5 Winter Picture Books to Teach Figurative Language

In college, my beloved Reading Methods professor read us picture books at the beginning of class. As twenty-something-old college students, we relished those five-ten minutes it took for her to read a book. We could relax, get lost in something other than student teaching hours, seminars, and projects, and just enjoy a good story. When she read us a picture book for the very first time, she asked, “Did you enjoy that?” Our response was, “Of course, we did!” She went on to say that if we, as grown adults, enjoy a picture book this much, then don’t discount it for older elementary students, middle schoolers, or even high schoolers. It was one of those ah-ha moments I’ve clearly held onto ever since. Today, we are going to dive into 5 winter pictures books to teach figurative language.

As a teacher who has taught all three levels of students: elementary, middle, and high school, her philosophy has proven true as I have used picture books quite often to teach concepts, as a brain break, and to ignite a love of reading and writing in students.

Picture Books as Mentor Text

Picture books are being used as mentor text more and more. Just because a book is written for younger students doesn’t mean the author didn’t devote hours to that piece of writing, perfecting every word, every character, and every storyline. Just because it’s geared toward younger students doesn’t mean that the writing isn’t amazing. Using picture books to teach students how to write is the beginning of students connecting authentic, real-world literature to their own writing.

When teaching writing, I love to teach figurative language, a concept explored in literature classes as we analyze stories and novels. Think about your favorite author and you probably don’t think about how many similes or metaphors they used; however, you do think about how descriptive their characters were or how they got the setting just right for you to imagine it clearly. Great authors use figurative language so smoothly that you don’t even realize it. Figurative language takes descriptive writing to the next level. It adds a creative flair to help readers understand the words and descriptions even more clearly. That’s a writing skill I hope my students can grasp.

The following picture books can be utilized as wonderful mentor text to teach figurative language. Plus, they’re based in winter, so it fits in nicely with the season, and if your students are writing a winter story, these books will be great inspiration.

1. Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen

A Caldecott Medal winner, this book breathes figurative language. It is in almost every sentence. This book paints such a lovely, timeless, still scene of winter. It is a soothing picture book that students will enjoy and glean a lot from on how to use figurative language.

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Publisher’s Synopsis: Late one winter night a little girl and her father go owling. The trees stand still as statues and the world is silent as a dream. Whoo-whoo-whoo, the father calls to the mysterious nighttime bird. But there is no answer.

Wordlessly the two companions walk along, for when you go owling you don’t need words. You don’t need anything but hope. Sometimes there isn’t an owl, but sometimes there is. Distinguished author Jane Yolen has created a gentle, poetic story that lovingly depicts the special companionship of a young child and her father as well as humankind’s close relationship to the natural world. Wonderfully complemented by John Schoenherr’s soft, exquisite watercolor illustrations, this is a verbal and visual treasure, perfect for reading around and sharing at bedtime.

Examples of figurative language:

Simile: The trees stood still as giant statues. / Somewhere behind us, a train whistle blew, long and low, like a sad, sad song. 

Personification: A farm dog answered the train, and then a second dog joined in. They sang out, trains and dogs, for a real long time. And when their voices faded away, it was as quiet as a dream.

Alliteration: Our feet crunched over the crisp snow./ He looked up searching the stars.

Metaphor: The moon made his face into a silver mask. 

These are just a couple of examples from Owl Moon. This book is a wellspring of figurative language. 

2. Snowflakes Fall, by Patricia MacLachlan

Snowflakes Fall is a wonderfully descriptive picture book all about the beauty of snow, the winter season, the children who enjoy it, and even the blessings found at the end of the winter season. Not only does this book contain a blizzard of figurative language, but the deep meaning and motivation behind this book are also inspiring. 

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Publisher’s Synopsis: In Snowflakes Fall, Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan and award-winning artist Steven Kellogg portray life’s natural cycle: its beauty, its joy, and its sorrow. Together, the words and pictures offer the promise of renewal that can be found in our lives—snowflakes fall, and return again as raindrops so that flowers can grow.MacLachlan and Kellogg, who are longtime friends, were moved to collaborate on a message of hope for children and their families following the tragic events in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012. Kellogg lived in Sandy Hook for thirty-five years—he raised his family there and was an active member of the community. With Snowflakes Fall, they have created a truly inspiring picture book that is both a celebration of life and a tribute to the qualities that make each individual unique.

