'Back off SLT, I'm having fun in lessons at Christmas'

If we teach as we always would until the last bell, we are denying our pupils so much that they actually need, argues Nikki Cunningham-Smith

Nikki Cunningham-Smith

How teachers can make end-of-term school lessons fun and productive

I would like to start this by saying that, whatever school I work in, I adhere to their policies.  

Right, now that’s out the way. 

This is for you SLT fun police out there.  There is maybe twice a year that you need to have the argument with teachers about working right to the end of term: Christmas and Summer holidays, and I’m sorry, I’m very much team “Last week of term, all bets are off”. 

Fun at Christmas 

With all the pressures that are put on our pupils, now beginning as early as EYFS, why oh why can’t they have a week of excitement and fun, where when they enter that classroom, who knows what’s on the other side of that door? Is that not the magic of Christmas and the lure of the summer freedom? The anticipation? 

Let me tell you this: if you can’t see the learning opportunities associated with the “fun”, then let me enlighten you. 

I wasn’t the most dedicated and focused pupil at school, and I know that the teachers that got the most out of me were the ones that invested time in me. My maths teacher was the most strict, scary teacher going and would drill us with simultaneous equations for his own entertainment (or so I thought), but I could stomach him all year because I didn’t want to miss out on that last week of term bonanza.  

His classroom would become a grotto, his uniform of black suit grey tie changed to black suit crazy singing Christmas tie and his lessons where amazing - he would wheel in the tv or send one of us to get the cassette player from reprographic and would get us cutting snowflakes and the like.   

Teaching under the radar

In hindsight, I realise the crafty so and so had us using angles and protractors, but it didn’t feel like it, and in that moment, he was human, and sometimes I needed that when it was the mundane (in my opinion) rest of the year. 

Some of the pupils you teach this year will go home to two weeks of doing what they want, but not necessarily getting what they need. Seeing an adult act in a fun way within a safe and secure environment is one of those huge developmental blocks that some of our most in-need children lack.   

Some of those children may never have anyone sit down and show them how to make a snowflake or paper chains, or how you don’t need lots of money to decorate, or the latest game to have fun.  Some of them will have little interaction outside of their phone over the holidays, losing social skills and manners.   

Life lessons

Do not take for granted that you will no doubt sit down at some point and play a board game, employing turn-taking, sharing, losing and winning gracefully (unless you’re a Monopoly board-tipper like me), but some pupils will not.   

The environment that a slightly more relaxed classroom can bring about a real sense of belonging and nurture that Is good for the soul that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise get.   

So SLT, I implore you. Before you put that blanket ban and tell your staff to work to the end, do you know who else it is good for? Your staff and that big W buzzword (wellbeing!)  It is an opportunity for them to build relationships and rapport at a time when the student population are at their most tired - and it will generate a little less marking over the break, too. 

And for those of you shouting from the back that “behaviour will slip”? Well, most educators would not embark on an activity that would allow them to lose control of their environment, so if this type of activity isn’t for you or doesn’t suit your style, don’t do it! 

Now excuse me while I go and throw on my Christmas jumper and carry on preparing cellophane wraps for some “Random Acts of Kindness” and prep iTunes for the auditory Christmas music that will be assaulting the ears of anyone in the vicinity of my room. 



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Nikki Cunningham-Smith

Nikki Cunningham-Smith is an assistant headteacher in Gloucestershire

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