Inside: Get 10 winter project based learning ideas that your students will love. Create a hot cocoa stand, using real-life math and writing skills!
Let’s face it. Winter blues are a real thing, especially in the classroom. Students and teachers are a bit tired of the same old routine, and with testing on the horizon, it can also be a very stressful time. Project based learning is a great way to keep students fully engaged and excited about learning while keeping things on-track academically. Check out this fun “Create a Hot Cocoa Stand” activity, which includes 10 winter project based learning ideas that your kids will absolutely love!
This project is perfect for teachers who are looking for ways to really engage students with a high-interest activity. I mean, who doesn’t love hot cocoa?!!
Kick off your Hot Cocoa Stand Project Based Learning Unit by showing students a large variety of hot cocoa ingredients and accessories you might find at a hot cocoa bar. These can be either the actual, physical items or images you have found online.
In groups, brainstorm and make lists of what people would need in order to begin a hot cocoa business. Make a master list with the class and keep that list displayed throughout the entirety of the unit.
Once the unit is properly introduced, your students will be excited and motivated to create the best hot cocoa stand ever!
From this point, you can choose to have students work in small groups to complete the project or you can have students work independently. Keep in mind, however, that students working in groups may develop communication skills as a result of working together.
Ideally, a Project Based Learning unit will include certain key components, such as academic content, inquiry, a driving question, student choice, and a public audience. Here is the unit guide I use with my own Create a Hot Cocoa Stand PBL Unit.
By planning out the project ahead of time, you can easily meet those PBL expectations.
While this project is quite fun, it also should be academically aligned and should allow for problem-solving opportunities.
My project has 3 goals:
- Design and present a menu for a hot cocoa stand.
- Write an informational paragraph explaining how to make the world’s best hot cocoa.
- Convince people to visit a hot cocoa stand with persuasive writing and advertising.
Here are some more details and photos of how students work through each of the 3 goals:
1. Hot Cocoa Stand Menu Math
You can either provide blank paper or my pre-made template for students to create their menu. Students will have to do some research to find five interesting hot cocoa facts, but will also have to use their own ideas and creativity to decide on other aspects of the menu.
Once they have created their menus, they can use them to complete real-life math problems. I like to present problems, such as “How much money would it cost for 3 hot cocoas and one whipped topping?” and have students solve them using their own menu.
A nice alternative is to have students write their own word problems and give them, along with their own menu, to a classmate to solve.
2. The World’s Best Hot Cocoa Informational Writing
For this part of the project, students are required to write a well-developed paragraph on how to make the world’s best hot cocoa. Use a prewriting organizer to help students sequence the steps. I like allowing students to publish their writing in more creative ways, so I use a flip book format. Lined paper would be just fine, though!
I also think that when students can refer to a scoring rubric while writing their paragraphs, it helps them to do an even better job and meet the criteria for an outstanding project. (All scoring rubrics for my Create a Hot Cocoa Stand PBL are included for you.)
3. Persuasive Writing and Advertising
This is a great chance to help students understand that we write for different purposes. Through this persuasive writing activity, students can persuade people to visit their hot cocoa stand.
10 Other Winter Project Based Learning Ideas:
Of course, I always like to throw in a few other bonus activities that I know students will enjoy. Some other ideas of things you can do during this unit are:
- Plan the hot cocoa stand
- Plan the supplies
- Design and name the stand
- Research and identify a cause for which to raise money
- Make an Instagram post (on paper with illustration or photo)
- Create a cocoa stand playlist
- Cocoa calculations (math word problems)
- Time for hot cocoa (elapsed time problems)
- Menu math (problems based from students’ menus)
- Create a banner for the hot cocoa stand
Students seriously love this real-life math project and writing project! Here are some photo examples of the ideas I listed above:
This Winter Project Based Learning Unit is pretty much guaranteed to be a hit with your class!
Remember that you are free to make the project as big or as simple as you feel is best for your students. The key is to provide them opportunity for collaboration and problem-solving.
While some PBL units will require research, this winter project based learning unit does not demand it. It definitely can have its place, though. I personally would have students do research to find a particular cause for which their hot cocoa stand could raise money.
I like this kind of research because I find that students are sometimes inspired to actually take their ideas and put them into action in the real world, thus making a difference in someone else’s life.
I decided to create these winter classroom activities when the amazing feedback teachers left for my Halloween Project Based Learning Unit asked for more ready-to-go packets just like it.
The best way to bring the unit to a close, of course, is to actually have a hot cocoa stand, complete with all the trimmings. Your students will remember it for years to come!
My ready-to-go, printable Create a Hot Cocoa Stand Unit includes all the pieces you see in the photos above, plus a few more. All scoring rubrics, templates, and printables are included! I created it keeping your busy schedules in mind, so it’s basically print and go. Isn’t NO PREP a great thing?
Have you tried any project based learning activities in your own classroom? I would love to hear about them!
To learn more about what Project Based Learning is, check out this great Edutopia PBL Page.
Happy teaching, and enjoy that cup of hot cocoa.
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