Examples of figurative language: 

Personification: Snowflakes fall to sit on gardens and evergreen trees. / Frantic, icy snowflakes scratch the window glass./ Branches fly and shadows darken dreams. 

Simile: Snowflakes fall, drift, and swirl together like the voices of children. 

Alliteration:On its loved library, And its familiar flagpole 

3. Bright Winter Night, by Alli Brydon

This adorable picture book has beautiful illustrations, incorporates the forest animals working together as a team, and has rhyming words. All of these elements will intrigue students, but it also has some great examples of figurative language. 

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Publisher’s Synopsis: The forest calls, and creatures come: big and small, one by one. They sense there is a task to do as night descends, replacing blue. On one bright winter night, a group of woodland creatures emerges from the forest. Despite their differences, they start to build something together, using items found on the forest floor. What are they making? And how quickly can they build it? Something special is happening tonight, and soon the animals are off—in a race to catch a glimpse of one of nature’s most astounding wonders! With lyrical text and sparkling artwork, Bright Winter Night is a celebration of the joy and beauty of nature and the special gift of friendship and togetherness.

Examples of figurative language:

Metaphor: The wolf pack launches with a start and races through the forest’s heart. 

Onomatopoeia: The sleigh careens, the rabbits jump as the rest go BUMP BUMP BUMP. 

Personification: The colors dazzle, glow, and blaze-the flashes sizzle, shock and amaze!/ The magic in the winter’s air drifts all around them, everywhere. 

4. The Snow Dancer, by Addie Boswell

Not only are the illustrations gorgeous in The Snow Dancer, but the word choice is the perfect example of descriptive writing. The figurative language is also amazingly abundant in this story. Additionally, if you wanted to choose one book to focus on onomatopoeia, this one is it! 

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Publisher’s Synopsis: Young dancer Sofia wakes up to a quiet, white world—it’s a snow day! She makes her way outside to the neighborhood park, where a field awaits her, white and shining and open. It isn’t long before the rest of the neighborhood wakes its sleepy head—and the other kids make their way to the park, scattering all of Sofia’s beautiful silence. But with the help of a new young friend, Sofia is ready to show everyone what a snow dancer can do on a perfect day like this. With lyrical language and gorgeous art, this book sparkles with all the joy and beauty of a snow day.

Examples of figurative language: 

Personification: All through the night, they fell-frosting the rooftops, fluffing the sidewalks, laying fuzzy hats on the fire hydrants. 

Alliteration: She sniffed the cold, clean air. 

Onomatopoeia: Whooomph! She fell down the hidden steps./ Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. She hopscotched down the invisible sidewalk.  (There are so many more examples of Onomatopoeia!)

Simile: The sun shone like a giant spotlight. The soccer field gleamed like a giant stage. /Outside the world sparkled and glistened. 

5. Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter, by Kenard Pak

I love this series of books. Kenard Pak has a picture book that says goodbye to every season and hello to another. These straightforward books with gorgeous illustrations use personification for the entirety of the story, as parts of the season speak as if they are animate. Not only is there a plethora of personification examples, but the author uses other figurative language examples as well. 

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Publisher’s Synopsis: As leaves fall from their trees, animals huddle against the cold, and frost creeps across windows, everyone knows―winter is on its way! Join a brother and sister as they explore nature and take a stroll through their twinkling town, greeting all the signs of the coming season. In a series of conversations with everything from the setting sun to curious deer, they say goodbye to autumn and welcome the glorious first snow of winter in Kenar Pak’s Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter.

Examples of figurative language: 

Alliteration: Autumn afternoon/Setting sun/wispy winds/…Swept into the sky

Personification: Now that the wispy winds have come, we fall from the oak tree branches and are swept into the sky! (Leaves)/ Our pine-needle branches shiver in the wind while you sleep. (There are many examples of personification!)

Metaphor: Hello, snowflakes. Hello. We fall in a white, misty curtain and muffle all the sounds around you. 

Simile: Hello, clouds. Hello. We cover the sky like a downy, soft blanket. 

Activities: 

To further practice identifying and writing figurative language, check out this FREE Picture Book Figurative Language Activity we have!

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We also have Figurative Language Posters available in our store as well!

Click here to grab yours today!

Conclusion:

Using winter picture books as mentor text to teach figurative language is a great way to provide authentic examples for students. Picture books can be utilized for any grade level as a way for students to see real writing examples that have figurative language and to practice identifying figurative language. Also, winter picture books bring just the right coziness that makes reading so fun and delightful. 

