Winter Reading for the Secondary Classroom

Even secondary students can enjoy themed assignments.  Not the snow-flake or pumpkin adorned worksheets of primary grades, but themed content done age-appropriately.  It’s much easier to read and imagine winter stories when there is snow on the ground, in my experience! (But not the only way.  Sometimes reading cold-settings in summer months is a nice escape from the heat, too!)

Winter Reading

Some ideas for snow related activities for the secondary classroom:


These poems each include snow in different ways.  It makes a great compare-contrast activity for the ideas and language used.

Another related activity is for students to write their own snow poetry.  Would they write about peace and tranquility (like Frost) or the harsh winds or temperature (like Emerson)?

Multimedia projects can have students taking snow photography (great after a heavy snowfall) or searching online for images.  Turn the poem into a multimedia project and discuss theme and tone as it relates to the poem’s words or the images in the photos.



Jack London is an obvious choice for snow-related fiction.  “To Build a Fire“is a short story with a dark ending, set against the frozen Klondike and the danger of extreme cold.  Another good choice is “Call of the Wild“– a story told from the point of view of the dog, which allows for some different discussions about narrators and point of view.

Activities for Jack London stories:

  • Research the Klondike and the related gold rush.  (Combine with science class for cross-curricular project)
  • Examine the role of the narrator or the idea of wild vs. civilization
  • Write letters to and from those in the Klondike
  • Make advertisements for the Gold Rush

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich— set in the 1950’s Soviet Russia during the winter where cold freezes the construction site where the prisoners work.  Based off the author’s stay in a prison camp, the book itself is fictional.

Activities for Ivan Denisovich:

  • Explore the themes of censorship or unjust imprisonment
  • Examine the role of the setting.  Rewrite in an alternate setting
  • Write about a day in their own life, or a single day in the life of another character (their own character or a character from another story.)

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe— the White Queen keeps the land of Narnia frozen.  Students can explore the use of the wardrobe as a portal (in literature) and other magical elements.  Complex themes can appear in lower level writing– works as a good short read, too.

Activities for Narnia–

  • Compare to Frozen in the use of ice and themes of being frozen, power to freeze
  • Explore the role of sacrifice or the story as an allegory for Christ’s crucifixion (if appropriate for your environment)
  • Examine the setting during the war and the need for escape



The Hard Winter of 1880-81 (From the “History of South Dakota” by Doane Robinson.)  This particular winter was one of the worst on history with length and amount of snow fall in South Dakota.  Can be paired with reading parts of The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Also, search for photos related to the winter of 1880-81 for some amazing images of how very deep the snow was– great for multimedia projects.

Klondike: A Manual for Goldseekers– Published 1897 and digitized online. Primary source material on the Klondike Gold Rush.   Students might make their own pamphlets using the material, compare it to Jack London stories or use it to write their own historical fiction or poetry. There are also amazing images online related to the gold rush.


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