Cracker of a time

5th December 2003 at 00:00
Kevin Harcombe suggests some last-minute music and drama activities.

In these final, frantic, "bah humbug!" weeks of term, when goodwill is wearing thin and staff are off sick with the bug that children have been spreading around the school since October (well, you told them it is far better to give than to receive), try these simple ideas to restore your Christmas spirit.


Christmas Desert Island Discs

Each child selects their top three Christmas songs, one favourite Christmas story or poem and one Christmas luxury and, importantly, justifies their choices. The best can be presented in the last 15 minutes of each day in the run-up to Christmas.

Unwind on a sleigh ride

Listen to "Troika" from Lieutenant Kije Suite by Prokofiev (Naxos CD 8.550381), a joyous, lively piece of music with Christmas associations. Use it as music to tidy the classroom to ("You have two minutes 57 seconds to pick up every grain of glitter from the carpet!"), or as a "brain gym" activity to revive the children. Initially, just wiggle fingers in time to the piece, then move to "bouncing" folded arms in time, until finally they march on the spot or clap to the pulse.

Angry Christmas?

Sing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" in different styles, for instance joyfully, angrily, like a lullaby. What words describe the timbre of the voices each time? Sharp? Smooth?

Auld Lang Syne

One of the great seasonal melodies, "Auld Lang Syne" is based on the pentatonic (five note) scale. Take a simple, seasonal phrase, for instance "Peace on earth, good will to men", and create a melody for it using chime bars or glockenspiel notes CDEGA. Record it, write it down and see if another group can play it.

Thou puttest thy left leg in

The word carol derives from the medieval French "carole", meaning a circle dance and the original carols were both danced and sung, usually outside.

Gather willing participants in a circle in the playground. Start small, but think big! (I've done it with 180, but check your personal accident insurance first - the eight steps forward bit needs careful preparation).

To the tune of "Ding Dong Merrily On High" (a French medieval melody) the circle moves two steps per bar as follows: eight steps left ("Ding dong" to "ringing"), eight steps right ("Ding dong" to "singing"), eight steps forward ("Glor" onwards), eight steps back and on the final step jump in the air and clap ("sis" of "excelsis").


It's panto time! Oh, no, it isn't! Audience participation, corny jokes and cross-dressing - no wonder children love it. Year 6 will enjoy writing or improvising their own versions. Try reducing Cinderella to its essential elements for a record-breaking one-minute, 10-line performance.

Cinderella: (entering sadly) "Ah, me!"

Ugly Sisters: (entering, waving invites to taunt Cinders) "We've got invites to the Prince's do!" (Exit) Enter Fairy Godmother: (To Cinders) "You shall go to the ball!"(Exit) Enter Prince Charming who dances with Cinderella. The clock chimes. Exit Cinders in a hurry.

The Prince: "A glass slipper! Whomsoe'er this trainer fits, on my throne her bot will sit!"

The Prince tries it on the feet of the Ugly Sisters, unsuccessfully.

Ugly Sisters: "It's me bunions!"

Everyone: "Oh no it isn't!"

Cinderella: (Happily, for it fits) "Ah me!"

Middle EastEnders

You may find that the nativity story is not as familiar to the children as you would expect, so re-tell it in different ways - a sentence at a time round the class, or from different points of view (the shepherds, the donkey, etc). For the very brave, re-enact it as an episode of EastEnders.

What would the cliffhanger be? "I'm sorry, princess, there's no room at the Vic!"? "But the baby's coming nahw!" (Dum, dum, dum dum dum dum de dum)?

And finally...

Retell the story as a rolling news report. Include an anchorman ("News just in of uproar at the palace"), location reporter ("Here I am at the very spot where the carriage and horses vanished"), some eyewitness accounts ("There were two of them. Ugly they were. They may have been sisters.").

What would the "bong" headlines be?

Kevin Harcombe is headteacher of Redlands Primary School, Fareham, Hampshire

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