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Winter Read Aloud: Radiator the Snowman

January is such a magical time for reading. Many winter picture books surround snowy landscapes, crackling firesides, snowmen characters, snow activities, warm drinks and food, and sweet themes of friendship and family. Winter is the perfect time to cozy up and read while watching the snow fall past the windows. It is my favorite time to grab a novel, some hot chocolate, and enjoy the ambiance. January is definitely the perfect time to enjoy a winter read aloud.

I remember watching the snow fall from my wrap-around classroom windows as I read winter picture books to my students. Something about winter and reading goes hand in hand. One of my favorite winter picture books is Radiator the Snowman by Tami Parker. 

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I know, I know. The author is my mother and maybe I am biased, but because she’s my mother, I understand the background of this story and her motivations for writing it and it makes me love this book even more. 

If you haven’t read this adorable story, here is a Youtube link where you can hear it being read aloud and fall in love with it! It is also available for purchase here on Amazon. 

Publisher’s Synopsis: Radiator the Snowman knew he was different from the other snowmen of his most distinguished village. These feelings had always been with him since he was first formed in the hands of the children of the local junk man to the present time period in which he was kept away from the finer snowmen on display in his village. However, Radiator’s chance to join this prestigious league soon arrives. Will he take this opportunity or decide to stay in the junkyard with his friends?

Radiator the Snowman is a wonderful story to read to little ones when you want them to know how important they are to each person in their life and why they should never compare themselves to others.

When I taught sixth grade, we would dive into this book every January. This picture book is a sweet story that’s been utilized from preschool on up. However, if you’re looking for a picture book that has deep themes, challenging vocabulary, and acts as a wonderful mentor text, I recommend teaching this story from 4th graders to middle schoolers. 

Here are five activities you can use with Radiator the Snowman.

Activity 1: Explore Setting

A huge part of why Radiator looks the way he does and is motivated to become part of the Distinguished Snowmen Society is because of his setting. He lives in a junkyard and his inner and outer character traits were literally formed because of this particular setting. Not to mention the time of winter, which is why our main character is a snowman. Students can explore how the setting prompts the story along, creates the main character, and causes his inner motivations. 

A simple setting analysis I love to have students complete is a no-prep activity. Students receive a piece of copy paper and are tasked with drawing the setting of the story. They color the setting and using text-based evidence, write down five quotes from the book that relate to the setting and connect to how it shaped the character. Radiator the Snowman is free on Kindle Unlimited, so I would project the story onto the board for students to find quotes. 

On the back of the copy paper, they write a paragraph exploring how Radiator was formed from the junkyard and how this setting is what causes him to want to change into a fancy snowman and “better” himself. Students also explore how the junkyard setting shaped who his friends were and how in the end, Radiator had profound realizations about this special junkyard he calls home and his true friends.  

Activity 2: Create a Snowman

Radiator is a truly unique snowman. His outer appearance is formed from the junkyard. Radiator’s white snow is dingy from the dirt of the yard. His hat was tattered from the garbage. His patchy wool socks were used to help warm the junkyard’s kittens and his nose was a screwdriver. We also see how Radiator changes physically as well as emotionally throughout the story. When trying to join the Distinguished Society of Snowmen, Radiator undergoes a makeover with a shiny black stovepipe as his new hat, a borrowed scarf from the junkman’s wife, and a found carrot as his new nose. 

A fun activity is to have students create their very own snowman inspired by Radiator. By incorporating technology skills and writing, this resource allows students to digitally create a snowman from scratch, as well as a scene for the setting, and then write a story all about it! The items can also be printed for students to create a craft instead of completing it digitally. This is a great way for students to connect to Radiator the Snowman: by creating their own snowman and the story surrounding it. 

Grab yours today!

Activity 3: Theme & Character Analysis/Friendship Valentine’s Cards

The former elementary teacher in me loves how Valentine’s Day is in winter. Pink and red hearts with snowy backdrops create such a cozy and sweet vibe. One of the main themes found in Radiator the Snowman is to radiate with love. This book is perfect to read before Valentine’s Day or Friendship Day, as many schools celebrate. Radiator’s name is created because the dingy snow used to form him was from the top of an old radiator in the junkyard, but in the end, we see that Radiator radiates with love for his friends. 

This picture book not only focuses on our main character but does a splendid job developing the minor characters as well. From Head Light, an old wise owl to Hubcap, the friendly junkyard dog, each of Radiator’s friends holds a special place in his heart.  Radiator even keeps orphaned kittens warm in his wool socks and they become his friends as well. At the end of the story, we see just how special Radiator’s friends are to him. 

