It’s December and Christmas is around the corner and term is fast coming to an end. Like other teachers I like doing something fun at the end of term but don’t see the point in showing the Snowman to a bunch of kids who will have seen it a million times before (although it is undeniably genius). So this year, like previous ones I am going to teach the a Christmas history lesson where the kids will actually learn something as well as having fun thus achieving two goals in one hour.
The history of Christmas as a tradition is fascinating. Essentially a midwinter feast which looked little like our modern day extravaganza until the Victorians changed everything from trees to crackers to cards. Therefore this is where my inspiration began a couple of years ago and I’ve been tweaking my ideas ever since.
All my lessons are framed around an enquiry question so this lesson should be no different, so working on the Victorian theme, I use “What do Victorian Christmas traditions teach us about values and society in the 19th century?” It’s Christmas so it needs to be fun, therefore despite my fear the lesson has a bit of role play around the theme of a Victorian dinner party. Here’s my lesson plan, I’ve not included resources as I don’t have copyright over the images but they are easy to find:
Set up the room so all the tables are squished into one big table across the room. On the IWB put a slide of Victorian Christmas party and the carol ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ is playing. As the kids enter read a bit of Dickens’ Christmas Carol and don’t explain what is happening. The kids will freak out a little which is fun.
Task 1: Teacher Introduction
After this ask the kids where are we. One bright spark should say Victorian Britain (hopefully) and use this as a way to introduce the fact that Victorians created our Christmas traditions. Explain that today we have 30 minutes to set up a Victorian Christmas party.
Task 2: Setting up the party
Split the class into four groups and give them one of the following jobs.
Crackers – Using coloured paper this group will need to make about 10 crackers with jokes and hats inside. It doesn’t matter that there are no bangs!
Carols / Entertainment – This group need to use the internet to find two carols to perform (choose kids who like performing!) and some Dickens to read.
Tree Decorations – Using coloured paper this group need to make tree decorations that can either be put on a tree (if you have one) OR just draw a tree on the board and get them to stick the decorations on.
Christmas Cards – Google search and print off lots of Victorian Christmas images and get this group to try and make one card for each student.
Task 3: The party
I normally buy some mince pies and after the 30 minutes get the students to sit down for the party (after clearing up). As a group you can now share Christmas cards, pull a cracker and listen to some entertainment, whilst eating a mince pie. This need only take 10 minutes as its all that’s needed and can be a little chaotic.
Explain that we weren’t doing this just for a laugh. We are trying to learn something. Introduce the enquiry question and let the discussion begin. In previous years I had kids saying things like “the Victorians must have had lots of money to be able to do this”, which is nice as it can lead to further questions of why? and what might this lead to?