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Soon, pupils will be writing their letters to Santa Claus. This year, why not encourage them to send an email instead? I tried it last Christmas with a class of Year 3 and 4s. It was tremendous fun, and provided a lively context for developing ICT and language skills.

I began by setting up a hotmail address for Santa (visit to find how). Then I showed the children a message from Santa explaining that his ageing postman was having difficulty lugging letters around the North Pole. Perhaps they'd like to send their letters by email this year?

Each child sent one message, and received a personal response. Each day, we checked to see if there were any messages from Santa. We were never disappointed. Santa was careful not to make any promises regarding presents. He seemed more interested in finding out about our preparations for Christmas.

There were lots of opportunities for learning. One boy asked Santa the names of his reindeer, and was directed to the poem "A visit from St Nicholas," by Clement C Moore.

The project takes up a fair amount of time, since you have to check Santa's email everyday, and reply on his behalf, but it's well worth it.

Gary Hayden teaches at St Berteline's Church of England Primary School, Halton, Runcorn

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