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Friendship Valentine’s Cards

Discuss and explore the theme of what it means to radiate with Love. Ask students to come up with tangible ways they can show love and kindness to those around them, just like Radiator and his friends did with each other.

Students can take this story as inspiration to radiate with love for their special friendships. They can write Valentine’s cards to their friends writing details on why they cherish their friendship so much. Students can also write a friendship Valentine’s card from Radiator to his friends Head Light, Hubcap, and the kittens showing how thankful he is for their friendship. 

Another activity is that students can choose a minor character and examine their perspective as they write a Valentine’s Day card to Radiator. 

Take it a step further and have students create digital Valentine’s Day cards using our resource.

Digital Valentines Day Cards

Activity 4: Summary & Reading Comprehension Questions

We have FREE reading comprehension questions available for you for Radiator the SnowmanGrab yours now!

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Another simple and no-prep way to practice reading comprehension is through writing a summary or a retelling. Students draw a large snowman on copy paper. Write “Beginning” in the top circle or the face, “Middle” in the middle circle, and “End” in the last snowman circle. Students retell the beginning, middle, and end of the story using the snowman circles by writing the story’s events in sequence. 

Activity 5: Radiator the Snowman Glyph

The most important theme this book teaches is that everyone is uniquely made and special just the way they are. Radiator doesn’t realize this at the beginning of the story as he tries to join the Distinguished Snowmen Society. He changes his appearance and even forgets about his kitten friends. Radiator tries to change to fit in with a group of snowmen who are anything but kind to him. When I taught sixth grade, we discussed this theme many times. Middle schoolers struggle with this concept so much. While they try to change who they really are to fit in with various groups, they lose sight of what makes them special and unique, just like Radiator did. 

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I love the activity of completing a glyph. It’s a fun way to show students’ special and unique differences and preferences in art form! Students can appreciate and celebrate their differences in this activity. This particular glyph incorporates winter and Radiator the Snowman. Students answer questions about themselves, the story, and wintertime to create their own unique snowman glyph. Each question’s answer corresponds with something they must draw. 

Conclusion

Radiator the Snowman will be a winter favorite in your classroom. Every student that has read this picture book has adored it. Some even say it’s their favorite winter story! With its deep themes of friendship, kindness, appreciation, and celebrating unique differences, Radiator the Snowman has lots of teachable moments. This January, your classroom and students will radiate with love for this book!

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Five Ways to Ease into the New Year

Sadly, many of our winter breaks are over on Monday or Tuesday. We hope you’ve had a restful break or a break full of organization or whatever it is you wanted to accomplish, whether that was naps, Netflix marathons, or winter cleaning.

As students and teachers are easing back into school after a crazy December and a week or two off from work, it may be challenging for teachers and students to get back into the swing of things. To help us do just that, we have five ways to ease into the new year which will in turn help out your students.

Five Ways to Ease into the New Year

1. Choose a Lighter Workload

The first week back to school in January, I try to keep the workload a bit lighter. I don’t give out a spelling list. This is to lighten the homework load and the Friday quiz load on my students. That in turn, lightens my grading pile as I ease back into the month.

For grammar, I like to do a fun writing assignment. In sixth grade, we began the snowman writing unit in December and are planning to continue it during that first week back. Writing during the first week in January is an awesome way to squeeze in those writing standards and give students flexibility, creativity, and freedom as they ease into school.

For reading, I like to stick to some interesting short stories. In 8th grade, I plan on reading the very intense story of The Monkey and the Paw and then end the week with the mini-film of it. If you teach a younger grade, you can read a delightful winter picture book with students such as the one listed below. My mom, Tami Parker, is the author. If you have KINDLE UNLIMITED, it is currently FREE to read. Go ahead and try it out.

Writing out goals and resolutions for 2022 is a great assignment to reset for the next half of the school year. It’s not too strenuous to complete, and it’s a much needed growth mindset activity.

This winter break recap resource has students answer simple questions about their time off from school. It’s a no-prep, print-and-go worksheet that works especially well for the first day back from winter break. Click below for more information.

Whatever lesson plans you decide to go with, keep in mind that you and your students alike will both be a bit tired and will struggle to get into the swing of things. Choose activities and assignments that are kind to yourself and to them.

