Seasonal ideas to the fore
Tis the season to be jolly. Unless, that is, you are a primary teacher trying to juggle the demands of literacy, numeracy and the rest with the need to celebrate the festive season with all the razzmatazz of Hollywood.
But it's not only Santa's little helpers who come up with the goods at this time of year - pfp publishing has produced All You Need for Christmas which is bursting with ideas. There are worksheets, assemblies and the all-important Christmas play. Not only one, but three original plays suited to different age groups, complete with cast lists for each scene. You don't even need to pressurise the school pianist into playing for every rehearsal as the book includes a CD featuring 20 tracks of melodies and a twinkly keyboard accompaniment. The majority of the songs are blessed with easy-to-learn tunes and lyrics.
All You Need for Christmas provides more than you need. I can't see schools abandoning their own plans in favour of those provided, but they do serve as a useful guide.
The excellent layout makes the material easy to dip in to. It includes more than 60 photocopiable activity worksheets for a broad range of subjects with teaching notes, curriculum and QCA scheme of work links as you would expect.
Many of the activities would add a festive dimension to lessons without straying too far from the day-to-day learning objectives of primary schools. One of the most useful sections has Christmas variations of traditional party games, quizzes, riddles, word searches and crosswords.
As for that literacy or RE lesson, it is refreshing in Celebrations! Christmas to find a big book that manages to strike the right balance between secular frivolity and religious zeal. Anita Ganeri has an excellent reputation for writing non-fiction texts that have integrity and are suited to the interests of primary pupils.
Celebrations! Christmas is a book that treats Christmas as a serious Christian festival, but is written in a way that allows it to be used sensitively with children of other faiths. Too often, books either ignore the significance of Christmas to Christians, or use language that assumes readers are also believers, making it difficult to use with non-Christian children. The Bradford Interfaith Education Centre was involved in checking the suitability of the material for a multi-faith audience.
Celebrations! Christmas is an excellent example of non-fiction for under-eights. It has all the expected features, captions, glossary, contents, index as well as colourful photographs and illustrations from stained glass windows and medieval paintings.
The text includes a brief resume of the Christmas story, and explanations of traditions and customs such as Santa, decorations and food. It even mentions one or two alternative dates for celebration such as St Lucia and Epiphany, though it is a shame that the Christingles featured in one of the photographs are not explained.
I'm also a little bemused by the copious links to relevant literacy strategy learning objectives for Years 1, 2 and 3, all of which come from terms 2 or 3. That said, most key stage 1 and lower KS2 teachers will be delighted by such a well-produced and high quality book.
Indeed, it is the season to be jolly.
Gillian Blatherwick is deputy head at Rushey Mead Primary School, Leicester