It’s that time of year when many teachers, pupils and parents feel like they are crawling to the festive finish line, eager for a mince-pie-filled break from all things school related.
Yet Christmas is a time jam packed with hidden learning opportunities, spanning every curricular area you can shake a figgy pudding at. Moreover, the best part of this holly jolly reality is that these activities won’t even feel like learning!
A quick search on Google or Instagram will present a merry plethora of glittering ideas. Motor skills, artistic work and obviously writing all come together to create a festive greeting card but why not extend the learning with a pop-up element or some tessellation of snowflakes or holly? And we shouldn’t overlook the potential digital literacy skills that come with finding an address and google mapping the nearest postbox.
Having just prepared an IDL lesson for my class all about wrapping paper, I was amazed at how much learning you could pack into this life skill. As a general rule, if you measure and then double the length of the perimeter of your gift, you’ll have enough paper to neatly wrap your present. There’s discussion and calculations to be had about area and perimeter; around sustainability and responsible consumption. However, why buy paper when you can create your own? Carving into polystyrene blocks (you might have an early present or two delivered in a chunk of it) you can create Christmas stamps that can create effective patterned paper when dunked in red, green and white paint.
If you’re travelling to someone else’s house for Christmas, why not have your little elves phone the host and ask if they need anything picked up: crackers, table decorations, a snow shovel. They will have to take some notes over the phone, before creating a list and researching the best place to buy. You could provide them with a budget and providing they can figure out the change left over, allow them to buy some carrots for Rudolph/a sickeningly sugar-filled tub of candy cans with what’s left over.
Playing board games (and card games) are highly complex activities. No surprise they can lead to arguments and wondering why on earth you invited your Uncle Sandy around in the first place. Patience, turn taking, negotiation, planning and strategising, rolling and counting – a list longer than a 500 pack of clear white fairy lights. But if you want to add that personal touch, have your little helpers create their own board game. Choosing a theme, creating an objective, designing the board, fine tuning the rules, creating the chance/forfeit cards and crafting the playing the pieces: it’s an activity that takes time and resilience but results in a red-nosed reward that will have the kids glowing from antler to ear.
Christmas craft is a primary school tradition that sees children across the country returning home with questionable toilet roll creations vaguely resembling Rudolph after the Christmas party. But time off school presents the opportunity to create truly beautiful pieces of Christmas art. Why not go for a walk and take photos of winter scenes on your journey? Woody, bare branches; white, icy grasses; glistening, frozen water. Print them out to compile a Christmas collage and create a border of natural materials foraged on your travels.
I haven’t even touched on baking and decorating cakes, creating sustainable gifts, performing songs and plays on Christmas Day, designing and running a family quiz or even being in charge of filming and documenting the annual Boxing Day game of charades. Needless to say, the Christmas break might be sold to us as a holiday but the truth is it’s two weeks of endless learning opportunities: enough to stuff a turkey with.
Blair Minchin is a Scottish Primary Teacher who has achieved a global following by sharing ideas and experiences from his classroom on social media. His daily video lessons have helped children to continue learning at home during the pandemic. Find him on Twitter at @mr_minchin.
Featured image: Robin. © 2018 Nick Hood.