2. Prepare at Home

Preparing at home does not include prepping lesson plans or printing out materials. It simply means choosing to do things now that your future tired self will thank you for later.

Five Ways to Ease into the New Year:
Prepare at Home

Grocery shop, prep lunches, and make sure your leggings are all washed and ready to go. Find those masks and wash them. Clean your water bottle and find your lunchbox. Clean out your teacher bag and sneak some pieces of chocolate in there. (Trust me! You’ll be glad you did!) Think about some easy dinner meals you can pop into the crockpot or instant pot.

Think ahead of what you’ll need during the week and get that ready now that you have the time and you’re a bit more rested than usual. It will be worth it.

3. Schedule Downtime

For the first week or two of January, try not to over schedule yourself. In fact, schedule time for you NOT to do a thing. Leave work right at contract hours, come home, and try to relax.

Carve out time on the weekends not to do anything. For instance, schedule that from 8 am-11 am on Saturday, you are going to sip your coffee and watch your kids play.

Five Ways to Ease into the New Year:
Schedule Downtime

Tell yourself that you will not start doing those Saturday errands until 11 am. Carve out every weekday evening from 7-9 as your time to watch your shows and relax.

If someone asks you to go do something or asks you for an errand, you won’t feel as guilty because you scheduled that time for yourself. You will be “busy” relaxing.

As teachers, we need it. This past winter break, I did not realize how much I had been running on fumes until I stopped. I didn’t realize how badly my body needed rest until I had a couple of days of doing just that. We don’t realize how much we need rest when we’re in the hustle and bustle and survival mode of life.

Plan now for downtime. You will thank yourself later!

Additionally, schedule downtime for your students. Put on a read-aloud on YouTube, give them a coloring page, or give them a simple activity to complete to ease back into the new year.

Click below to grab your FREE Radiator the Snowman Coloring Page. No sign-ups are required.

Extend their silent reading time a bit and project a crackling fireplace on the board. Simply read them a cute picture book. It’s okay to take breaks throughout the school day. I have to remind myself of that as once I start teaching, I don’t want to stop. Schedule downtime for them. At the beginning of every language arts class, for the next week, we will spend ten minutes enjoying a read aloud or coloring or silently reading. Kids deserve a break too.

4. Use Your Time Wisely

Think about what you have to do ahead of time and use your planning time wisely that first week back. No one wants to bring work home on the weekdays or weekend, especially the first week back in January.

Five Ways to Ease into the New Year:
Use your Time Wisely

I always think about what takes precedence. Lesson planning is something I like to accomplish at school, because there is generally a deadline. (Every Friday morning.) Lesson planning requires my curriculum, novels, and various other books that I do not want to haul home. So, I try to get my lesson planning accomplished during my planning time. Grading papers generally don’t have a deadline, unless I know I just want to get them sent out by a certain date. So, grading can wait. Also, it’s generally easier to grade a stack here or there during homeroom or dismissal time than having to quickly get into that lesson planning mindset. (If you know, you know.)

I know it’s tempting to chat with coworkers during your prep and to see how everyone’s holidays were, but in an attempt to avoid bringing work home, use your planning time super wisely that first week back.

5. Review Rules and Expectations with Students

The week before winter break, things were a bit more relaxed. With parties, crafts, and some movies, the students had a ton of fun. If you’re anything like me, you may have loosened up the classroom management a bit to allow for the kids to have some flexibility, freedom, and relaxation before break. With the added one-to-two-week winter break many students had, kids come back possibly having forgotten some of the rules.

On the first day back, I like to review the non-negotiable rules in my classroom. Mine are listed below:

  • Do not speak while I am speaking or interrupt others.
  • If you would like to speak, raise your hand.
  • Do not do anything that will distract yourself or others from learning.
  • Make wise decisions in everything you do.

Reviewing the rules allows kids to remember how they need to behave in the classroom. It reminds them that they’re back in a school environment and not a home environment.

If you would like to read more about rules, click here. Also, we have an editable farmhouse classroom rules signs resource if you are interested:

Students do better when they have clear and specific expectations set forth. Students respond well to structure and boundaries and January is the perfect time to remind them of your important rules that are in place to help them succeed.

Conclusion

By using these five tips of a lighter workload, scheduling downtime, prepping at home, using your planning wisely, and reviewing rules, you and your kiddos can ease into January in a delightful way. We are getting into the home stretch of the year. January to June can be a long span of time, but with these five tips, it can help your classroom get off on the right foot and help you gracefully enter 2022!

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