I love teaching about Groundhog Day! It may be because we are only a few hours away from Punxsutawney so it is always kind of a big deal here or just because I love how excited young students get about Phil’s prediction as we cross our fingers hoping it means an end to the cold winter. Nevertheless, I wanted to share some favorite Groundhog Day activities with you.
Since the day centers around whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not, I like to teach students about shadows to give them a better understanding.
We first do some discovery activities to learn about shadows.
Cut out a groundhog pattern (I use this free one from My Cute Graphics). Dim the lights. Hold up the groundhog pattern. Use an overhead projector or large flashlight to shine light on the groundhog so his shadow can be seen on a wall.
Turn off the light. Turn the light back on. Ask the students what is needed to see the groundhog’s shadow? (light source) Explain that when outdoors the flashlight or projector is the same as the sun.
Cut out a cloud pattern. Place it in front of the light. Ask the students why the groundhog may not see his shadow on Groundhog Day. How will the weather on Groundhog Day affect whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow? (if it is sunny he will see his shadow, if it is cloudy or overcast he will not see his shadow)
Next ask questions such as what shape is the shadow? Does the light shine through the groundhog? Explain that the groundhog blocks the light which makes a dark spot or shadow. Turn and move the puppet and ask students what happens to the shadow to see if they can understand that the shadow moves the same as the puppet.
Allow students to come up and make shadows of their own. Then, ask them how they can make the shadow bigger and see if they can discover that when they move farther away from the light the shadow gets smaller, when they are closer to the light the shadow is larger.
For an added challenge, show some clear or translucent objects such as clear plastic or plastic containers. Ask students how these shadows look different than the groundhog shadow and why (they are not as distinct).
This experiment shows how the time of day affects a shadow’s length. Make a simple sundial by inserting a pencil or straw into a ball of clay and attaching it to a sheet of poster board. Attach the groundhog pattern to the pencil or straw.
Take it outside on a sunny day first thing in the morning. Mark the shadow and make note of where the sun is in the sky.
Do this at certain intervals throughout the day and have students predict where they think the shadow will be each time. Ask students to draw conclusions as to what they observed (the sun’s position in the sky affects a shadow’s length, it is longer when the sun is low in the sky, shorter when the sun is high in the sky).
If you can’t do this outdoors you can do it indoors with a flashlight to represent the sun. Set it up the same way and shine the flashlight on the groundhog from different positions (or allow the students to experiment with the flashlight on their own and draw conclusions).
If weather permits, take students outside and see if they can see their own shadows. A fun game to play is Shadow Tag. It is played like regular tag except the person who is “it” must step on a child’s shadow instead of tagging or touching them. It is a great way for students to manipulate and move their shadows.
Books about Shadows
Here are some favorite books about shadows:
Groundhog / Groundhog Day Activities
Now that students have a basic understanding of shadows, we learn about groundhogs. I use an interactive PowerPoint presentation to share information using simple terms that my younger students can understand and real photos so they can see what the actual animal looks like.
Next is a student favorite! We do an interactive quiz to see what they learned about groundhogs. They have to answer the question correctly in order to get the groundhog to come out of his burrow. Here is a short video:
Then we learn about the history of Groundhog Day and how it is still celebrated today in Punxsutawney and do another interactive quiz with the groundhog.
There is also a section that reviews what we learned about shadows.
Role Play Activity
This is a fun way to check students’ understanding of shadows and what happens on groundhog day. Allow students to role play being Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day.
To make his burrow, drape sheets or blankets over a desk. Dim the lights.
Students take turns crawling into the burrow. On your signal they crawl out and stand up. Alternate shining the light on them or keeping it off. Have the student state his or her prediction (6 more weeks of winter if the light was on and they see their shadow or an early spring if the light was off and they do not see their shadow) and act it out (go back in the burrow if they see their shadow or stay out and go look for food if they do not see their shadow).
