In the penultimate lesson before Christmas, students will often pluck up the courage to ask “can we have a fun lesson next time?”
Once you've shrugged off the implicit criticism that your lessons are not normally fun, you might start wondering whether your carefully-planned end-of-unit test was really the best choice for when the class are fresh from the Christmas assembly and wearing tinsel in their hair.
Of course, it is possible to deliver a meaningful lesson at this time of the year; it just takes a bit of clever planning. Here are five ideas to help you keep everybody happy.
Try incorporating a traditional Christmas “pub quiz” activity into your lesson. One round of questions might be Christmas-related, but the rest can be subject-specific. By using a self-marking online tool like Kahoot, you can also turn this fun quiz into a sneaky end-of-term summative assessment opportunity. And once you have knocked up a template for the questions, you can easily adapt it for as many classes as you teach.
Consider the fact that, just like you, your students are coming to the end of a 15-week term. They're going to be tired, a little impatient and their usual motivation to work hard may be dwindling. Try incorporating some simple rewards or extra elements of competition into the lesson to keep them motivated to complete the work set. For example, students could compete against each other in teams to complete a list of short tasks with a prize going to the winning team.
- Christmas creativity
Setting a creative task that links to Christmas, even loosely, will show that you are getting into the spirit of things. Perhaps in history students could write a Christmas card as if they were Winston Churchill writing to Franklin D Roosevelt, circa 1942. Or geography students could write a song on how oxbow lakes are formed to the tune of Wham’s Last Christmas. Find the karaoke version online and you could get them to sing along with their new lyrics.
- Parlour games
Try turning some of your favourite Christmas games into learning activities. How about a game of charades based around characters from Of Mice and Men? Or why not play pass the parcel, where each layer of wrapping reveals an equation to solve? And don’t forget the classic game of sticking the name of a historical figure on someone’s forehead and letting them ask "yes" or "no" questions until they work out who it is.
- Remember: this isn't business as usual
Students can start to get excited about Christmas from October onwards, so by the last week of term, the anticipation levels will be reaching fever-pitch. On top of this, they are likely to be filled with more sugar than usual thanks to all the obligatory Christmas treats. Therefore, if your usual rock-solid behaviour management skills don't seem to be working as well as usual, don't beat yourself up too much about it. Be a little more patient than usual. They'll be back to normal in January.
Chris Powell is head of Year 10, professional mentor and specialist leader in education at Parmiter’s School in Hertfordshire