate Writing.” It’s an engaging lesson that can be adapted for any age level and is sure to bring a smile to many!
The lesson begins with sounds of Sleigh Ride jing-jing-jingling throughout the room as students enter our Innovation Lab. They pick up their supplies from the table and sit anywhere they like. They have a small white board, a dry erase marker and an eraser.
There’s already a buzz of excitement in the room because the lights are dimmed low, music fills their ears, and they already know it’s going to be a fun lesson!
Once students are settled in their chosen spot – some are in wobble seats, others on cushions, a few on the sofa and carpet – we share a conversation about their first impressions of today’s lesson. They mention the music, the flexible seating, the materials “with no directions on what we’re supposed to do” and inevitably someone mentions the colored post-it notes I’ve placed on the back of their white boards.
The engagement factor is buzzing now as side conversations erupt.
“What color do you have?”
“What are we going to do with these?”
“What’s going to happen next?”
Ahhhhh… the hook has grabbed them already!
It’s then, with rapt attention, I talk about sights and sounds and all the ways people are drawn into whatever the experience may be. We talk about movies. Videos. Commercials. Cartoons. We discuss the power of storytelling and how it all begins with someone writing a screenplay, a script, a storyboard, a scene.
I then offer the challenge: List the five senses on your white board in less than 30 seconds.
Beat. The. Clock.
The only sound you hear is markers sliding across the boards.
I draw a very primitive picture of a hand and the students tell me which senses to add, labeling the fingers.
Easy to remember.
It’s then that we shift our focus back on the power of stories and we watch a video clip from the movie, The Polar Express, that shows waiters and chefs serving hot chocolate to children on a train. The students are easily pulled into the moment as they watch with wide eyes and smiles. For many this is a familiar scene.
For some, it is new.
When the conductor closes the door and the music fades away, students turn their attention to the board on the side where I have placed colored post-it notes by the five senses listed earlier. Now they are given a task:
Look on your white board to see which color you are assigned and which sense matches your color.
Watch the same video clip but this time focus only on your designated sense.
What details can you add to your white board?
We watch the video again as students fill their boards with descriptions.
After the video ends, they are told to find their group members (based on color of post-it notes) and share insights to dig deeper and create more meaningful descriptions.