Afterwards I have students complete this simple cut and paste page.
Wake Up Groundhog! Class Book
This is a nice keepsake that students enjoy reading even after Groundhog Day is over. It is similar to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. / Eric Carle. All eyes will be on the groundhog on February 2nd awaiting his prediction. This emergent reader uses simple, repetitive text to say that your class will be looking at the groundhog.
Each student colors a “Wake up groundhog” page and draws a picture of themselves and writes their name on an “I see” page. Put all the pages together to form a class book (pages alternate – Wake up groundhog! Who do you see?, I see (student name) looking at me!, Wake up groundhog! Who do you see?, I see (student name) looking at me!, etc. ). The last page can say “I see the whole class looking at me! “ Take a picture of the class for this page.
Groundhog Day Books
Here are some favorite books about Groundhog Day:
Groundhog Day Predictions
The day before Groundhog Day have students predict whether they think the groundhog will see his shadow or not. You can make a class graph or chart and see which prediction has the most votes or you can make groundhog craftivities such as these:
Groundhog Puppet – Use the patterns below to create a groundhog puppet. Have the students color the groundhog and burrow pattern and cut them out. Help the students cut the hole in the burrow along the dotted line. The dotted line should be cut enough to allow the groundhog to go up and down with ease. If you do not wish to use the burrow, a brown paper lunch bag can be used instead. Cut a slit in the bottom of the bag large enough for the puppet to go up and down with ease. Glue a craft stick to the back of the groundhog and insert it through the hole in the burrow. Demonstrate how to make the groundhog peek out of his burrow to check for his shadow. Students can take turns holding their puppets in front of the flashlight or overhead projector.
Graphics by www.mycutegraphics.com
Video Replay of Punxsutawney Phil’s Prediction
Since Phil makes his prediction before we get to school, I show the video replay from the official website:
They also have a Teachers page with fun lessons, coloring pages, & a groundhog cookie recipe.
Post Groundhog Day Activity
Don’t let the excitement about Groundhog Day end February 2nd! Why not keep track of the weather for the next 6 weeks and see if Phil’s prediction was correct?
You may also like:
Groundhog Day & Shadows Bundle – Save with this bundle pack which includes:
♦ an interactive PowerPoint presentation with information on groundhogs, Groundhog Day, and shadows
♦ an interactive quiz at the end of the PowerPoint presentation to check student understanding
♦ printable pages
♦ activities about groundhogs and shadows
♦ book list
“This was a great purchase! My students loved it!” – Chelsea M.
“Loved this! Was great to have some real information on groundhogs. Thanks!” – Jerilee T.
“Very helpful, great activities. I love the power point” – Paula L.
“THE POWERPOINT IS AWESOME!!!! Worth it for the power point alone!” – Jana B.
“My class this year had almost no prior understanding of Groundhog’s Day– this was very helpful, thank you!” – Kimberly B.
“This was great to have for Groundhog’s Day. We were able to use it all week.” – Sarah N.
“Super! My first graders loved it. Thank you!” – Svitlana D.
This Groundhog Day & Shadows PowerPoint presentation includes information on groundhogs, Groundhog Day, and shadows. It uses simple terms and real, full-color photographs.
It includes an interactive quiz at the end to check student understanding. When a correct answer is clicked, the groundhog comes up out of his burrow and applause is heard.
“This is one of my favorite purchases! Lots of great information and my class loved the questions.” – Kathy M.
“My students absolutely LOVED this Power Point! SO engaging and informative! Thanks so much!” – Donnalyn T.
“I love the photos in this pack. It is very engaging for my first graders and encourages more nonfiction reading.” – Mary F.
“Perfect for my special ed kiddos! Thanks for sharing this excellent, engaging Groundhog Day PPT resource!”
Special Ed Shenanigans
“My students really enjoyed this power point.” – Jessica D.
“Wonderfully put together! Thanks so much.” – Karen N.