We love Christmas in primary schools. The "off timetable" moments, carol practice, performance rehearsals and the general growing air of excitement add so much to the magic. But because it can sometimes get a little bit crazy it's easy for learning opportunities to be missed.
One year after finishing an electricity topic with my Year 5 class, and since science and geography are such happy bedfellows, I decided to assess the science learning by applying it to a one-week geography-based Christmas project. The pupils were very able circuit builders, so after a tour of Christmas facts from around the world and discussions about whether climate and environment were factors in the traditions, the challenge was set. Could the pupils use their learning to create illuminated Christmas displays for the corridor outside the classroom?
The class was split into four mixed-ability groups of six. Each team was given thick and thin card, circuit-making equipment, coloured bulbs, scissors, an A3-size world map and six Christmas facts from across the globe. The children were give carte blanche to create a display of their choice.
The children planned and worked together, testing ideas and formulating solutions. I assessed their learning using continuous questioning as they worked. I photographed them, filmed them and verbally assessed their understanding.
After two afternoons' work, a few tantrums and the replacement of countless bulbs and batteries, the final results were in and the displays were presented.
Groups one and two (possibly because they were the only two teams working in close proximity) produced advent calendars. Coloured lights highlighted where the flaps were located around the world and each one had a Christmas fact hidden behind it: similar, but both effective. Group three produced a twinkling display board with tinsel strings directing the reader to the world facts: simple, but learning achieved.
Group four, however, who had been working in the IT suite, went for something a little more cerebral. They produced an advent calendar with only one door at the top of the world. When the door was opened, it pushed two crocodile clips together, creating a circuit. The circuit was linked to two batteries, making the clear bulb shine very brightly. When a second switch was pressed, an electric motor started up, turning a cardboard propeller. At this point, one of the group sprinkled over some white hole-punched paper pieces and a snow scene was created. Above the display was a banner that read Merry Christmas in all the given languages. Genius.
Chris Fenton is an associate headteacher in the North of England.
Explore the life of a Christmas tree in a geography lesson from HealthyPlanet. bit.lyChristmasTreeLife
Focus on fair trade at Christmas with Matthew Guillaume's presentation. bit.lyFairtradeChristmas
Create an Advent tree while raising awareness of poverty in Africa, with Send a Cow's creative resources. bit.lyAdventTree.